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Prunus Persica - What a Peach!
Author: Allison B. Vought
Friday, August 7, 2015

The peach (Prunus persica) is a drupe. It belongs to the genus Prunus which includes the cherry and plum, in the family Rosaceae. The outermost layer of the peach is called the exocarp or skin. Red pigmentation in the skin (blush) is packed with anthocyanins that are rich antioxidants. The fleshy part is the mesocarp. Inside the middle of the fruit is the pit. Technically, this is referred to as the stony endocarp. Within the stony endocarp is the seed. Fruits bearing stony endocarps inside them are typically called "stone" fruits. The peach is classified with the almond in the subgenus Amygdalus, distinguished from the other subgenera by the corrugated seed shell.

As with many other members of the rosaceae (rose) family, peach seeds contain cyanogenic glycosides, including amygdalin. These substances are capable of decomposing into a sugar molecule and hydrogen cyanide gas. While peach seeds are not the most toxic within the rose family (bitter almond is), large consumption of these chemicals from any source is potentially hazardous to animal and human health.
Peach and nectarines are the same species, even though they are regarded commercially as different fruits. In contrast to peaches, whose fruits have fuzzy skin, nectarines are characterized by the absence of fruit-skin trichomes (fuzz-less fruit); genetic studies suggest nectarines are produced due to a recessive allele, whereas peaches are produced from a dominant allele for fuzzy skin. China is the world's largest producer of peaches.
It has been reported that phenolic compounds play an important role in antioxidant activity of peaches. Major phenolic compounds in peaches are hydroxycinnamates, procyanidins, flavonols and anthocyanins. Other antioxidants known to be present in peaches include ascorbic acid and carotenoids. Since phenolic compounds are concentrated in the peaches skin, the skin is a potential source of antioxidants.
A cosmetic active ingredient created from peach tree leaves has shown in studies to slow the signs of aging by stimulating cells to repair and protect themselves. The anti-aging activity of Prunus persica extract is based on hormesis, a principle describing a positive biological response to low doses of toxins or stressors.
Peach leaf extract is rich in purified α-glucans, which stimulate the expression of vitagenes, a group of genes involved in cell homeostasis. This hormetic action contributes to the skin’s capacity to “teach” skin cells to protect against future stressors.
Peach blossom, popularly consumed as tea, is believed to promote healthy, young-looking skin. In vitro testing results suggest that peach blossom has the potential for use as a source of natural antioxidants in the food and cosmetic industries.
Peach allergy or intolerance is a relatively common form of hypersensitivity to proteins contained in peaches and related plants (e.g. almonds, roses). Symptoms range from localized symptoms such as a rash to systemic symptoms, including anaphylaxis. Adverse reactions appear to be related to the "freshness" of the peach fruit, indicating that peeled, processed or canned fruit may be tolerated by those with a peach allergy.

1.     Zhang, Y. Antioxidant effect of peach skin extracts from 13 varieties of South Carolina grown peaches. August, 2014
2.     Kim GJ, Choi HG, Kim JH, Kim SH, Kim JA, Lee SH. Anti-allergic inflammatory effects of cyanogenic and phenolic glycosides from the seed of Prunus persica. Nat Prod Commun. 2013 Dec;8(12):1739-40. PubMed PMID: 24555287.
4.     Li, C. Wang, MH. Antioxidant activity of peach blossom extracts. Journal of the Korean Society for Applied Biological Chemistry. 2011, Feb;Vol. 54, Issue 1:46-53.
5.     Tomás-Barberán FA, Gil MI, Cremin P, Waterhouse AL, Hess-Pierce B, Kader AA. HPLC-DAD-ESIMS analysis of phenolic compounds in nectarines, peaches, and plums. J Agric Food Chem. 2001 Oct;49(10):4748-60. PubMed PMID: 11600017.

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