Laetrile (also called amygdalin or vitamin B17) is a substance found in the seeds of many fruits, nuts, and beans. It is a potential treatment for cancer, but its anticancer activity is controversial. Here’s what science says about laetrile for cancer treatment.
What is laetrile / Vit B17 / Amygdalin?
Laetrile, amygdalin, or vit B17 is a bitter substance found in the pits, seeds, or kernels of fruits, nuts, and plants such as apricots, plums, cherries, almonds, macadamia nuts, sorghum, clover, flaxseed, and lima beans.1,4
How does laetrile kill cancer cells?
Laetrile makes a chemical compound called hydrogen cyanide, which is an extremely toxic substance.2 When laetrile is taken by mouth or given as an injection into a vein or muscle, the hydrogen cyanide changes into cyanide, a fast-acting and deadly chemical.3 It is believed that laetrile or vitamin B-17 kills cancer cells by producing hydrogen cyanide.1
Isn’t laetrile toxic?
Researchers have tested different doses and ways to give laetrile. They found that amygdalin causes very few side effects when it is given orally or intravenously at the prescribed doses. The side effects of laetrile are known to be worse when the patient eats certain foods like raw almonds, celery, carrots, bean sprouts, and peaches.1 Also, taking high doses of vitamin C increases the risk of side effects. Also, side effects are worse when laetrile is taken by mouth.1
Can laetrile cure cancer?
A controlled trial compares the patients who are treated with a drug with controls, i.e., patients who do not receive the drug. There have been no large-scale controlled trials on laetrile.1 However, there are some anecdotal reports of amygdalin or Vit b17 benefiting cancer patients.
Two clinical studies tested benzaldehyde in patients with advanced cancer. Benzaldehyde is a byproduct when the body breaks down laetrile. Some patients treated with benzaldehyde showed a complete response and others had a reduction in tumor size. However, the response only lasted for the duration of the treatment. Moreover, the patients also received conventional treatments for their cancers, such as chemotherapy and radiation, so the exact effect of the benzaldehyde is unclear.1
Is Vitamin B17 illegal?
Laetrile (man-made purified amygdalin) is manufactured in Mexico. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved laetrile as a cancer treatment.1 Laetrile is banned by the FDA and is not available in the USA.5
Where can I get Vit B17?
Although its cancer-curing properties are controversial, vit B17 has other benefits, such as regulating blood pressure, boosting the immune system, relieving pain, and acting as an antioxidant.6
Natural sources of vitamin B17 include the seeds of fruits like apricots and apples. The tiny seeds of strawberries, grapes, and berries also contain vitamin B17. Flaxseed, millet seeds, and squash seeds are other good sources of vit B17. Blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries have vitamin b17 in abundance. Nuts such as almonds, cashew nuts, and macadamia nuts, as well as grains such as barley, millet, and buckwheat contain vitamin B17. You can also get vit b17 from sprouts and beans.6