The apricot, known formally as Prunus armeniaca, is a small, yellow to orange, soft fruit with a single pit inside. At the core of the pit is the kernel, which can be pressed to yield apricot kernel oil. The oil is used in skincare products and as a culinary flavoring, and the kernels are sometimes used whole to make distilled liquors such as amaretto. The flavor of apricot kernels is almost identical to that of almonds, with a mixture of sweet and bitter that has been incorporated into many traditional Italian dishes.
Apricot kernel oil is well suited to skin care and is often used as a carrier oil. Carrier oils are used as a base for aromatherapy mixtures, or are mixed with other oils to help them spread. Because this oil is readily absorbed into the skin without leaving a residue behind, it is an excellent choice of carrier oil for all skin types. The ready absorption also makes it a good choice of skin care oil for people with dry skin, while its gentleness makes it mild enough to use on the elderly.
For skin nutrition, apricot kernel oil contains the essential fatty acids oleic and linoleic acid. It is also high in vitamins A and E. All of these substances can help to soothe irritated skin while also moisturizing. Regular applications of the oil or products containing it can keep skin smooth and flexible. Apricot kernel oil is also used in lotions, creams, and balms, as well as in soaps. It is frequently used in massage oils as well.
Food grade apricot kernel oil can be used as a salad oil or drizzled on other foods. It is not usually used for cooking, because of the expense, but like other oils with a high concentration of essential fatty acids, it is a good dietary supplement. When purchasing oil for culinary use, shoppers should make sure that it is labeled as edible, as some companies may add stabilizers to cosmetic oils that should not be consumed.
As a general rule, apricot kernel oil is cold pressed, to retain all of the nutritional value. Cold pressed oils also have much more complex flavors, because they have not been compromised by heat. Regulations for oil labeling from region to region vary. In the United States, for example, there is no federal standard for “cold pressed” oil, which can lead to confusion on the part of consumers. Consumes should look for richly colored, intensely scented oil for the best results.