Vitamin B17 became the world's greatest nutritional controversy in the 1980's, when promoters of Laetrile claimed that it cured or prevented every case of cancer.
Laetrile is the product made from vitamin B17. Amygdalin is the chemical compound that is the most common form of the vitamin. Amygdalin is found in the seeds of almost all stone fruits, including apples, cherries, nectarines, peaches, and pears, and in lesser concentration in over 100 grains. It is especially abundant in apricot seeds.
The use of apricot seeds in healing goes back further than most people realize. The earliest documented use of apricot seeds is attributed to the Chinese physician Zhang Zhong Zhing, who practiced about 190 AD.
Zhang used teas of apricot seeds, ephedra, licorice, and honey to treat infections, ulcers, and tumors of the throat, as recorded in his book, Shang Han Lun, still taught in medical schools in China today. In this age before surgery, however, cancer was unknown, and probably quite rare.
The masters of traditional Chinese medicine never used apricot seeds completely "raw." They were not treated, but they were boiled with other herbs to make a drinkable tea.
There are enzymes in apricot seeds that can be deactivated by heating, but B17 isn't one of them. And despite what you might read elsewhere on the internet, there is no ban on raw apricot seeds, if you want raw seeds, just buy a fresh apricot.
What can vitamin B17 really do?
Skipping over the hype on both sides, and relying on studies and case reports published primarily in Chinese journals (our contibuting editors use translation software and English-language summaries to wade through the reports), there seems to be solid evidence that B17 is of real value.
The stage of cancer for which B17 is useful is tumor promotion. This is not the very beginning stage of the disease. B17 does not stop the DNA changes that cause normal cells to become cancerous cells.
Instead, vitamin B17 seems to stop the spread of cancer once it has formed. Chinese researchers rate the effectiveness of B17 as the same level as the epicatechin gallate (EPCG) found in green tea.
The best-known amygdalin researcher, Dr. Kanematsu Sugiura of Japan, steadfastly claims that vitamin B17 prevents the spread of many kinds of cancer into the lung. Metastasis to the lung is usually one of the later stages of the disease.
Dr. Sugiura never claimed that B17 makes tumors disappear, but he did note that lung tumors typically shrunk in size by 80% after treatment with B17.
Can vitamin B17 prevent every form of cancer? There is just no evidence for this claim.
Can vitamin B17 prolong life and relieve symptoms? There is reliable case evidence that it does.
Much is made of the fact that vitamin B17 contains the same ion that found in a molecule of hydrogen cyanide, only bound in a form that is generally non-toxic. Generally non-toxic, however, is not the same as always non-toxic.
There has been at least one case in which a cancer patient tried to treat herself with a combination of vitamin B17 and a high dose (4,800 milligrams) of vitamin C. The antidote for this combination is interestingly, hydroxycobalamin, a pharmaceutical derivative of vitamin B12. In this one case, the vitamin B12 derivative saved the patient who later completely recovered from cyanide poisoning. The moral of the story, however, is don't mix B17 with vitamin C.
But don't let negative publicity keep you from considering this potentially valuable adjunct to your cancer care. Just don't rely on Laetrile alone for your recovery.