Written by Adele Stapf, Helen Cooke, Helen Seers and the CAM-Cancer Consortium.
Updated February 8, 2017

Amygdalin/Laetrile

Abstract and key points

  • Amygdalin is a naturally occurring plant compound primarily found in the seeds of apricots, peaches and bitter almonds. Laetrile is an acronym used to describe a purified, semi-synthetic form of amygdalin
  • There is no evidence for the effectiveness of drugs containing amygdalin in anti-cancer therapy
  • Laetrile is associated with considerable safety concerns

Amygdalin is a naturally occurring plant compound. It is primarily found in the seeds of apricots, peaches and bitter almonds and also in plants such as lima beans, clover and sorghum. Laetrile is an acronym (derived from LAEvorotatory and mandeloniTRILE) used to describe a purified, semi-synthetic form of amygdalin.

Laetrile is claimed to be an anti-cancer treatment or even cure, and cyanide is thought to be the active anti-cancer ingredient. It was at the height of its popularity in the U.S. in the 1970s and 1980s until the FDA considered it unsafe after a phase II controlled clinical trial in 1982 found no evidence for the efficacy of laetrile and highlighted considerable safety concerns. According to current scientific understanding there is no evidence for the effectiveness of drugs containing amygdalin in anti-cancer therapy.  Based on this risk assessment and the lack of evidence for the effectiveness of amygdalin even after decades of clinical use, more recent reviews conclude that this substance should not be recommended for anti-cancer therapy.

Citation

Adele Stapf, Helen Cooke, Helen Seers, CAM-Cancer Consortium. Amygdalin/Laetrile [online document]. http://cam-cancer.org/The-Summaries/Dietary-approaches/Amygdalin-Laetrile. February 8, 2017.

Document history

Assessed as up to date in February 2017 by Barbara Wider.

Updated and revised in July 2015 by Adele Stapf.
Updated in April 2014 by Barbara Wider.
Assessed as up to date in December 2012 by Helen Cooke.
Most recent update and revision in December 2011 by Helen Cooke.
Fully revised and updated in July 2009 by Helen Cooke.
Summary first published in September 2005, authored by Helen Seers.

References

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