Have you seen this meme on your favorite social media site lately? It implies that the US government outlawed bitter almonds, and the tree, because they know that the almonds are a good source of B17, which is “known” to kill cancer.
What do you think of this? Do you think this is true? Does this sound like a huge pile of woo? We are going to look at the link between bitter almonds, B17, and cancer, so we can find out what the bitter truth is.
First, What Exactly Are Bitter Almonds?
There are two types of almond trees in the world, bitter and sweet. Sweet almonds, often simply referred to as just “almonds”, are the kind you find in your food, candy, and everyday nut jars. These are grown in many places in the US, and are a favorite snack for many people.
However, bitter almonds are pretty much what the name implies. They have a bitter aftertaste , but otherwise look like almonds. These almonds, however, are extremely high in cyanide. Yes, you read that correctly, cyanide. In fact, just 7 or 8 almonds can kill a child, and a handful of 20 or so can kill an adult. These are no joke.
So Why Did the US Ban Them?
They didn’t. Bitter almond trees are beautiful and are used as ornamental trees in many locations, especially in and around California. Bitter almond products are what cannot be sold in the US, unless they have gone through an extensive refining process which removes the cyanide. The FDA has also banned any product containing bitter almonds that claim to be “cancer cures”.
Laetrile, B17, and Cancer
Vitamin B17 is a naturally occurring substance found in the pits or seeds of some fruits, including apple seeds and apricot pits, as well as bitter almond. The registered patent for B17 uses the trade name Laetrile. It was founded in 1830 by a pair of French chemists and tried out as an anticancer agent in Germany as far back as 1892. It was found to be ineffective and extremely toxic. ( Which is a nice way of saying people died from the treatment). In the early 1950’s, a doctor, Ernst Krebs and his son, Ernst Jr., began to try a new “purified” form of laetrile to treat cancer patients. It didn’t work. Over the years, Laetrile has been touted by many snake oil salespeople as a “cure” for cancer, but there has never been one study, or even one person, who has showed scientific proof that laetrile has done anything but clean out their bank accounts.
In the early 1970’s, a man from Kansas, who had been diagnosed with a polyp in his colon, decided against surgery and instead had his doctor burn off the polyp. He then consumed vitamins and Laetrile. This seed salesman from Kansas then became convinced that Laetrile had “cured” his cancer, even though the polyp had been successfully removed by his doctor. This is what began the real “Laetrile” movement. This gentleman, named Glen Rutherford, petitioned the court saying that laetrile should be sold to terminal cancer patients and bypass FDA rulings.
Because the court denied Mr. Rutherfords request, people began believing that the government was “holding out” on a cancer cure. There were several cases of people dying after receiving laetrile in Mexico.
- Josef Hofbauer – This 9 year old had Hodgkin’s disease. With chemotherapy, this type of cancer has a 95% 5 year survival rate. His parents rejected all treatments and gave their son laetrile. He died two years afterwards.
- Chad Green – He was only 2 and had been diagnosed with leukemia. He underwent traditional chemotherapy and the disease went into remission very quickly, however, his parents heard about laetrile and decided to discontinue chemotherapy. Chad quickly developed signs of cyanide poisoning and doctors petitioned the courts to remove Chad from his parents’ care. They fled to Mexico to continue treatment, where Chad died within a few months due to cyanide poisoning.
- Steve McQueen– This famous actor had lung cancer and was told by doctors in America that there was nothing they could do for him at the time (1980) also went to Mexico for coffee enemas and laetrile treatments for three months. He claimed he was “cured” but developed metastasis and had developed a cancerous tumor on his liver, abdomen, and neck within months. McQueen again returned to Mexico to have the tumors removed, despite doctors in the US telling him that the cyanide he had taken had weakened his heart and that he would not survive an operation. He died on the operating table.
The Bottom Line
After Steve McQueens death, laetrile quietly went away. Until social media sites and young people, who missed all the hoopla in the 70’s and 80’s, brought it back to life and gave it a conspiracy theory twist.
The development of many types of cancer is a multi-staged process involving cell mutation, our DNA, and the mutation of genes, along with the malfunction of the body’s natural repair system, and the immune’s system either inability to correct the problem or to recognize the problem in the first place.
This means that chances are that there will not be a single food, drug, or process that will stop or cure cancer. There are many different types of cancer, not only the body part that is affected. You can bet that it will be science that finally figures out a cure.
Oh, and the old “there is no money in a cure”, simply isn’t true. Scientists, their families, friends, billionaires, and important political figures in this world still die from cancer. Don’t you think that if you knew the cure for cancer, even if you were paid to suppress it, you would at least give it to your mother? Father? Children? Spouse? And if there was a cure, as many conspiracy theorists claim, wouldn’t insurance companies want to know about it? Why would they continue to pay millions of dollars for treatments if a natural cure could be found online with simple research?
Companies would make tons of money from a cure or treatment, make no doubt about it. Imagine if you were a scientist working for Big Pharma. You would win the Nobel Prize for certain, your name and the company name would go down in history, and you would have a patent that would net you BILLIONS for YEARS!
Hiding a cure would be next to impossible and would cost far more than what is being spent on cancer research and treatments now. So don’t believe the hype. Bitter almond/marijuana/some natural plant is not a cure for cancer and is not being kept secret by Big Pharma.