A newpaper account of a couple who reportedly were poisoned by eating apricot kernels; a close look at the facts in this case; an evaluation of the toxic potential of seeds comtaining B17; and proof that Laetrile is less toxixc than sugar.

On September 1, 1972, the California State Health Department released its Monthly Morbidity Report to the medical profession and to the press. It contained an entry about a Los Angeles couple who were treated. for "cyanide poisoningt1 after eating thirty apricot kernels. On September 4 the Los Angeles Examiner ran. a UPI dispatch under the heading. :FRUIT PITS CAN CAUSE CYANIDE. And, six days later, the New York Times ran.. a similar story: APRICOT KERNELS LINKED TO POISONINGS ON COAST.

All Americans had been warned-and scared-to stay away from those seeds! For those who were only vaguely familiar with the story of Laetrile, it was a near knock-out blow to the use of vitamin Bi7. And, as shall be demonstrated in a following chapter, it is likely that it was intended to be just that.

In response to this news story Mr. Jay Huchinson, a former cancer patient who attributes his recovery to Laetrile, dashed off the following whimsical letter, sent airmail special delivery, to Mohammed Jamel Khan, Mir of Hunza.:

Dear Mir and Rhani of Hunza:

I am rushing this extremely urgent warning to you so that you can take immediate steps to notify your government and your people of the health hazard reported by the California State Department of Public Health during the week of September 3, 1972. I enclose articles from San Francisco newspapers....

Mir, you must get your people to stop eating those pits. Stop making flour out of them...! Stop feeding your new-born infants the oil., and, for Mohammed's sake, stop anointing them with it!...

Please write soon., and when you do would you mind telling us why your people are among the healthiest in the world, and why your men and women live vigorous lives well into their 90's, and why you and your beautiful people never get cancer?1

For most people, however the sarcasm was completely lost. They took the story of the poisoned couple with. deadly seriousness. Many who had heard that these seeds might be helpful against cancer but who did not understand the chemistry involved, now were afraid to use them and were filled with doubts. An over-zealous health department in Hawaii confiscated all apricot seeds from. the shelves of health food. stores, an. .d. most of the stores on the mainland were intimidated into dropping them from their line. The "news" story had served its purpose well

Suspecting that there might be more to the story than met the eye, this writer attempted to get more details from the Department of Health-particularly the names of the couple in question. But it seemed that the department did not want them questioned. Dr Ralph W. Weilerstein, the California public health medical officer, Bureau of Food and Drug, replied: "We regret that the confidentiality of morbidity reporting precludes interviewing the patients who were poisoned in Los Angeles."2

Dr. Dean Burk of the National Cancer Institute apparently was able to get more information. In a letter dated December 1.3, 1.972, he explained:

This couple from Los Angeles... really got sick and were treated in an emergency hospital following ingestion by mouth of an overnight brew made from apricot nuts, apricot fruit and distilled water-a concoction that probably fermented somewhat overnight, and was undoubtedly very bitter, and which brought on the illness (nausea, vomiting, etc.) after "about an hour," which is rather long for cyanide, which usually acts within minutes of being swallowed. Mr. Murray [of the Los Angeles County Health Department] was not willing to commit himself that cyanide was the chief cause of the illness, from which it would appear they promptly recovered. He said 4'that under the circumstances you don't want to leap to conclusions and say that their illness was definitely due to the ingestion of amygdalin I don't think I could personally say that I proved that their illness was due to apricot kernels."

It is interesting, of course, that, somehow, out of the, I presume, thousands of items in the California Monthly Morbidity Reports, the

1. Quoted in. "Of Apricot Pits and Hunzaland.," by Mike Culbert, Berkeley Daily Gazette, August 1.3, 1972.

2. Letter to author, dated Sept:. 20, 1.972; Griffin, Private Papers, op. cit,

Murray~Chinn material on amygdalin [the story of the Los Angeles' couple made the press throughout: the country -presumably with the help and guidance of the state health authorities

Mr. Gray has written, in an incipient article, "The health department's approach has been to discredit Laetrile without: ever mentioning it directly. They have gotten the cooperation of the press when reporters have not gone beyond the offices of the health department in writing their stories.1 another letter, dated December 20, 1.972, Dr.. Burk expanded his views further:

The facts are that a very considerable number of people eat 10-20 apricot kernels throughout a day and after awhile, even 50-1O0 kernels safely; though hardly all at once as the Angeleno gastronomes actually did. The same general situation holds with respect to a large number of ordinary foods that can be poisonous or allergic, etc., such as strawberries, onions shrimps, and. so on, that are never removed en masse or in toto, from food store shelves by health agencies imbued with the spirit of 1984

It is one thing for a health agency to warn people against foolish and rare actions with respect to any aspect of health, and quite another to totally deprive people of excellent food quite safe if ingested in a normal common sense way observed by 99.999 of the population.2

We have said that vitamin B17 is harmless to non-cancer cells. This is true, but perhaps it would be more accurate to say it is as harmless as any substance can be. After all, even life-essential water or oxygen can be fatal if taken in unnaturally large doses. For instance, there’s normally a very small amount of beta-glucosidise (the "unlocking" enzyme) found within the seeds of most nitriloside fruits. This enzyme, when activated 'by the secretions of the mouth and stomach, causes a minute amount of cyanide and. benzaldehyde to be" released in these locations. As mentioned previously, the presence of limited amounts of these chemicals in the mouth, stomach, and intestines, is not dangerous and, in fact, appears to be part of an intended delicate chemical balance of nature, the absence of which can contribute to tooth decay, bad breath, and

1. Letter from Dr. 'Dean Burk to Mr. M. Standard, December 1.3,1972; (Griffin, private Papers, op.cit)

2. Letter from Dr Dean Burk to Mr B. Stenjen, President of the Waikiki (Chapter

of the National Health Federation, December 20, 1972, Griffin., Private Papers, op.cit.

all kinds of gastrointestinal disorders. But what happens if these seeds are eaten in gigantic quantities?

There is one case of a man who, reportedly, died from devouring almost a cup of apple seeds. Incidentally, the case never has been authenticated and could well be entirely fictitious; but assuming it's true, if the man had eaten the apples also, he would have obtained enough extra rhodanese (the "protecting enzyme") from the fleshy part of the fruit to offset the effect of even that many seeds in his stomach. But that would have required that he eat several cases of apples which, of course, would have been impossible in the first place. (The worst that happens if a person eats too much is regergitation, just as when a person consumes too much salt or other non toxic substance)

It should be noted that, in a few places in the world, there are certain strains of apricot trees that produce seeds containing ten times the concentration of nitriloside found in those trees grown in the United States. Even these seeds are not dangerous, of course, when eaten in reasonable quantity and with the whole fruit, but when eaten as seeds only, and in large quantity, they can present a danger. In Hunza, seeds from the first fruit of all new apricot trees are tested by the elders for extreme bitterness. If they are found to be so-which is very rare-the tree is destroyed.

Occasionally these unusual trees are found also in Turkey. But here, they are not destroyed because the seed is considered to be "good for health." As a result, there have been one or two cases in Turkey where little children have mistaken the seeds from the "wild apricot" to be those from the domestic variety, and they have become ill or died. But even in Turkey this is extremely rare in the United States, of course, there is no record of such trees even having been in existence.

During a public lecture on the subject of Laetrile, Dr. E. Krebs, Jr., was asked by a woman in the audience if there was any danger from eating too many seeds containing the B17 factor. Here was his reply:

This is an excellent question. In fact, it sometimes illustrates the indwelling cussedness of the human spirit. If we eat the seed with the whole fruit, it is impossible for us to get an excess of nitrilosides from the seeds. On the other hand, if we take apples, throw away all of the fruit, and collect half a cup of apple seeds, and decide to eat that half cup of apple seeds, there is a possibility we can suffer seriously from an overdose of cyanide....

You can't eat enough peaches or apricots or prunes or cherries or apples to get a sufficient amount of seeds to provide a toxic quantity of nitrilosides, but you can take a part of the plant and do so.1

Dr. Krebs further pointed out that roasting these seeds does not impair the vitamin B17 factor, but it does destroy the unlocking enzyme. So, those who are concerned about toxicity can take the added precaution of roasting their seeds before eating.2 It should be remembered, however, that this is not the way nature intended them to be consumed and, by so doing, we lose whatever benefit there may be from chemical activity in the mouth, stomach, and intestines.

The amount of nitriloside needed by the body is an unknown quantity. Perhaps it never can be determined for, surely, it will vary depending on the person, his age, sex, condition of pancreas, diet, weight and hereditary factors. That is why it is absurd for anyone to try to publish or decree by law the so called Minimum Daily Requirements (MDR's) or Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA’s), as they now are called.

Also, there is a tendency to think of deficiency diseases as either existing or not existing with nothing in between. We either have scurvy or we don't. This can be misleading. Scurvy is the extreme form of a vitamin C deficiency. A lesser form may not reveal the classic symptoms of scurvy but could manifest itself as fatigue, susceptibility to infection, and other non-fatal maladies.

World-famous biologist, Albert Szant-Gyorgyi, phrased it this way:

Scurvy is not the first symptom of deficiency. It is a sign of the final collapse of the organism, a pre-mortal syndrome, and there is a very wide gap between scurvy and a. completely healthy condition…

If, owing to inadequate food, you contract a cold and die of Pneumonia, your diagnosis will be pneumonia, not malnutrition, and chances are that your doctor will have treated you only for pneumonia.3

Likewise, it is impossible to know what health problem short of cancer, may be caused by a partial vitamin B17 deficiency. So, when in doubt, most observers agree that it is best to err in the direction of surplus.

1. Cancer News Journal,, Sept./Dec. 1970, pp. 7,8.

2. For those who want to do this, Dr. Krebs suggests roasting for 30 to 50minutes at 100 centigrade or 2l.2 fahrenheit to deactivate the betagiucosidase. ( best to just leave it natural though)

3. The Living State; With Observations on Cancer (New York. and London:Academic Press 1972), p.77.

Dr. Krebs has suggested a minimum level of fifty milligrams of B17 per day for a. normal, healthy adult. Naturally, one who is pre-disposed to cancer would require more1 and one who already was afflicted with the disease would need much more.

The average apricot seed grown in the United States contains approximately four or five milligrams of B17 But this is an average figure only and can vary by as much as a factor of six, depending on the size of the kernel,, the type of tree, the climate, and soil conditions. But, using the average figure, we can see that it would take ten to twelve apricot kernels per day to obtain fifty milligrams of B17. Is this a dangerous quantity? Hardly. There are cases reported in. which people eat eighty-five to one-hundred apricot kernels every day with no ill effects. Let us hasten to point out however, that this is not a recommended dosage. Since it is possible for these kernels to vary in nitriloside content by as much as six to one, it is conceivable that eighty-five kernels from one tree could be the same as over five-hundred kernels from another tree.

There is no chemical substance in nature that has been more misunderstood than cyanide. There has developed over the years an ignorance bordering on superstition dating back to the early days of science when it was first discovered that cyanide had a toxic potential.. This ancient misapprehension has been perpetuated right up to the present time so that to the average person the word cyanide is synonymous with poison. As a. result, we have developed a cultural antipathy toward this substance whenever it is discovered in our food. Every effort has been made to eliminate it. Local health agencies swarm over our grocery shelves to make sure that it does not reach us, and the federal Food and Drug Administration even has promulgated laws that make it illegal to sell any substance containing more of it than one four-hundredths of one percent!1 With that kind of "protection," it is

1. See "Requirements of the United. States Food, Drug,, and Cosmetic Act," FDA Publication No.2, Revised June.., 1.970, p.26

small wonder that the American people are victims of the fulminating deficiency disease known as cancer

So much for the cyanide in natural foods. What about the laboratory forms of vitamin B17 known as amygdalin or Laetrile? The answer is that here there is even less cause for concern. For over a. hundred years standard pharmacology reference books have described this substance as non-toxic. After almost two centuries of use in all parts of the world, there never has been even one reported case of related death or serious illness.

Amygdalin generally is said to have been first discovered in 1830 by the German chemist Leibig. According to the American Illustrated Medical Dictionary (1944 Edition.) amygdalin means "like an almond," suggesting that the material from which the first sample was isolated was the bitter almond seed.1 In one form or another, it has been used and studied almost constantly since that time and, according to Dr. Burk, "More is known chemically and pharmacologically about amygdalin than most drugs in general use." It was listed in pharmacopoeias by 1834. Toxicity studies were conducted with it on dogs as early as 1848. By 1907 it was listed in the 'Merck index. And in 1961 it appeared in the Chinese-Korean Herbal Pharmacopoeias by Sun Chu Lee and Yung Chu Lee describing its reported use specifically for "cancer dissolution,"2

Like many chemical compounds, amygdalin may exist in several different crystalline forms. Which form it takes depends on the number of molecules of water that are incorporated into it. Regardless of the form, however, once the crystals are dissolved, they all yield one and the same amygdalin.

The type of amygdalin crystal, known as Laetrile, developed by Dr. Krebs is unique because it is considerably more soluble than any of the other forms and, thus, can be administered 'to the patient in a much greater concentration in the same volume of injected material,

1 In the United States commercial or "sweet"t almonds contain no vitamin B17 The bitterer almonds however., are very rich in this substance even more rich than apricot kernels. But partly due to the American preference for the flavor of the sweet almond and partly because 'the FDA has limited' the sale of bitter almonds (see previous footnote), almost all bitter almond trees now have been destroyed

2. Letter from Dr Dean Burk to Mr M'. Standard1 Dec ember 1.3, 1.972; Griffin, Private Papers, op cit.
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