What is known about apricot seeds?

Usually, when eating a piece of fruit, most people end up discarding the pit. However, is it possible that nutrients with anti-cancer properties are concentrated inside? It seems that this is the case with apricot seeds.

In recent years, several researches have talked about the effects of these seeds. Even so, regulators warn about the risks of consuming them in excessive amounts, as they can cause cyanide poisoning. Are you interested in knowing more about it?

Apricot seeds

The nutritional composition and properties of apricot seeds are different from those of fresh fruit. In particular, they stand out for their fat content, which corresponds to half their total weight. To be more exact, it contains omega 3 and 6, 25% protein and 8% carbohydrates. 

Because of this, it has been talked about its possible benefits in stabilizing blood cholesterol and improving inflammatory diseases such as ulcerative colitis . Its ability to protect and hydrate the skin is also highlighted. Furthermore, in recent years it has been investigated for its components with anticancer potential.

The first references date back to 1920, when Dr. Ernst T. Krebs was already using it in the form of oil to treat people affected by this disease. However, in those tests it turned out to be too toxic. Consequently, their safety is still in doubt. 

Apricot seeds
Apricot seeds have been investigated for their possible effects against diseases such as cancer.

It may interest you: Discover the incredible benefits of apricot

Why is it considered anti-cancer?

In apricot seeds, components have been found that appear to have anticancer activity. In addition to the presence of fats, proteins and carbohydrates, this ingredient contains vitamin B17.

In this regard, Dr. Krebs related a deficiency of this vitamin with the appearance of cancer. In this way, he argued that supplying it in the form of a supplement could help to stop the growth of cancer cells.

This nutrient is also known by the names of “amygdalin” or “laetrile” (a proprietary brand name for a derivative). It is said, therefore, that when chewing apricot seeds, this chemical element degrades and hydrogen cyanide appears. In this way, the antineoplastic activity occurs, which appears to be an aid in stopping the growth of tumors.

But what do current studies say? Is it really effective? Well, today it is not considered a first-line treatment. Although it is applied in some occasions,  the National Cancer Institute of the United States does not consider it appropriate.

This is because studies have been done in animals and have not yielded positive results in humans. On the contrary, there are many doubts about the possible risks that it entails. Its use is even prohibited by the United States Government.

Discover: 6 habits that help in cancer prevention

Cyanide poisoning problems

The main health risk from apricot seeds is the possibility of cyanide poisoning. According to the European Union Food Safety Agency (EFSA), the fruit stones contain amygdalin. This substance releases cyanide and is absorbed by the body.

The main target of this chemical element is the central nervous system, along with the kidney and the thyroid. In high doses, this can cause a series of symptoms of poisoning, such as the following:

  • Sickness.
  • Fever. 
  • Headache.
  • Thirst.
  • Lethargy
  • Nervousness.
  • Joint pain.
  • Muscle pain.
  • Hypotension
  • Death (in some cases).

Studies carried out by EFSA indicate that a variable amount, between 0.5 and 3.5 milligrams of cyanide per kilo of body weight, can be fatal. The amount that is considered safe and as an acceptable intake is set at 20 micrograms per kilogram of body weight, which is equivalent to one large seed or three small ones.

Studies related to apricot seeds

Various scientific and clinical analyzes have been performed on the effect of amygdalin. Most of the research found has rejected claims that apricot seeds or laetrile have positive effects in treating cancer.

In favor

Despite the health claims that have been made about this compound, the evidence in favor is little. In this study in the journal Life Sciences , a positive effect is observed against pancreatic tumor cells, but the researchers themselves point out the need for more research.

Although laetrile was initially approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a possible treatment for cancer, the emergence of the many negative effects, the risk of poisoning, and the lack of scientific evidence have wiped out the existing permission for this use. . 

Studies related to apricot seeds
There is not enough evidence to say that apricot seeds help against cancer. On the contrary, studies warn of certain risks.


On the other hand, the analysis and scientific positioning against vitamin B17 are more numerous. Or at least this is the decision that a good number of official organisms have taken. Unanimously, they do not advise its use, warn of the danger of poisoning and even prohibit it.

In the document on amygdalin, published by the National Cancer Institute, he cites his own studies carried out with the laetrile component. Both in animals and in laboratory investigations, no positive effects are observed. Neither of the treatment of amygdalin together with other active principles.

The New England Medical Journal publishes an article in 1982 that summarizes the results of a medical test with cancer patients. According to what was observed, the patients did not suffer an improvement regarding the cure of the disease or its symptoms. Nor was life expectancy extended. In fact their conclusion is clear: amygdalin is a toxic drug. 

In 2006, Cochrane review concluded that there is no significant evidence of the effects of amygdalin as a treatment for patients with cancer. 

Apricot seeds should be used with caution

The warnings about cyanide toxicity after consuming raw apricot kernels are serious and stringent. Still, as noted by the EFSA, there is no danger of eating fresh fruit. It is also safe to use oil, alcoholic beverages, aromas, fruit juices, marzipan, cookies or sweets. 

In addition, the oil that can be extracted is abundant in polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E. These give it an interesting moisturizing effect that helps to take care of the skin barrier, especially in dry and damaged skin.

The medicine laetrile is not licensed as a valid treatment for cancer. But, as noted in this document, it can be found commercially available. It is important to be alert with its purchase, as it could be contaminated and not free of possible toxic effects. 

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