Bitter almonds - cancer cure or cyanide?

During the early to mid 1990s, bitter almond (not regular sweet almond) became a craze in alternative medicine due to its vitamin B17 content.   But in 2002, health food stores stopped selling apricot seeds as source of vitamin B17 as they began being attacked by armed raiders.  The story, "Bitter Almond Tree Ban,"  I read at Ron Paul forums was interesting.  The article writes "The F.D.A. openly banned apricot seeds, and the extract, because it was touted as a cure for cancer; and curing is not allowed in America. The British Government followed suit, and did the very same things during 2002. Innocent people in both countries were arrested and charged for merely selling apricot seeds, a carrier of B17."

What is confirmed is that bitter almond is the highest and purest source of Vitamin B17, a rare natural vitamin that fights cancers.  When the use of apricot seeds was introduced, there were tons of reports of cancers being miraculously cured after patients ate large quantities of bitter almonds daily.  There may have been little exaggerations in a  few  of those stories.  However, vitamin B17 acquired from apricot seed (or bitter almond) having amazing properties for curing cancers was undeniable.   There arose the obvious possibility of making almond  extract capsules for the benefit and convenience of patients who would  need to take an inexpensive and non-toxic pill as an important medication for their cure.   That didn't sound nice to the pharmaceutical industry which ran the risk of losing billions of dollars.

In 2007, suddenly raw almonds began being proclaimed a danger to health linked with salmonella outbreaks.  According to the FDA, all almonds needed to be pasteurized.  The Bitter Almond Tree Ban writes "These salmonella outbreaks were not due to any organic almonds, which reminds us of the many meat recalls. Salmonella and e-coli are present in our foods only because of grossly unhygienic factory conditions; not because any natural foods are inherently covered with bacteria. For the organic bitter almonds, the required pasteurization would bring only one significant change in them. It would neutralize the vitamin B17. Pristine almonds are the only easily accessible source of vitamin B17. They are illegal now by F.D.A. decree. The highest source of B17, the bitter almond tree, was banned from the U.S. in 1995."

~ Sigh ~   And then what?

Recent stories on bitter almonds from the media contain no such honest compliments as apricot seeds being a cure of cancer.  When a freak almond tastes bitter, you rush to spit it out.  Modern researchers claim you have cyanide in your mouth each time you chew a bitter almond !  They assert that twenty bitter almonds contain enough cyanide to kill an adult !!   Thus, the genes that code for the production of cyanide are disabled, and the genetic mutation turned "cyanogenic," bitter and toxic almond to sweet and benign almond.

Almond extract or essence used for flavoring desserts is made from the oil of bitter almonds.  Yet experts say it's safe.  How come?   The official explanation is "the extract includes no cyanide, only a byproduct of the enzymatic reaction that produces cyanide when the almonds are crushed."  Extracts for flavoring are used in very small quantities, just a drop or two;  and in the case of bitter almond extract, it probably wouldn't be enough quantity-wise as a cancer fighting natural product.

Researchers also claim that bitter almond isn't the only food that contains cyanide.  Lima beans, peach seeds and apple seeds also do.

The much circulated notion that 'cyanide' in plants  acts as a natural pesticide  discouraging insects feeding on them might contain a bit of truth.   But the far greater truth tells us that not a single person in this  planet has ever died of "cyanide poisoning"  from food for sure!

We can only keep guessing to what extent cancer patients might have been deprived by the decision to ban the sale of apricot seeds in health stores, and to ban the bitter almond tree.