Laetrile, Amygdalin, and Vitamin B17

The bioactive chemical found in apple seeds is called amygdalin. This is not the same as Laetrile, which is a processed drug. (Böhringer Friedrich)
The bioactive chemical found in apple seeds is called amygdalin. This is not the same as Laetrile, which is a processed drug. (Böhringer Friedrich)

When I wrote a warning about how eating too many apple seeds or cherry pits could kill you, I had no idea the topic would be considered controversial. In my mind, saying the natural compounds in the plants could be toxic was on par with saying too much iron is toxic… it’s documented fact. Yet, that blog post generated comments about how the seeds are supposedly a cure for cancer or necessary for human nutrition, making me out to be part of some nefarious AMA/government plot. For those of you who think that, let me set the record straight. No one dictates what I write or pays me to present a viewpoint.

Apple seeds, cherry pits, and other seeds from the Prunis family contain a natural substance called amygdalin, which can be enzymatically degraded into glucose, benzaldehyde, and hydrogen cyanide. Hydrogen cyanide is toxic. Here’s the first MSDS I found on hydrogen cyanide when I ran a search, which says ingesting less than 1 mg/kg can kill you. So… that’s bad news for your body, even if there are heathful compounds in the seeds, unless you have the ability to detoxify the cyanide… and you do. If the dose is low enough, you can survive exposure to cyanide just fine, with no ill effects. If the dose is too high, then you’re in trouble. That’s where eating too many of the seeds can kill you. I don’t have an opinion on whether or not eating a small number of the seeds is healthful.

Difference Between Amygdalin, Laetrile, and Vitamin B17

I read that some people use the terms amygdalin, Laetrile, and vitamin B17 interchangeably, but there are sources which distinguish between them. Amygdalin is the substance that occurs naturally in plants. Laetrile is a trade name for a synthesized compound, laevo-mandelonitrile-beta-glucuronoside. This compound is chemically similar to amygdalin, but isn’t the same molecule. I’m not entirely clear on whether B17 is supposed to be amygdalin or Laetrile, but neither compound is recognized as a vitamin. The ‘vitamin’ designation seems to have been part of a marketing ploy by the Mexican clinic that sells Laetrile. I don’t see much information about the natural compound, amygdalin, but there is scientific research that indicates Laetrile does not cure cancer.

To summarize:

  • Laetrile and amygdalin are not the same molecule.
  • Both compounds can be metabolized to produce cyanide in the body. Too much of either compound is toxic.
  • Laetrile has not been shown to cure cancer.
  • There may be health benefits from eating apple seeds or related seeds, but if you eat too many of them, you can get sick.


(1) Todd Moss says:

Please watch G Edward Griffin’s A World Without Cancer, about Laetrile, on Google video.

(2) Bob Steele says:

You are so right about the ‘natural’ toxins in some seeds. I have read that a thimbleful of apple seeds killed someone. Magnus PYKE wrote a book on food science which refers to the actual poisoning. The man loved apple seeds so his wife collected a thimbleful and gave to him for his birthday – his last birthday it turned out to be. Bob

(3) donpark1 says:

Where did you read this??? Let me guess… you can’t remember. LOL

The author sounds like she is paid by someone. “there is scientific research that indicates Laetrile does not cure cancer.” Only an idiot would print that in a story they wrote… unless they wrote for idiots.

(4) Chris says:

You’re a PHD? Try doing some research on Laetrile / B17 and see how many people disagree with YOUR research that it doesn’t work. You say it’s proven it doesn’t work because the so-called experts say so…so I guess you believe that radiation and chemo actually is a good method because they say so. Why don’t you ask a doctor how many people survive cancer using the “preferred method” of treatment. Have you spoken to a doctor that does Laetrile treatments, Answer no. See, some doctors think vitamins/minerals should be the preferred method. You think it’s possible that the drug companies/Gov would suppress this info…no that’s impossible right? There’s a reason why the drug companies have beds inside the capital building. Look how many kids/people are taking meds these days. Get your head out of your a$$.

(5) Alex says:

You go boy!

(6) David Duncan says:

What is a poison? – ANYTHING taken into the body in sufficient quantities within a certain time to do bodily harm.
Apple and cherry seeds contain vitamin B17. Vitamin B17 is less toxic than –
sugar, salt and aspirin –
and a darn sight less toxic than chemotherapy.

(7) gwen says:

I was a nurse for many years. I NEVER once saw a patient survive who had chemo from cancer that had spread throughout the body.

I got out of nursing. When I tried natural god given product that cured my skin cancer, when my surgeon failed twice, I did further research.

It’s true. Natural is better.

(8) Marissa says:

“…..but if you eat too many of them, you can get sick and may die.”

I eat an apple a day, skin, seeds and all. I also eat 10 apricot kernels between meals every day for the past 3 years. hhhmmmmmm.

(9) Eric Juvastoel says:

I eat on a dayli basis 100 to 150 apricot seeds and have done so since late May 2011. Still alive  Miracle or is BIG PHARMA try to scare us from taking natures own medicine ?
Amygdalin can not be patented and can not make big $$$$$$ !

(10) Antonio says:


Do you chew the apricot seeds?



(11) Tomas says:

Did you also know that when there “final” is cure for cancer the American Cancer Society is required to disband. They receive the most donations than any other charity. With that said do you think they are eager to tell the truth?! Think about all the jobs that would be lost, fact is today there are more people making money from cancer than dying from it.

Genesis 1:29 And God said, Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth , and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

Think about it.

(12) Ken says:

Our Ms. Anne Marie needs to confine herself to a chem lab and ignore what she herself finds to be absolutely true–no matter the clear benefit (“benefit”, being interchangeable with “profit loss” in this case). Clumsily worded, but Holy Christ stop parroting the marketeers: not recognized as, et al, has FDA written all over it.

And, duh? You wholly neglected to say EXACTLY WHERE and WHY and HOW the compound is released ONLY in the presence of a chemical that ONLY TUMOR CELLS have in abundance. Do you think we’re complete idiots?

Take more than 20 mins to research a subject mkay? Signed, 70-80 cherry pit centers or 10-15 apricot pit centers a day after being diagnosed with another brain tumor, 11 months ago.

You may as well work at a fast-food joint to HELP get people sick. You’d do less harm.

“When I wrote a warning about how eating too many apple seeds or cherry pits could kill you, I had no idea the topic would be considered controversial.”, shines a spotlight upon your professional and moral integrity.


(13) jason says:

well it is true vitamin b17 does kill cancer i just found out with my mums melanoma eating 45 seeds a day killed off to tumours the size of eggs in 2 weeks that were on her leg but remember the apricot seeds are only part of the jigsaw puzzle its the diet as well pancreatic enzymes is the secret as well all u drug companies out there would have to be getting so worried because every one is finding out about this i hope the cancer industry get wiped out its all to do with money

(14) nondnabased says:

if there were a cure or a good prevention for cancer billions of profit $$$ will b lost……. think about that author. there are three types of lies. LIES,LIES and STATISTICS……

(15) Linda says:

How many apple seeds a day is it safe to eat, and do you chew them, crush them or swallow them whole. Thanks for any info.

(16) Eric Juvastoel says:

I eat 100 / 150 a day and I feel fine  and yes i CHEW them.

(17) Danny says:

Mum sent home with terminal cancer. We opted for the B17 route instead of chemo. Gave her 3 (500mg) laetrile tablets per day for 4 months. She has never looked better, has never experienced a single side effect and she is 83 years old.

I wouldn’t give cancer research a dime of my money. Crooks!!

November 3, 2011 at 6:36 pm

(18) Jean says:

Where did you get her tablets??? I Need help

(19) David says:

Get the book: Cancer Step outside the box!

(20) Jim says:

The best comment I have ever read on this whole topic is from teh Anti-Cancer book. “It is difficult to get someone to understand something, when, their salary is so dependent on them not understanding it.”

(22) mohammad says:

i am surprised of a man who loved apple seeds died from it as bob steele mentioned ,unless it was his first love first try witch is impossible .since bob steele knows the dead man ,i appreciate if he mentions if this man used apple seeds before and why he did not die earlier

(23) Hilary says:

If you would like to have the beneficial elements of Vitamin B17 without the most definite hazards which Anne Marie wrote of above, you might like to add the following foods to your diet and will provide you with more than adequate quantities to act as an alternative to stone fruit seeds.

Broad Beans – 4oz (100g), fresh or frozen but cooked.

Chilli con beanies – made with red kidney beans, fresh bell peppers and all the other things you might want to have with your regular, home-made chilli. Use one 500g (1lb) can between two people, or cook the kidney beans with some raw onion, a little garlic and some dried herbs in it’s own can juice for 20 minutes on a simmer heat, then drain and mash and have on wholemeal toast for breakfast, half the can each (for two) or cook it and refrigerate and reheat next day for breakfast in the same way.

Find wild blackberries during the fall, eat them as you pick them and take a big container. You can freeze them in airtight containers and eat them til your heart is content. Cultivated blackberries do not have the same vitamin content.

Grow your own alfalfa – eat the leaves and sprouts in sandwiches instead of salad, or have an alfalfa salad with some other nice tasty things like tomato and onions and grated carrot. Make sure you buy PURE alfalfa seeds and tend it yourself or someone you trust.

Don’t snack on peanuts, buy macadamia nuts instead, a couple of ounces are lovely with your aperitif before dinner.

Eat some lentils two or three times a week instead of another vegetable.

Bamboo sprouts are gorgeous and very fresh tasting and extremely good for you.

So are mung bean sprouts.

If you live in FL make the most of cassava as a vegetable and as an ingredient in cakes and other sweet/savoury treats.

All of the above have amygdalin in reasonably high quantities and won’t harm you.

Good health and bon appetit.

(24) paul Zenchuk says:

a number of people have become cancer free after ingesting apricot pits. One guy was thrown in jail over it. There are testimonials by cancer survivors on the internet. You knowledge seems very limited.

(25) Estelle says:

I’ve eaten 5 or more apples (including their seeds) per day for over a decade now. No signs of poisoning in sight. I must be highly resistant to cyanide???

(26) danny says:

Thanks to authors such as G. Edward Griffin and his book World Without Cancer, also Tanya Harter Pierce and her book Outsmart Your Cancer, we are learning the truth! And when we have finally reached a critical mass those within those criminal organizations such as the ACS and those liars within the FDA should be concerned. They have played the largest role in the genocide within the world. Millions needlessly dying horrible deaths. A reading of the history put forth by these authors and many others shows the complicit criminality engaged in all for money. Every day i exist i spread the word by telling people of these books. 1 out of 3 or 2 out of 3 are serious numbers. Reading and learning is easy and thankfully to groups like these others can learn to protect themselves. Let’s all resolve to spread the word every day and sink the knife into the cancer industry!

(27) Jason M says:

Ms. Helmenstine Ph.D.,

I’ve always been a firm believer that the burden of proof rest upon he or she that alleges. Unfortunately I don’t have 100 million dollars to ‘prove’ vitamin B17 works. So though I can’t prove its effectiveness or speak of its safety, I can, however, show you thousands of testimonies (Google). I simply can not excuse all those testimonies as being some sort of placebo effect. And as far as safety is concerned…I can not recall ever hearing or reading about anyone dying of cyanide poisoning as a direct result of taking B17 in the form of apple seeds, apricot seeds, pills, etc.
I certainly hope after viewing the overwhelming responses to your post that it will motivate you to taking a second look at the integrity of the FDA as well as PHARMA’s true motivation$. As the others have already stated, start by watching A World Without Cancer by G Edward Griffin. It’s a real eye opener!



(28) Clint Mc says:

have you ever noticed your dog eating strange plants, grass even? what about chimps in Africa that will crack open the fruits just to eat the seeds? do you know why they do that? bigger question, if the chemical in these specific plants that animals eat are ‘poisonous’ then why don’t they die?

I use to live on a farm and for a few years the grass started to die, so we planted a different species of grass instead… not soon after all the cattle started to die of cancer… we got a local vet out and asked about the old and new grass we used… he found out that the old grass was high in B-17.

(29) Anonymous says:

Yes, the illuminati does pay you for this

(30) just a scientist says:

Tell me how to get the B-17 from a pip and I will check if it works coz I have such an opportunity. It is very easy for me to check it, but I don’t know how to get the B-17 in order to add it to the cell culture.

(31) Jerabek says:

Yes, its very BAD for you.I have once eaten 3 doz seeds (apricot+ plus ++ in ONE day. and I had a “little bad taste” in my mouth., over one yr ago. I must be different to others in the clinical study s…also my wife did the same with” No side effects”. We in Australia be must be different to the rest of USA?

(32) Roger says:

I would like to enlighten all you quacks out there about the REAL effect apricot seeds have on your body when you ingest (eat) them. The amygdalin, when ingested, combines with enzymes in your gut that convert the amygdalin to CYANIDE. Your liver can process a small amount of cyanide but when higher levels are built up, the toxicity becomes too much for the liver to deal with and DEATH occurs.

My wacked-out brother had my 90 year old mother eating 12 seeds per day. Her liver functions ( ALT and AST ) had climb to abnormal levels and she was showing symptoms consistent with cyanide toxicity.

I insisted she undergo a test for cyanide poison ( ABG-Arterial Blood Gas). The test results were POSITIVE for cyanide !! We halted the seeds immediately and her overall health has improved.

For any of you out there that insist on this quackery, please do yourselves a favor and have your cyanide levels checked. you have nothing to loose and can hopefully come to your senses before your cyanide level reaches a fatal level.

(33) Laetrile v. Cancer says:

@ Roger

Roger why don’t have you have a seat next to the author and watch the big boys show how laetrile kills CANCER, and how this will stop the medical industrial complex from having millions of victims that can be cured…

You’re a shill Roger – and by the way, if you ROAST the Apricot seeds as per INSTRUCTION – you would’ve found out that it stops the stomach from becoming upset for some… you go your work cut out– obviously your still trying to comprehend any good common sense, let alone cures for cancer!

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