Apricot kernels (Prunus armeniaca) are a good source of amygdaline. This controversial compound helps prevent cancer. It’s also known as vitamin B17 and laetrile.
My mother always puts a few apricot pits into her preserves for, she said, “The flavor.” As a child, her logic was beyond my ken as apricot kernels are nastily bitter. Today, I take my hat off to mom and the perennial kitchen wisdom she still serves up. According to both Oriental Medicine and alternative medicine, these kernels are anti-carcinogenic.
Medicinal use of Apricot Kernels
In Chinese pharmacology, the pits are classified as a drug rather than as a food as they contains cyanide (hydrocyanic acid). They’re used medicinally to combat cancer. They also stimulate respiration, improve digestion, help reduce blood pressure and arthritic pain and give a sense of well-being.
According to the Food and Drug Administration there is no scientifically accepted evidence of amygdaline’s efficacy. However, it’s commercially available as vitamin B17. It continues to be used in cancer clinics outside of the United States.
The amygdaline content varies in apricots according to their variety and it is it chemically identical to that found in bitter almonds. The small or wild apricot native to Northern China and the Himalayas are higher in B17 than the apricot varieties available in the United States.
Other Food Sources of Vitamin B17
Similarly, the small seeds of wild apples (crab apples) and wild cherries (choke cherries) are superior sources of Vitamin B17. However, the larger seeds of today’s store-bought apricots, apples and cherries are less potent. Our culture’s taste preference is for sweet, so the bitter flavor was bred out of modern cultivars. As we’ve discovered, a little bit of bitter is a good thing. Today’s foods are overboard on sweet, but fall short of other valuable nutrients.
Below you’ll find a chart with top food sources of Vitamin B17. But let’s first put things into perspective. Avoiding the foods that challenge your health is your first and most critical step; apricot kernels are not a “magic bullet.” My ebook, Clean and Free can help you realize a healing diet. Or consider Read Your Face. This ebook enables you to look in the mirror to detect early cancer signs and then know how to adjust your diet and lifestyle accordingly. Or I invite you to order a personalized Face Reading and Dietary Analysis Report.
Mom also told us kids that we could taste an apricot kernel but never eat them; as, in quantity, they could be poisonous. Of course we tasted them, but they were so bitter we spit them right out. When cooked or fermented, apricot toxicity is reduced.
Consumption of 10 or more wild apricot kernels or bitter almonds for children and 40 or more for adults may cause adverse reaction, even death. Yet, bitter almonds are an essential ingredient in authentic marzipan and amaretto. Both the confection and the liqueur are predominately made of common almonds; however, each includes a few bitter almonds for flavor.
Fortunately, some of our common foods contain vitamin B17 (see sidebar). Whenever you munch on a pear or apple, be sure to enjoy their valuable seeds. Also, using a nut cracker, crack open the pits of the apricots, plums, nectarines and peaches for their inner nutmeat. Use in moderation.
Strawberries excepted, other berries are laetrile sources. For those of us living in the northwest, we might even bump into one another foraging from the blackberry bushes along pathways and ditch banks. Starting in July, there are plenty of juicy sweet berries (with a small hint of bitter) for all of us.
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But an even more effective way to prevent cancer is to eat well and to avoid the foods that challenge your health. My ebook, Clean and Free enables you to enjoy the diet that is best for you.
May you be well nourished,