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Apricots – Xing Ren

16 Jun

Apricots
Tián Xìng Rén
甜杏仁
The apricot, Prunus armeniaca, is a species of Prunus, classified with the plum in the subgenus Prunus. The native range is somewhat uncertain due to its extensive prehistoric cultivation. Apricots are originally from China but arrived in Europe via Armenia, which is why the scientific name is Prunus armeniaca
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This week the apricots arrived in the market and as I arrived at the usual stall, the middle-aged stall-holder with a deep voice muttered audibly a string of words that I had not since I was a teenager on an exchange in France. She weighed out 2kg taking out a handful as she took them from the scales and putting a few back to look generous (I smiled as it was a trick I was taught when I worked for Elsie at the greengrocers as a teenager!) I was going to eat some fresh and to dehydrate some to use as snacks and in stews(tajines) desserts and maybe consider making jam to have with a morning croissant.
Summer has definitely arrived the stalls are laden with strawberries and now the apricots have arrived. Apricots are those beautifully golden orange coloured fruits with velvety skin and flesh, not too juicy but definitely smooth and sweet. Some describe their flavour as almost musky, with a faint tartness that lies somewhere between a peach and a plum.
The high beta-carotene content of apricots makes them important heart health foods. Beta-carotene helps protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation, which may help prevent heart disease.
Apricots contain nutrients such as vitamin A that promote good vision. Vitamin A, a powerful antioxidant, quenches free radical damage to cells and tissues. Free radical damage can injure the eyes’ lenses.
As a child, I remember being told to eat carrots so that you could see in the dark but as an adult, it looks like fruit is even more important for keeping your sight. Data reported in a study published in the Archives of Opthamology indicates that eating 3 or more servings of fruit per day may lower your risk of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), the primary cause of vision loss in older adults, by 36%, compared to persons who consume less than 1.5 servings of fruit daily
In this study, which involved over 100,000 women and men, researchers evaluated theeffect of study participants’ consumption of fruits; vegetables; the antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E; and carotenoids on the development of early ARMD or neovascular ARMD, a more severe form of the illness associated with vision loss. Food intake information was collected periodically for up to 18 years for women and 12 years for men.
While, surprisingly, intakes of vegetables, antioxidant vitamins and carotenoids were not strongly related to incidence of either form of ARMD, fruit intake was definitely protective against the severe form of this vision-destroying disease.
When I am making jam or making a dessert using fresh apricots I always crack a few of the stones to add the seeds as my mother did.

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Having completed my Diploma in Chinese Herbs I recall learning about the apricot kernel/seed Xing Ren which is used for a cough with yellow sputum, low grade fever and sore eyes associated with the common cold but it is only used in small quantities as it is toxic in large amounts(must be avoided in children and pregnant or breast feeding women) and usually used as part of a mixture of herbs (Sang Yu Jin)
It also has anti-bacterial properties and in Chinese terms it expels the wind / heat invading the lung from the exterior (ie treats a cough caused by a virus or bacteria but mild with no systemic affects including high fever)
Xing Ren stops the cough by directing the lung Qi downwards.
My experience of prescribing this formula has shown it to effective in treating upper respiratory tract symptoms but it must be obtained from a reputable Chinese pharmacy.
There have been claims the seeds can be used in anti-cancer treatment.
Apricot seeds contain amygdalin, Vitamin B17 a naturally-occurring substance found mainly in the kernels of apricots, peaches, and almonds. Amygdalin is promoted as a cancer treatment by alternative physicians but there has been insufficient evidence to use it for treatment and no more than 2 seeds/day should be consumed as more could be seriously toxic.

Posted by Dr Bayer

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