‘Natural cancer shield’ poisons patient

A MAN who for five years took daily doses of apricot kernel extract — touted as a natural cancer shield — ended up with cyanide poisoning, a British medical journal reported yesterday.

The problem was discovered when abnormally low oxygen levels were measured in the man’s blood while he was under anesthesia for an operation, doctors wrote in BMJ Case Reports.

Blood tests showed alarmingly high levels of cyanide.

When he woke up, the unidentified man told doctors he had been taking a daily dose of two teaspoons of homemade apricot kernel extract for five years. He also took three daily tablets of a herbal fruit kernel supplement.

The problem is that apricot kernels — for all the health benefits vaunted by online merchants — also contain cyanide. The man was taking more than 17 milligrams of the extract every day, enough to raise blood cyanide to about 25 times acceptable levels, the team said.

According to medical websites, 50 milligrams — about one to two teaspoons — of the poison taken orally would be enough to kill a person weighing 72 kilograms.

The man’s case showed that “self-prescription with complementary medicines can result in potentially harmful toxicities,” and the problem may be more common than thought, researchers concluded.

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