Botanical name: Prunus persica
Common name: Peach kernel, Persica
Family: Rosaceae, rose family
Part used in Chinese medicine: seed
Major Chinese medicine actions:
Strongly invigorates blood, dispels stasis, moistens intestines
The peach fruit tree (Prunus persica) appears to have originated in China, where it was mentioned in literature several centuries before Christ. It was introduced to Persia before Christian times and was spread by the Romans throughout Europe. Several of its horticultural varieties were brought by the Spanish to North America, where it was naturalized by the late 17th century.
The peach is in the family Rosaceae (rose family) and is closely related to other species of Prunus such as the cherry, plum, and almond, of which Darwin thought the peach was an ancient variety. In China, the flower is frequently used in decorations and is considered a symbol of longevity. According to legend, the peach tree of immortality is located in the Kunlun mountains and produces fruit only once every 3,000 years. The Eight Immortals would travel to the region to gather and eat the magic fruit, assuring their immortality. Ancient warriors crafted weapons from the peach tree wood, and so it was also said to ward off evil.
Growing and Propagation
The tree is grown in moist, moderately fertile, acid soil with good drainage. It does best in full sun and is easily prone to damage by frost and vulnerable to various fungi, viral diseases, and insect pests, so careful precautions should be taken. The tree is hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9. It grow 15-25 feet high and wide, with masses of beautiful blossoms appearing in April before the leaves emerge.
Harvesting and Preparation
For the herb Tao Ren, the fruit is harvested in the fall when both fruit and the kernel are at the height of their maturity. After removing the flesh of the peach, the fruit seed, or pit, is split open and the kernel inside is extracted. In order to remove the outer coat of the kernel, they are boiled for 10 minutes until the seed coat wrinkles, and then submerged in cold water so that the coat can be easily rubbed off.
The best quality herb for medicinal use consists of large peach kernels that are white in color, flat and closed, with high oil content.