Chapter Six: Laetrile and Cyanide

In Chapter Five I mentioned the testimony of a doctor from the FDA who said that Laetrile contains "free" hydrogen cyanide and, thus, is toxic. Somewhere in this book I wanted to correct that misconception. Perhaps this is the best time to do so.

There is no "free" hydrogen cyanide in Laetrile. As pointed out in Chapter Two, when Laetrile comes in contact with the enzyme beta-glucosidase, the Laetrile is broken down to form two molecules of glucose, one molecule of benzaldehyde and one molecule of hydrogen cyanide (HCN). Within the body, the cancer cell — and only the cancer ceil — contains that enzyme. The key word here is that the HCN must be FORMED. It is not floating around freely in the Laetrile and then released. It must be manufactured. The enzyme beta-glucosidase, and only that enzyme, is capable of manufacturing the HCN from Laetrile. If there are no cancer cells in the body, there is no beta-glucosidase. If there is no beta-glucosidase, no HCN will be formed from the Laetrile.

It is worthwhile repeating something I said in Chapter Two: In 1977 it was thought that the hydrogen cyanide formed in the above-mentioned chemical reaction exerted the toxic effect against the cancer cell. In the past several years there has been much evidence to show that this chemical reaction produces only a minute amount of hydrogen cyanide, that the hydrogen cyanide is quickly converted to thiocyanate and probably has little, if any, toxic effect on the cancer cell. It is the benzaldehyde formed in this chemical reaction that is extremely toxic to the cancer cell.1

Laetrile does contain the cyanide radical (CN). This same cyanide radical is contained in Vitamin B12, and in berries such as blackberries, blueberries and strawberries. You never hear of anyone getting cyanide poisoning from B12 or any of the above-mentioned berries, because they do not. The cyanide radical (CN) and hydrogen cyanide (HCN) are two completely different compounds, just as pure sodium (Na+) — one of the most toxic substances known to mankind — and sodium chloride (NaC1), which is table salt, are two completely different compounds.

If the above is true, how did the story ever get started that Laetrile contains "free" hydrogen cyanide? Guess! No, it was not G. Edward Griffin. It was the Food and Drug Administration.

I remember reading in some newspaper back in the late 1960's or early 1970's a news release from the FDA. This release stated that there were some proponents of a substance known as "Laetrile" (I'd never heard of it before) who were saying that this substance was capable of forming hydrogen cyanide in the presence of the cancer cell. The release continued by saying that, if this were actually true, we had, indeed, found a substance which was target-specific, and would be of great value to the cancer patient. But, the news release went on to say, the FDA had done extensive testing of this substance, "Laetrile," and found no evidence that it contained hydrogen cyanide or that any hydrogen cyanide was released in the presence of the cancer cell. Thus, they said, Laetrile was of no value.

When it was clearly established some time later that Laetrile did, indeed, release hydrogen cyanide in the presence of the cancer cell, how do you suppose the FDA reacted.? Did they admit that they were wrong.? Did they admit that they had done a very inadequate job in running their tests? No! They now proclaimed that Laetrile contained hydrogen cyanide and thus was toxic!

So, here is a bureau of the Federal Government which, a short time before, had said that the reason Laetrile did not work was because it did not release hydrogen cyanide in the presence of cancer cells. Now, when they find that it does, they say that it is toxic. When offered an opportunity to present evidence of Laetrile's toxicity in Federal Court, they admitted that they had none. (See Chapter One)

When anyone tells you that Laetrile contains "free" hydrogen cyanide, that individual is either mis-informed or wants to mis-inform you.


1For a more detailed analysis of the theoretical action of Laetrile against cancer cells, see G. Edward Griffin, World Without Cancer (Thousand Oaks, CA: American Media, 1974).