Do You Know Nutrition: Are apricot seeds poisonous or beneficial?

I am a cancer survivor and learned many years ago the benefits of apricot seeds in my treatment. Just wondering if you might do a column on how apricot seeds can benefit the human body, especially with cancer.

The apricot tree originated on the border of Russia and China and has been cultivated in China for at least 3,000 years, according to the University of Georgia. There are two varieties of apricot seeds: sweet and bitter. Bitter apricot seeds contain a glycoside vitamin known as B17, also known as amygdalin, which is known to fight cancer cells because of active ingredient laetrile.

According to drugs.com, the use of laetrile as a cancer treatment is currently banned in the United States and in Europe because of possible toxicity from another agent found in the kernels - cyanide.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration lists apricot kernels in its Poisonous Plant Database and does not distinguish between sweet and bitter. However, an article in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences reported that standardized apricot extract inhibits the expression of P-glycoprotein in the intestines, which would otherwise prevent the absorption of certain drugs.

This means the apricot kernel may one day benefit patients with multidrug resistant cancer. So while the debate rages on, apricot seeds, a member of the nut family, can be most nutritious to a person's health, even though the National Cancer Institute says there is little evidence to support cancer-killing ability for laetrile.

The Asante Academy of Chinese Medicine in London lists apricot seeds as beneficial for relieving coughs and lubricating the bowels and report that the apricot seeds are antimicrobial, anti-tumor and can provide pain relief for those suffering from advanced liver cancer.

Apricot seeds are used in flavoring the traditional Italian liquor known as Amaretto and in many skin lotions and creams. Apricot seed oil has anti-inflammatory benefits and can help with arthritis as well as help build the immune system in treatment of common ailments like the flu and colds. I am not sure why apricot seeds get the bad rep - all deciduous fruit seeds like apple seeds, peach seeds, plum seeds and cherry seeds contain cyanide.

Thought for the week: To find happiness, you need to find something to hold on to, something to motivate you and something to inspire you.

The next free nutrition class will be at Organic Emporium at 7 p.m. June 16.

Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant; email her at docphylis@gmail.com. This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.