Apricot seeds or apricot kernels are considered by many to be a hot topic, particularly surrounding their health benefits and whether or not they are dangerous to consume. This article will examine amygdalin in the apricot seed, as well as Laetrile's history with curing cancer and the US regulations placed on it.
Apricot seeds are not the entire pit of an apricot. The seed or kernel is actually inside the pit. In order to get to the seeds, you have to crack open the apricot and then crack open the pit to reveal a small almond-shaped seed.
The seed looks almost identical to an almond and could easily be mistaken as one. But once you put an apricot seed into your mouth, you will know immediately that you are not eating an almond.
Apricot seeds taste wildly bitter. I mean really, really bitter. In fact, if you buy apricot seeds and they taste sweet, you have purchased the wrong item. Some apricot seeds are sweet, but these are not the ones that have amygdalin in them. This means they do not contain enough nutrients to improve your health. Amygdalin is the compound that makes them so bitter and coincidentally is the compound that may kill cancer cells as well.
What is amygdalin? It is a compound found in many foods. Over 1,200 plants have some amount of amygdalin in them. Apricot seeds happen to have the highest amount of amygdalin when compared to other foods.
Amygdalin, or what some companies refer to as B17, is a nitroloside composed of four natural substances: two glucose molecules, one bound cyanide, and one bound denzaldyhide.
Bound cyanide is not the same thing as free cyanide. Bound cyanide is found in apricot seeds, millet sprouts, lima beans, soy, spinach, bamboo shoots, and cassava roots. These everyday foods are acceptable to eat because the cyanide is bound to other molecules within the food and will not cause cyanide poisoning. Free cyanide is what causes poisoning. You encounter free cyanide in cigarette smoke, smoke from fires, water, and hydrogen cyanide gas.
So are apricot seeds poisonous and deadly? Yes they are and no they aren't. In the right dose, anything can be poisonous and deadly. In fact, my grandmother almost died from drinking too much water. But that is another story entirely. There are many other common foods we eat daily that can also be toxic. These include: cinnamon, nutmeg, tuna, liver, Brazil nuts, and broccoli. The old adage: The dose makes the poison is perfectly applicable to this issue.
Controversy stems from the ordinary apricot seed and whether or not its amygdalin can help get rid of cancer. Almost one out of every two people in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime.
Cancer is the most difficult and deadly disease known to man. There are more treatment options than there are actual types of cancer. Many conventional treatments are extremely toxic. Most alternative therapies are not well known or researched. These therapies are often controversial and misinformation abounds.
As far back as the 1800s, scientists, medical doctors, and researchers have been using amygdalin against cancer cells. By 1955, Dr. Enst Krebs was using injectable amygdalin (Laetrile) for treating cancer. He based his treatment on the diet of the Hunza people in Northern Pakistan.
These indigenous people eat apricot seeds daily and live long and cancer-free lives. Krebs hypothesized that cancer was a metabolic disease caused by the lack of nitrilosides in the diet. These compounds are a large group of water-soluble, sugar-containing compounds found in thousands of plants. Amygdalin is the most well known nitriloside and is consumed in abundance by the Hunza people.
By 1963, Krebs had developed a concentrated form of amygdalin and filed a patent giving it the name of "Laetrile." It is a common mistake to think that amygdalin and Laetrile are the same thing; they are not. Amygdalin is the extracted compound from an apricot seed. Laetrile is a concentrated form of amygdalin that is made in a lab.
In the 1970s, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) was at the epicenter of America's war on cancer. Someone convinced the board of directors to study the benefits of Laetrile. The compound had been in use for some time but hadn't been investigated or studied. This is where the problems begin.
Dr. Sugiura was given the task of testing Laetrile because he was regarded as the best American and global cancer researcher of his time. From the beginning he noted remarkable results. But these results were ignored and finally refuted by the MSK Board of Directors. All of the board members had financial ties to large pharmaceutical companies and were invested in chemotherapy drugs. Finding a cure in a simple apricot seed didn't fit into their financial model for cancer. According to the Director of Public Affairs at MSK, Dr. Ralph Moss,
"If a cure for cancer were to be found in an extract from the lowly apricot seed, it would be a terrible economic blow to the cancer-drug industry.”
And this began the disappearance and discrediting of Laetrile in the United States. Between 1972 and 1977, several researchers at MSK provided promising data in support of Laetrile. But MSK released a statement that they found Laetrile ineffective and would discontinue the study. Shortly following this event, Dr. Suguira was interviewed by a journalist. He would not recant his results or his belief that Laetrile could kill cancer cells.
By 1977, Dr. Ralph Moss decided that he could not tolerate the dismissal of Dr. Suguira's work and felt he could no longer lie about the findings. He held a press conference in which he revealed the cover-up and results of Dr. Suguira's studies. The next day, Dr. Moss was fired from Memorial Sloan Kettering.
In 1977, the FDA prohibited the shipping of Laetrile and amygdalin across state lines, but individual states pushed back by creating laws to allow the use of Laetrile for cancer therapy. However, by 1980 the US Supreme Court upheld the ban on shipping Laetrile. This decision made it virtually illegal to make, ship, or use Laetrile in the United States. That is how Laetrile and its main ingredient amygdalin got the reputation for being an illegal treatment. Presently, Laetrile is made and available for cancer treatments in Mexico.
In case you're getting lost with amygdalin's history, here's a quick overview:
Here is what we know:
There are less than 100 documented studies involving Laetrile or amygdalin. The results have been mixed. Some proponents claim that many studies have been flawed or purposefully skewed.
Researchers have various hypotheses about how amygdalin actually works to kill cancer cells.
Since 2000, there have been multiple new studies that support Dr. Suguira's insistence that amygdalin induces cancer cell apoptosis (death).
Currently, Americans do not have access to injectable amygdalin as Laetrile. But we do have access to bitter apricot seeds as a food product. They generally contain 20mg of amygdalin per seed. Alternative cancer experts recommend 1 seed for every 10 pounds of body weight. The seeds need to be consumed throughout the day as opposed to all at one time. As of right now, I recommend getting your apricot seeds from Apricot Powers, whose seeds are grown in California and are completely raw.
We may never know the "true" history of injectable amygdalin (Laetrile), but with emerging new studies, we can safely say that it shows promise for treating cancers. Adding apricot seeds to your diet is an easy way to add nutrition and possibly prevent cancers.
If you would like to look deeper into some of the newer studies supporting amygdalin, here are the links: