Facts and benefits of Japanese Apricot

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Japanese apricot Quick Facts
Name: Japanese apricot
Scientific Name: Prunus mume
Origin China (western Sichuan and western Yunnan), Japan, Korea, north Laos and north Vietnam
Colors Green when young turning to yellow, sometimes with a red blush, as it ripens
Shapes Drupe is 2–3 centimeters (0.79–1.18 in) in diameter with a groove running from the stalk to the tip
Flesh colors Yellow
Taste Sour to bitter
Health benefits Beneficial for bronchitis, chronic coughs, chronic diarrhea, roundworms, fungal skin infections, corns, warts, gastrointestinal cramps, intestinal disorders, insomnia, menopausal symptoms, cancer, and prevention of heart disease
Japanese apricot scientifically known as Prunus mume is an Asian tree species classified in the Armeniaca section of the genus Prunus subgenus Prunus and Rosaceae (Rose family). The plant is native to China (western Sichuan and western Yunnan), Japan, Korea, north Laos and North Vietnam. The species is cultivated throughout most of China, particularly in areas south of the Chang Jiang. Few of the popular common names of the plants are Chinese plum, flowering plum, Japanese flowering apricot, Japanese plum, smoked plum, ume, winter plum and Japanese apricot. Genus name comes from Latin means plum or cherry tree. Specific epithet is a variant of the Japanese name umi for a species of Prunus.

This distinct tree species is related to both the plum and apricot trees. Although generally referred to as a plum in English, it is more closely related to the apricot. In Chinese, Japanese and Korean cooking, the fruit of the tree is used in juices, as a flavoring for alcohol, as a pickle and in sauces. It is also used in traditional medicine. The flower is usually called plum blossom. Flowers are used for decoration during the Chinese New Year, and are featured in the Chinese culture in other ways as well. The tree’s flowering in late winter and early spring is highly regarded as a seasonal symbol.

Plant Description

Japanese apricot is a deciduous, bushy, rounded tree that normally grows about 4–10 meters (13–33 ft.) tall with a rounded form. The plant is found growing in thickets, forested slopes, beside streams, slopes along trails, sparse forests and mountains. The plant thrives in a well-drained moisture-retentive loamy soil, growing well on limestone. It prefers some lime in the soil but is likely to become chlorotic if too much lime is present. Younger bark is a glossy bright green, but matures to be smooth and grey to cinnamon-colored. Older trees have a gnarled branching structure and trunk.

Leaves

Leaves are simple, alternate, ovate, deep green, and 4–8 cm long and 2.5–5 cm wide. The leaves have finely, sharply toothed edges and wedge-shaped bases. The underside of the leaves have fine hairs on the veins. The deciduous leaves may turn yellowish in autumn before dropping.

Flowers

Locally, the bright, clove-scented blossoms open from January to March, before the leaves appear. Depending on the cultivar, flowers may be single or double, with petals in shades ranging from white through rose to dark pink. The flowers are insect-pollinated and are hermaphroditic, with three cream to yellow stamens associated with each petal. These red-sepaled flowers may reach up to 2–2.5 centimeters (0.79–0.98 in) in diameter.

Fruits

Flowers are followed by yellow to orange, rounded drupes (fleshy fruits with a single seed). The fruits are 2–3 centimeters (0.79–1.18 in) in diameter with a groove running from the stalk to the tip and contain a stony seed. The skin turns yellow, sometimes with a red blush, as it ripens, and the flesh becomes yellow. The tart fruits are eaten and seeds are scattered by wildlife. The tree is cultivated for its fruit and flowers. Fruits may be harvested for use in making jams and preserves.

Wild and Cultivated Varieties

Cultivars include:

  • ‘Alba” with single, white flowers
  • ‘Pendula’ has pale pink, single or semi-double flowers on pendulous branches.
  • ‘Kobai’ has red, semi-double flowers.
  • ‘Contorta’ has an unusual contorted form; the cultivar is often hard to find in trade.

Plant Parts Description

Leaf Flower Fruit
Leaf arrangement: Alternate Color: White or red through all kind of pink, single or double Fruit shape: Round
Leaf type: Simple Flower Characteristics: Showy and very fragrant Fruit length: 1 to 3 inches
Leaf margin: Serrate   Fruit covering: Fleshy
Leaf shape: Ovate   Fruit Color: Yellow
Leaf venation: Pinnate   Fruit characteristics: Attracts birds; eatable but mostly showy
Leaf type and persistence: Deciduous    
Leaf blade length: 2 to 4 inches    
Leaf Color: Green    
Fall color: No color change    
Fall characteristics: Not showy    

 

Health benefits of Japanese Apricot

Listed below are few of the popular health benefits of consuming Japanese apricot

1. Heart Health

Japanese plum juice concentrate was found to help improve the ability of blood flow through the body. The fruit juice concentrate of Japanese plum was found to promote a healthy environment for the formation of smooth muscle cells in the heart. It was also found to protect heart cells from the damaging effects of reactive oxygen species. Reactive oxygen species are a natural byproduct of cellular metabolism that are extremely reactive in the body and can be damaging to cells.

2. Human Influenza A

According to one research Japanese plum extract has also been found to protect against the flu. However, it was only found to be protective against getting the flu before being exposed to the virus. It did not have an effect on reduction of flu-like symptoms after it was already contracted. Researchers suspect that the efficacy of the plum extract has to do with its lectin-like qualities, which allow it to bind to substances in the blood, preventing it from infecting its host.

3. Gastrointestinal health

Japanese plum has also been observed to reduce infection and inflammation in cases of people with chronic atrophic gastritis caused by helicobactor pylori infection. Helicobactor pylori is a bacterium that causes the inner lining of the stomach to become chronically inflamed, and causes ulcers. Research has found that less helicobactor pylori were present in the stomach through tissue surgery in a sample of 68 adults.

Traditional uses and benefits of Japanese apricot

  • Unripe fruit is antibacterial, anti-pyretic, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, cholagogue, pectoral, sialagogue and vermifuge.
  • Fruit has a broad-spectrum antibacterial activity.
  • Unripe fruit of the tree is used for its antibacterial properties in the treatment of bronchitis, chronic coughs, chronic diarrhea and roundworms.
  • Fruit is also used in the treatment of diarrhea and dysentery, to stop bleeding and to ease coughs.
  • Half-ripe smoked fruit is considered to be antispasmodic, carminative and febrifuge.
  • In small amounts this exceedingly poisonous compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion and gives a sense of well-being.
  • Smoked Japanese apricot fruits are useful for alleviating gastrointestinal cramps and suppressing intestinal contractions.
  • Japanese apricot is supposed to be effective against parasites, stopping ulcers, and promoting a strong digestive system and heart.
  • It is also used to treat chronic fatigue syndrome.
  • When applied externally, Japanese apricot is used to treat infections, corns, and warts.
  • Japanese apricot can also be used for fever, cough, stomach and intestinal disorders, insomnia, menopausal symptoms, cancer, and prevention of heart disease.
  • It is also used for detoxification and thirst.
  • Japanese apricot is occasionally applied directly to the skin for sunburn.
  • Traditionally, the fruit is used to treat indigestion, roundworms, dysentery, bronchitis, chronic coughs, fungal skin infections, and to stop bleeding.

Culinary Uses

  • Fruit can be consumed raw or cooked.
  • It is, however, extensively used in the Orient where it is usually pickled and then used as a condiment and a vegetable.
  • It is conserved in salt and used as a relish in rice dishes etc.
  • Flowers are used as a flavoring in tea.
  • Seed can be consumed raw or cooked. Do not eat the seed if it is too bitter.
  • In Korea, both the flowers and the fruits are used to make tea.
  • In Japan, similar drink made from green plums, tastes sweet and tangy, is considered a cold, refreshing drink and is often enjoyed in the summer.
  • Thick, sweet Chinese sauce called meijiang or meizijiang, usually translated as “plum sauce”, is also made from the plums, along with other ingredients such as sugar, vinegar, salt, ginger, chili, and garlic.
  • It is used as a condiment for various Chinese dishes, including poultry dishes and egg rolls.
  • In Korea, maesil-cheong, anti-microbial syrup made by sugaring ripe plums, is used as a condiment and sugar.
  • In Korea, hwajeon can be made with plum blossoms. Called maehwa-jeon, the pancake dish is usually sweet, with honey as an ingredient.
  • Plum liquor, also known as plum wine, is popular in both Japan and Korea, and is also produced in China.
  • In Chinese cuisine, plums pickled with vinegar and salt are called suanmeizi, and have an intensely sour and salty flavor.
  • Sour juice left over from the salting process is sometimes used as a vinegar substitute.
  • Fruits can also be made into wine and various sauces.
  • Sauce made from the fruits is sold as plum sauce in Chinese markets.

Dosing considerations for Japanese Apricot

The appropriate dose of Japanese apricot depends on several factors such as the user’s age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for Japanese apricot. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

Other Facts

  • Green dye can be obtained from the leaves.
  • Dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit.
  • Tree is cultivated for its fruit and flowers.
  • In manufacturing, Japanese apricot is added to cosmetic lotions.
  • Oil obtained from the seed is suitable for use in light industry.
  • Plant is used for the production of beads. This probably refers to the seed.
  • Wood is of high quality, but is generally too small for commercial use.
  • The blossoms are also the national flower of Taiwan.
  • They have been portrayed in art forms including embroidery, paintings and ceramics.
  • The 5-petalled blossoms are the floral symbol of the month of January.

References:

https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=506231#null

https://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/56638/

http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/rjp-7973

https://gd.eppo.int/taxon/PRNMM

https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxonomydetail.aspx?id=30048

https://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Prunus+mume

http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?taxonid=286543&isprofile=0&

https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=PRMU5

https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/50026548/50026551

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prunus_mume

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