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Apricot Kernels — Bitter is Sweet

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.peaches sm

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, 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 and 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.

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. Perhaps avoiding the foods that challenge your health is a critical step. To accomplish this see my ebook, Clean and Free. Also Read Your Face enables you to look in the mirror and detect early cancer signs.

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 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.

Food Sources of Vitamin B17 (amygdaline, laetrile)
Nuts & Seeds Berries Grains Beans
Superior
wild apricot pit
bitter almond
Excellent
apricot pit
almond
apple pip
cherry seed
nectarine seed
pear pip
plum seed
wild blackberry
wild cranberry
elderberry
Good
flax seed
squash seed
blackberry
cranberry
boysenberry
currant
gooseberry
huckleberry
logan berry
mulberry
buckwheat
millet
chickpea
fava
lima
mung

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,

Rebecca Wood

Related

21 comments to Apricot Kernels — Bitter is Sweet

  • patty

    I processed a box of apricots for jam and was researching what to do with the kernels. I was raised to try to use everything if possible. I cracked one open and tasted the kernel and found it delicious! The flavor was strongly reminiscent of amaretto.. My question is do I need to roast the stone, then crack it open to get to the kernel, or is it better to do that raw then sun dry the kernel? I’d love to try making amaretto.

  • chris

    Reading about the kernels has me curious to try, but how do i find the bitter ones in the US? What online sellers should I check out? I notice that all the beneficial things are in foreign countries and it is a no no for the US. Do I need to go to UK sites to get them? I know that the ones sold in stores are sweet and are less potent. The color of the kernels are different also. Any recommendations of where or how to buy?

    • I’d do a google search for a supplier and/or (if you live where apricots grow) find a local producer and that way you can enjoy both the fruit and the seed. As commercial apricots are especially high in pesticide residues, favor organic.

  • Alex

    Hi,
    Alex from Australia. I have found apricot kernels an excellent food. I love the bitter taste. Apparently, as humans, we have a portion of the tongue dedicated to ‘bitter’ foods but because of our sugary, high processed diets, we have lost the desire for that bitter taste. After eating apricot kernels for a few weeks, I began to crave the taste. I have seen lots of red lumpy things disappear from my neck (result of sunburn when a child I should think) and I had a crusty lump on my leg. I also had sun spots on my arms that were constantly itchy and beginning to form hard dry skin. A few days on apricot kernels and all lumps and blemishes disappeared.

  • Gaziza

    thank you for all the useful information, I want to know more about bitter almond because since I was a child we have been eating bitter almond and now I read it is toxic and might kill you!!! we have a farm of bitter almond trees and every year we pick them and and crack them open then soak them in water for more than 7 hours. we keep tasting it till the bitter is gone then we put some salt to season and let it dry and eat them or use them in cooking. So my question is is there still toxic OR do we get benefit from B17 which fight cancer?
    Thank you

    • Gaziza…thanks for writing. But of course, once the bitter tannins are leached from the almonds, as you have described, they’re an excellent food. As all B vitamins are water soluble, some of their cancer fighting properties might be lost in the soaking.

  • Nina

    We had many apricot trees when I was a child growing up in southern Serbia. We loved eating sun-dried apricot kernels and they were sweet not bitter. This is the case with apricot trees grown in Mediterranean region – the kernels are sweet.

  • Vijayanayagam

    How much of apricot seeds (Kernals) can I consume a day as prevention of Cancer

  • Interested in trying apr. kernals for CA prevention. I keep hearing that they’re very bitter, but if I could tolerate the bitterness, how would one get to the soft part to begin with? Crack open with a hammer? Ready to try them…

    Thanks,

    C.M.

  • I am sitting here cracking open apricot pits to extract the kernels and I’ve munched a few. Apart from tasting simply delicious, they are NOT bitter. I know this means they do not contain the amygdalin I am after. We do not have cancer but both my husband and I are ex smokers and have until now, eaten very conventional food diets. We are now cleaning up our act, souring bread, trying homemade ginger beer, no longer eat sugar and preserving our own or locally sourced organic produce. I was lucky to have a couple of kernels easily extracted and threw them in with my bottled apricots. However, my question is this. Which varieties of apricots contain bitter kernels? Also, are the sweet kernels ok to eat?

    • How curious! Every apricot pit I’ve ever tasted is decidedly bitter. But then I’ve never tasted one grown in Australian and that appears to be where you are writing from. You might contact the agricultural university closest to where most Aussie apricots are grown and ask them your questions.

      I personally believe that your overall healthy diet is the best health insurance; so keep that up!

  • long

    Thank you for your article. I have some question and need your help.do you know how to classify the apricot kernel bitter or sweet? not the the almond tree. it is how to clssify the fruit.

  • Gia Lamb

    Having been diagnosed with Cancer 4 years ago, and finding a lump over ten years ago, the first thing I did was investigate homeopathic alternatives.
    I found a website that discussed Apricot kernels and their therapeutic benefits for Cancer.
    I started making bitter almond tea with milk nutmeg and honey, and loved the flavor.
    I believe that they as well as prayer and Far infra red therapy and Prayer is the reason I am alive today!
    I bake mine which make them more palatable.
    I eat probably three handfuls of them a day, roughly 50 or more cooked.

  • elisha

    Hello,

    Thankyou for your very informative article on Apricot Kernals and their B17 content. I have recently aquired a large quantity of apricot kernals for the purpose of consumption. After soaking them over night to remove Phytic enzymes, I noticed that they lost their bitter flavour.

    If the bitter flavour is indicative of B17, does the absence of bitterness suggest that the soaking has caused some of the B17 to leach out osmotically?

    Thanks in advance, elisha

    • You’re welcome. I’d use them moderately. Indeed that’s traditionally how nuts and seeds are used, as a condiment and/or in moderation. If you’re wanting to eat a lot for cancer prevention, better yet is a daily balanced diet. See my book Clean and Free for details.

  • june Delahaye

    i have heard that young green bitter almonds could be processed somehow. “like maybe soaking in a mixture of something” (perhaps this came from Greek or Italian culture?)”that made them useful as a food” . if i recall they would be eaten whole soft shell and all. Have you heard of this? We have 3 beautiful large volunteer bitter almond trees and 2 regular sweet almond trees. I’m going to try grafting the sweet to the bitter trees. But,would love to use some of this years crop of the bitter ones, somehow.

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