Part Three –
Ancient Chinese substances, of the family in which laetrile is found, were used medically. Em- peror Shen Nung listed kernel preparations as be- ing useful against tumors.
Herbert Summa has written that the Egyptians, in the time of the pharaohs, also used those seeds for special purposes.
The Romans had a medicinal preparation called agua amygdalarum amarum (“bitter al- mond water”). It was used as a medicine for cen- turies. The word “amygdalin” comes from the Greek amygdale. Celsus, Scribonius Largus, Galen, Pliny the Elder, Marcellus Empiricus, and Avicenna all used preparations containing amygda- lin to treat tumors. The same is true of the medi- eval pharmacopoeia (Bruce Halstead, M.D., Amygdalin Therapy, 1977).
Laetrile is as commonplace in plants as is glu- cose; you eat it all the time. The substance exists in various amounts in at least 1,200 foodstuffs. But one of the richest sources is apricot seeds (usu- ally called apricot “pits” or kernels). Another source are “bitter almonds.” The seeds contain amygdalin and prunasin, which are the two beta- cyanogenetic glucosides (BCG) of special medi- cal interest. These BCGs are also called nitril- osides, although sometimes the word is applied only to amygdalin.
These are enzymes, and amygdalin is also a vitamin; therefore it has been given the name, Vi- tamin B17. The other name for this, laetrile, comes from the scientific description of the chemical na- ture of this substance: LAEvo-mandeloniTRILE.
sugary compounds found in . . plants, many of which are edible . . They comprise molecules made of a sugar, hydrogen cyanide, a bensene ring or an acetone” (Krebs, Jr., Journal of Applied Nutri- tion, 22:3-4, 1970).
Throughout this study, as in all medical lit- erature on the subject, the words amygdalin, la- etrile, and vitamin B17 are interchangeable. But, throughout earlier history, amygdalin had been the common term for the substance.
In 1830, Pierre Jean Robiquet and Boutron, prepared it in its pure state. In 1837, two German scientist, Justus von Liebig and Friedrich Wohler, discovered that amygdalin is split by an enzyme, colmopex, into one molecule of hydrogen cyanide, one of benzaldehyde, and two molecules of sugar. They found the enzyme complex, with gluco- side, in the bitter almond. Today, the apricot pit is one of the richest natural sources.
In 1845, the scientific literature contained the first report on the use of amygdalin in cancer. A Russian professor claimed that using the sub- stance apparently brought about controls in two cases of widely spread cancers. This first docu- mented use of a laetrile-like substance in treating cancer is referred to in the Gazette Medicale de Paris, tome XIII, of September 13, 1845. Dr. T. Inosemtzeff, professor of the Imperial University of Moscow, cited two cancer patients who were treated with bitter almond emulsion. Both were successful; one living for 11 years, the other for over three years. It is believed that this was the first time in modern Western Civilization that can- cer was treated with a food factor.
But, for the technically minded, the name “la- etrile” is derived from a compound which is a levo (left-moving)-mandelopitrile-betaglucouronoside.
Ernst T. Krebs, Jr., who coined the terms, laetrile, nitriloside, and vitamin B17, defines the nitilosides as “water-soluble, essentially nontoxic,
Earlier in this book, we reported on the re- search work of John Beard, but we will discuss it again here—since it figured so significantly into the research work of the Krebs.