Do a Google search for the benefits of apricot kernels and the top result (currently) reads:
‘Apricot Seeds: Fight Cancer or Too Dangerous?’
That’s certainly enough to get some attention!
It would appear that some are heralding apricot kernels as a miracle cure, whereas others are concerned about the potential risks. Let’s take a closer look…
Health Benefits of Apricot Kernels
To look at, apricot seeds are just like any other nut. And in terms of their nutritional value, the same is also true. These seeds are high in healthy fats and also offer fiber and iron. They taste quite sweet though and are actually used to flavour amaretto as well as amaretti biscotti.
Sometimes they can be sold as snacks or for baking too. And that’s fine because in this form, they don’t contain the controversial ingredient found in the kernel: amygdalin (the kernel being the fleshy, inner part of the seed). Bitter apricot seeds do contain this and this kind can increase levels of cyanide. Yep, the same cyanide that is used by the bad guys in spy movies to evade torture via a quick death…
Can Bitter Apricot Seeds Help Combat Cancer?
Amygdalin (sometimes called vitamin B17) is highly toxic because the body converts it to cyanide. What’s interesting about this though is that some researchers believe that this cyanide could be useful in combating tumors. In fact, some studies suggest that the cyanide would only impact on cancerous tumors – but the results of the research are currently contradictory and there is no consensus. Some studies show no benefit of using apricot seeds but do demonstrate significant negative side effects (1).
Laetrile meanwhile is a purified version of amygdalin that has actually been used to treat cancer since the 70s. The substance was banned for a short while as it was believed to be too toxic however and in the 80s interstate shipment was banned and again, the results from studies are very mixed.
As such, the use of laetrile has declined drastically and for now there isn’t enough evidence to suggest that it, or bitter apricot kernel, would have any benefit outweighing the costs. Listen to your doctor, they know the science.