Cited from en.wikipedia.org:
Medicinal and Non-food Uses
Cyanogenic glycosides (found in most stone fruit seeds, bark, and leaves) are found in high concentration in apricot seeds. Laetrile, a purported alternative treatment for cancer, is extracted from apricot seeds. Apricot seeds "were used against tumors as early as A.D. 502. In England during the seventeenth century, apricot oil was also used against tumors, swellings, and ulcers". In 2005, scientists in the Republic of Korea found that treating human prostate cancer cells with amygdalin induces programmed cell death. They concluded that "amygdalin may offer a valuable option for the treatment of prostate cancers".
A 2006 systematic review by the Cochrane Collaboration concluded: "The claim that [l]aetrile has beneficial effects for cancer patients is not supported by data from controlled clinical trials. This systematic review has clearly identified the need for randomised or controlled clinical trials assessing the effectiveness of [l]aetrile or amygdalin for cancer treatment." Given the lack of evidence, laetrile has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health evaluated the evidence separately and concluded that clinical trials of amgydalin showed little or no effect against cancer. For example, a 1982 trial of 175 patients found that tumor size had increased in all but one patient. The authors reported that "the hazards of amygdalin therapy were evidenced in several patients by symptoms of cyanide toxicity or by blood cyanide levels approaching the lethal range."
The study concluded that "Patients exposed to this agent should be instructed about the danger of cyanide poisoning, and their blood cyanide levels should be carefully monitored. Amygdalin (Laetrile) is a toxic drug that is not effective as a cancer treatment".
In Europe, apricots were long considered an aphrodisiac, and were used in this context in William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, and as an inducer of childbirth, as depicted in John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi.
Due to their high fiber to volume ratio, dried apricots are sometimes used to relieve constipation or induce diarrhea. Effects can be felt after eating as few as three.
Research shows that of any food, apricots possess the highest levels and widest variety of carotenoids. Carotenoids are antioxidants that may help to prevent heart disease, reduce "bad cholesterol" levels, and protect against cancer. Although initial studies suggested that antioxidant supplements might promote health, later large clinical trials did not detect any benefit and suggested instead that excess supplementation may be harmful. In traditional Chinese medicine, apricots are considered helpful in regenerating body fluids, detoxifying, and quenching thirst.
The Chinese associate the apricot with education and medicine. For instance, the classical word 杏壇 (literally: 'apricot altar') which means "educational circle", is still widely used in written language. Chuang Tzu, a Chinese philosopher in 4th century BCE, told a story that Confucius taught his students in a forum surrounded by the wood of apricot trees. The association with medicine in turn comes from the common use of apricot kernels as a component in traditional Chinese medicine,
and from the story of Dong Feng (董奉), a physician during the Three Kingdoms period, who required no payment from his patients except that they plant apricot trees in his orchard on recovering from their illnesses, resulting in a large grove of apricot trees and a steady supply of medicinal ingredients. The term "Expert of the Apricot Grove" �(杏林高手) is still used as a poetic reference to physicians.
The fact that apricot season is very short has given rise to the very common Egyptian Arabic and Palestinian Arabic expression "filmishmish" ("in apricot [season]") or "bukra filmishmish" ("tomorrow in apricot [season]"), generally uttered as a riposte to an unlikely prediction, or as a rash promise to fulfill a request.
Among United States Marine Corps tank-driving Marines, apricots are taboo, by superstition. Marine Corps tankers will not eat apricots, allow apricots onto their vehicles, and often will not even say the word "apricot". This superstition stems from Marine Sherman tank breakdowns purportedly having happened in the presence of apricot cans.
The Turkish idiom "bundan iyisi Şam'da kayısı" (literally, the only thing better than this is an apricot in Damascus) means "it doesn't get any better than this" and used when something is the very best it can be; like a delicious apricot from Damascus.