Vitamin B17, otherwise known as Laetrile and amygdalin, is not a vitamin because the substance has not been proven to be necessary for human health, according to the American Cancer Society. A 2006 study published in the Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin claims amygdalin can help prostate cancer patients. The chemical allegedly works when the human body breaks down the substance into cyanide and amygdalin kills cancer cells.
Amygdalin and Laetrile have been known to cause cyanide poisoning, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved these types of drugs for use in cancer treatments, states the ACS. Promoters of the drug claim Laetrile works by breaking off its cyanide molecules when it reaches cancer cells due to enzymes only being present in the cancerous portion of the body. This allegedly saves the body's good cells from cyanide poisoning. The science behind these claims has not been proven, according to the ACS. The effects of amygdalin on cancer cells is no different than that of normal cells.
Amygdalin is a common chemical name and Laetrile is a brand name for a drug containing amygdalin. Laetrile is made by purifying compounds found in the pits of bitter almonds, apricots and peaches. The National Center for Biotechnology Information explains amygdalin is responsible for the bitter taste in almonds.