What Is B17 Good For?

Reviewed on 8/8/2022
A man holding a bowl of whole almonds, a source of B17
While there is no evidence that shows that B17 can kill cancer cells as has been believed, its health benefits include improving health, energy levels, and well-being; detoxifying and cleansing the body; and extending lifespan.

B17 is another name for laetrile, a synthetic form of amygdalin, a natural plant substance found in raw nuts, bitter almonds, apricot and cherry seeds, lima beans, clover, and sorghum.

Laetrile is sometimes referred to as vitamin B17, but it is not considered a vitamin by the American Institute of Nutrition Vitamins. B17 produces hydrogen cyanide which changes into cyanide when taken into the body. 

Hydrogen cyanide is believed by some to kill cancer cells though there is insufficient evidence it works. There are claims B17 is good for: 

  • Improving health, energy levels, and well-being
  • Detoxifying and cleansing the body
  • Extending lifespan

These claims are based on anecdotal evidence and unsupported opinions and there is no scientific evidence B17 can effectively treat cancer or any other illness.

B17 can also have serious side effects and it is banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Agency (FDA). It is also banned in the UK and Europe.

What Are Side Effects of B17?

B17 (laetrile, amygdalin) contains cyanide and the side effects are the same as those of cyanide, including:

If B17 is taken orally, side effects worsen when people consume:

  • Raw almonds
  • Crushed fruit pits
  • Flax seed
  • Nuts
  • Apricots
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Bean sprouts
  • Beans and other pulses
    • Mung beans
    • Lima beans
    • Butter beans
  • High doses of vitamin C

B17 may worsen liver damage in people who have liver damage.

What Research Is BDone on B17 as a Cancer Treatment?

  • There have been no controlled clinical trials on people of B17 (laetrile, amygdalin) reported. Some anecdotal reports and case reports have not shown B17 to be an effective treatment for cancer.
  • The Cochrane Library, a collection of databases in medicine and other healthcare specialties, published a systematic review of B17 in 2015. 
  • The review found the alleged benefits of B17 are not supported by controlled clinical trials and it identified a risk of serious side effects from cyanide poisoning after taking laetrile or amygdalin, especially when taken orally.

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Reviewed on 8/8/2022

Image source: iStock Images