Home / Chinese Herb / BITTER APRICOT KERNEL [苦杏仁, KU XING REN]


Name : Bitter Apricot Kernel1306420087792_opt

Chinese Name : 苦杏仁

Latin Name : Semen Armeniacae amarum


This herb is the dried kernel of Prunus armeniaca L., P. sibirica L., or P. mandshurica (Maxim). Koehne of the familiy Rosaccae. The plant is cultivated mainly in the Hebei, Shaanxi, Shandong, and Shanxi provinces of China, as well as Inner Mongolia, where it is collected in summer, dried, and used unprocessed. Bitter apricot kernel relieves coughs and asthma, treats acute or cronic bronchitis, and relieves constipation

Use of Bitter Apricot Kernel in TCM

Bitter  in taste and slightly warm, and slightly toxic, it acts on the lung and large intestine meridians.

Effects, Medicinal Uses, and Combinations

  1. Relieves coughs and asthma: for coughs without sputum or coughs with thin phlegm, and dyspnea, bitter apricot kernel is prescribed with mulberry leaf and chrysanthemum, as in Sang Ju Yin, or it is combined with licorice root and ephedra.
  2. Hepls to moisten the intestines and relieves constipation: for dryness of the intestines with constipation and for better bowel movements, this herb is used with hemp seed peach kernel, as in Run Chang Wan.


In a decoction of 3 to 10 g.


People wth yin deficiency, long-term coughing, or diarrhea should avoid this herb or use with caution. The very small amount of hydrocyanic acid and aldehyde after hydrolysis of the seed is toxic to the respiratory system.

Side Effects and Toxicity

An oral overdose can cause intoxication, especially in children. Toxicity symptoms usually appear between 0.5 and five hours after ingestion. These include dizziness, nausea and vomiting. Amygdalin has a very low toxicity when administered orally. The LD50 value were 25 g/kg in mice and rats.

Chemical Constituents

Bitter apricot krnel contains amygdalin, emulsin, and several enzymes including amygdalase, prunase, alpha-L-fucosidase, and amadase. It also contains apricot oils, cholesterol, protein, and amino acids.

Pharmacological Findings

  1. Antitussive and antiasthmatic. The antitussive effect of amygdalin was observed in animals.
  2. The fat of the seed can lubricate and produce a laxative effect.
  3. Subcutaneous administration of amygdalin produced an analgesic effect in mice.

Clinical Findings

  1. Intravenous administration of amygdalin acted as a pain reliever in patients with advanced liver cancer.
  2. The addition of an oral dose of the seed in the treatment regimen of two cases of cloramphenicol-induced aplastic anemia markedly increased the therapeutic effect. It is assumed that the  hydrocyanic acid content contributes to tissue anoxia, thereby  stimulating the kidneys, and promotes hematopoiesis.
  3. The aqueous decoction of bitter apricot kernel has an antitumor effect and the oil of bitter apriot kernel is anthelmintic and antimirobial.
  4. Bitter apricot seed oil has been demonstrated to be anthelmintic toward ascariasis, enterobiasis, and ancylostomiasis.

The very small amount of hydracyanic acid and aldehyde remaining after hydrolysis of the apricot kernel is toxic to the respiratory system, particuraly for children.