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Laetrile/Amygdalin (PDQ®): Complementary and alternative medicine - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Adverse Effects

The side effects associated with laetrile treatment mirror the symptoms of cyanide poisoning. Cyanide is a neurotoxin that can cause nausea and vomiting, headache, Reviewed in [1] dizziness,[2] Reviewed in [3]cyanosis (bluish discoloration of the skin due to oxygen-deprived hemoglobin in the blood), liver damage,[4,5]hypotension (abnormally low blood pressure),[6] Reviewed in [1,7]ptosis (droopy upper eyelid),[8,9]ataxic neuropathies (difficulty walking due to damaged nerves),[10] fever,[8] Reviewed in [7] mental confusion, coma, and death. Reviewed in [6,11,12]Oral laetrile causes more severe side effects than injected laetrile. These side effects can be potentiated (increased) by the concurrent administration of raw almonds or crushed fruit pits, by eating fruits and vegetables that contain beta-glucosidase (e.g., celery, peaches, bean sprouts, carrots),[5,13,14] Reviewed in [3,15] or by taking high doses of vitamin C.[5,16] Reviewed in [1]

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  1. Howard-Ruben J, Miller NJ: Unproven methods of cancer management. Part II: Current trends and implications for patient care. Oncol Nurs Forum 11 (1): 67-73, 1984 Jan-Feb.
  2. Moertel CG, Fleming TR, Rubin J, et al.: A clinical trial of amygdalin (Laetrile) in the treatment of human cancer. N Engl J Med 306 (4): 201-6, 1982.
  3. Chandler RF, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD: Laetrile in perspective. Can Pharm J 117 (11): 517-20, 1984.
  4. Leor R, Michaeli J, Brezis M, et al.: Laetrile intoxication and hepatic necrosis: a possible association. South Med J 79 (2): 259-60, 1986.
  5. Lee M, Berger HW, Givre HL, et al.: Near fatal laetrile intoxication: complete recovery with supportive treatment. Mt Sinai J Med 49 (4): 305-7, 1982 Jul-Aug.
  6. Navarro MD: Five years experience with laetrile therapy in advanced cancer. Acta Unio Int Contr Cancrum 15(suppl 1): 209-21, 1959.
  7. Dorr RT, Paxinos J: The current status of laetrile. Ann Intern Med 89 (3): 389-97, 1978.
  8. Smith FP, Butler TP, Cohan S, et al.: Laetrile toxicity: a report of two patients. Cancer Treat Rep 62 (1): 169-71, 1978.
  9. Vizel M, Oster MW: Ocular side effects of cancer chemotherapy. Cancer 49 (10): 1999-2002, 1982.
  10. Kalyanaraman UP, Kalyanaraman K, Cullinan SA, et al.: Neuromyopathy of cyanide intoxication due to "laetrile" (amygdalin). A clinicopathologic study. Cancer 51 (11): 2126-33, 1983.
  11. Ames MM, Moyer TP, Kovach JS, et al.: Pharmacology of amygdalin (laetrile) in cancer patients. Cancer Chemother Pharmacol 6 (1): 51-7, 1981.
  12. Moertel CG, Ames MM, Kovach JS, et al.: A pharmacologic and toxicological study of amygdalin. JAMA 245 (6): 591-4, 1981.
  13. Gostomski FE: The effects of amygdalin on the Krebs-2 carcinoma and adult and fetal DUB(ICR) mice. [Abstract] Diss Abstr Int B 39 (5): 2075-B, 1978.
  14. Schmidt ES, Newton GW, Sanders SM, et al.: Laetrile toxicity studies in dogs. JAMA 239 (10): 943-7, 1978.
  15. Herbert V: Laetrile: the cult of cyanide. Promoting poison for profit. Am J Clin Nutr 32 (5): 1121-58, 1979.
  16. Calabrese EJ: Conjoint use of laetrile and megadoses of ascorbic acid in cancer treatment: possible side effects. Med Hypotheses 5 (9): 995-7, 1979.
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WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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