What Are the Complications Involved in Using Vitamin B17 to Treat Cancer?

Vitamin B17 does not exist, as this term inaccurately relates to the substances known as laetrile and amygdalin, according to Dr. Andrew Weil. Neither laetrile nor amygdalin offers any benefits in treating cancer. A vitamin is a nutrient necessary to maintain optimum health, but the human body does not need vitamin B17, amygdalin or laetrile. Amygdalin is a naturally occurring chemical found in apricot and peach pits, whereas laetrile is a synthetic derivative.

Side effects and complications that arise from consuming toxic amounts of amygdalin and laetrile mimic those of cyanide poisoning in humans, notes the National Cancer Institute. These side effects include vomiting, nausea, blue color of the skin, liver damage and abnormally low blood pressure. The human body could show other side effects, such as headache, dizziness, a droopy upper eyelid, fever and mental confusion. Side effects appear more prevalent when people consume amygdalin and laetrile orally versus intravenous injections. People who eat raw almonds, crushed fruit pits, celery, bean sprouts and carrots may exacerbate symptoms associated with laetrile or amygdalin toxicity.

Other names of these chemicals include mandelonitrile-beta-glucuronide, mandelonitrile beta-D-gentiobioside, prunasin, laevorotatory and mandelonitrile, notes Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The federal government has not approved these drugs to treat any medical condition in the United States as of 2015. Laboratory experiments suggested anticancer properties, but evidence from later clinical trials refuted the original claim that laetrile or amygdalin could treat cancer in humans.