Apricots are found in many different forms: the sweet, tart taste of the fresh fruit, dried and added to trail mix, made into jam or marmalade, added to desserts, canned for winter or found in your favorite cocktail. While the flesh of the fruit has gained a lot of popularity, the kernels often get tossed into the compost with no extra thought. Apricot kernel carrier oil is a nourishing, lightweight carrier oil pressed from the kernels of apricots.
While it may have taken a backseat to those more popular carrier oils such as jojoba, coconut or argan, apricot kernel oil closely resembles the natural sebum produced by the skin and offers a lot of cosmetic and medicinal benefits. Used on its own or mixed with your favorite blend of essential oils, apricot kernel oil keeps skin looking young and radiant, eases joint pain, moisturizes hair and helps treat skin problems without leaving a greasy residue.
History of Apricot Kernel Carrier Oil
The apricot tree, known botanically as Prunus armeniaca, is a member of the Rosaceae (rose) family along with cherry, peach, plum, and almond. In the first century AD, the Romans called apricot trees ‘praecocum’, which means ‘the precocious one’, noting that the fruit bloomed very early in the summer. The tree itself is a small to medium sized tree with white/pink flowers and pale yellow to deep orange fruits.
The apricot was cultivated in Central Asia and China as early as 2000 BC. The true origin of the apricot tree is still up for debate, with some scholars believing it originated in China near the Russian border, and some believing it originated in Armenia. The apricot traveled via the Silk Road along horseback, traveling along with nomadic traders.1
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The Chinese associate apricots with education and medicine. Confucius was believed to have taught students under an apricot tree. And in the second century, a Chinese doctor named Tung Fung asked cured patients to plant apricot trees in their backyard. Those who had been cured of serious illnesses planted five trees, and those treated for minor ailments planted one. Over time, the apricot tree became the symbol for medicine.2
While many people view apricots as simply a delicious, healthy snack, the fruits and other parts of the tree have been used throughout history to treat a wide variety of symptoms. The bark is known for being astringent, and a decoction of the bark was traditionally used to soothe irritated and inflamed skin. The kernel is known for having analgesic, anthelmintic, antiasthmatic, antispasmodic, expectorant, sedative, and vulnerary properties. It has traditionally been used to treat asthma, coughs, constipation, and bronchitis.3
In traditional Chinese medicine, apricots and apricot kernels are used for toning the respiratory system, detoxifying the body, regenerating bodily fluids, curing the symptoms of a cough and asthma and relieving constipation.4
In Ayurvedic medicine, apricot kernel oil is used to moisturize dry skin, reverse the effects of thinning hair, reduce the look of wrinkles, blemishes, and fine lines, alleviate symptoms of rheumatism, as well as cure cold, cough, and constipation.5
Composition of Apricot Kernel Carrier Oil
Apricot kernel oil is extracted from the ripe kernel of the apricot by means of cold pressing, meaning that the kernels are pressed between two rotating metal plates. These metal plates exert enough pressure on the kernels to release their oils. The resulting oil is yellow in color and has a distinct apricot scent. When the oil is further refined, as it is for cosmetic use, the oil is pale yellow in color and has a more delicate scent.
Apricot kernel oil is known for having antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, emollient, revitalizing, moisturizing and anti-tussive properties. All of these therapeutic properties are due to its composition, which is primarily:
- Oleic acid
- Linoleic acid
- Alpha-linolenic acid
- Palmitic acid
- Stearic acid
- Vitamin E
Oleic acid is known for its ability to moisturize both skin and hair, stimulate hair growth and promote thicker, stronger hair, and reduce appearances of aging such as fine lines and wrinkles. Oleic acid also helps to boost immunity, has antioxidant properties and helps relieve symptoms of joint stiffness and pain.
Linoleic acid helps to moisturize hair, promote hair growth, aid in wound healing, has anti-inflammatory properties, clears up acne, and promotes moisture retention in the skin. It is also used as an emulsifier in the production of soaps and quick-drying oils.
Alpha-linolenic acid helps to reduce inflammation, control the clotting of blood, and soothe joint pain.
Palmitic acid helps to soothe and soften the skin and is a natural conditioner for the hair.
Stearic acid helps to cleanse the skin, ridding it of sweat, dirt, and excess sebum. It also helps to condition the hair and protect it from damage. When added to blends that will be stored for long periods of time, it acts as a preservative that helps the ingredients remain potent.
Vitamin E is well-known for being incredibly moisturizing to the skin and hair, and its antioxidant properties help to reduce signs of aging. It helps to balance the production of oil, prevent moisture loss, repair scars and blemishes on the skin and soothes irritated skin.6
With all of these therapeutic constituents, it’s no wonder that apricot kernel carrier oil has so many benefits!
Uses of Apricot Kernel Carrier Oil
When used as a carrier oil for your favorite blend of essential oils, apricot kernel carrier oil helps to reduce signs of aging, moisturizes the skin and prevents acne. When used medicinally, it can help to soothe aching joints, relieve symptoms of respiratory conditions, and heal irritated or broken skin.
Reduce signs of aging
While normal aging can produce fine lines and wrinkles, exposure to UV rays and pollution can cause the skin to age faster and lose firmness. Apricot kernel oil can help to reduce the visibility of fine lines and wrinkles and protect skin from UV damage. It is an especially good oil for those with mature skin who are allergic to nuts since this oil has a lot of the same properties as sweet almond oil.
Prevents acne breakouts
Whether you’re looking to clear up existing acne or simply want to ensure that you don’t have any breakouts in the future, apricot kernel oil is a wonderful carrier oil to use. Since it is so lightweight, it doesn’t clog pores and absorbs easily into the skin. Its ability to regulate the production of oil in the skin and cleanse the pores helps to clear up acne and prevent future breakouts.
To keep your skin clear of acne, add a few drops of tea tree, lavender, and clary sage essential oils to apricot kernel oil. You can then mix this blend into your daily cleanser or moisturizer, or simply use as a daily facial oil.
Naturally Condition Hair
Apricot kernel oil is a wonderful natural conditioner for those who are looking to replace conventional, chemical-laden products. This carrier oil can naturally nourish and detangle hair without being overly greasy.
For a nourishing hair mask, add a few drops of chamomile and clary sage essential oils to apricot kernel oil and gently massage through the hair. Allow the oil to soak into the hair for up to 20 minutes, then wash out with a gentle shampoo. You can also add a few drops of apricot kernel oil to your daily shampoo or conditioner to add extra moisture and shine and repair split ends.
Relieve Stiff and Painful Joints
The anti-inflammatory properties of apricot kernel oil work wonders for stiff and achy joints. If you’re suffering from arthritis or other inflammatory conditions, this particular oil is great to use in a warm massage oil blend.
To ease joint pain and stiffness, mix a few drops of lavender, eucalyptus and peppermint essential oils to apricot kernel oil and gently warm. You can then use this blend to massage into painful areas. If you want to skip the step of blending yourself, you can also try our Relieve personal aromatherapy diffuser to help ease your various aches and pains.
Alleviate Symptoms of Respiratory Conditions
Apricot kernels were traditionally used to relieve respiratory conditions such as a cough, cold, flu, bronchitis, and asthma. Apricot kernel oil boasts these same properties and is helpful when blended with essential oils known for their expectorant and decongestant properties.
To relieve the symptoms of various respiratory conditions, add a few drops of eucalyptus, peppermint, and cedarwood essential oils to apricot kernel oil. Gently massage this blend onto the chest and neck.
Soothes Irritated Skin and Heal Wounds
Apricot kernel oil has emollient properties, which helps to fight against dry, rough, scaly skin where conditions such as eczema and psoriasis occur. Its antibacterial properties help to fight off harmful bacteria and speed up the healing process of minor scrapes, cuts, and burns.
To reduce signs of eczema and psoriasis, add a few drops of tea tree, geranium, and lavender essential oils to apricot kernel oil and massage onto affected areas.
To speed up the healing of minor wounds, add a few drops of tea tree essential oil to apricot kernel oil and apply lightly over the affected areas.
Safety and Precautions
Apricot kernel oil is safe for topical use, but should not be taken internally unless specifically marketed for internal use. Although it is not usually irritating to sensitive skin, a patch test should still be conducted before using over larger areas of the skin. There are no known side effects of using apricot kernel oil topically, although use should be stopped immediately if an allergic reaction occurs.
After opening, apricot kernel oil will last for approximately one year. This can be extended to nearly two years if the oil is kept refrigerated.7
Apricot kernel oil is a wonderful oil to use on its own or as a carrier oil for your favorite blend of essential oils. It is especially good as a substitute for sweet almond oil for those who are allergic to nuts. It can be used as a carrier oil for massage blends, and can also be used to make soaps, natural conditioners, lotions, moisturizers, cleansers, and other beauty products.
While its therapeutic properties can be extended by blending with various essential oils, its ability to reduce the signs of aging, heal irritated skin, soothe aching joints and moisturize skin and hair on its own make apricot kernel oil an incredibly versatile and valuable carrier oil.
Photo credits: Pixel-Shot/shutterstock.com, UnkasPhoto/shutterstock.com, Matryoha/shutterstock.com, GeorgeRudy/shutterstock.com, sbko/shutterstock.com