Apricot Seed Cancer 'Cure' With Long History Leads to Arrest of Mother and Son

A New York man and his mother were arrested Wednesday after allegedly selling a fake cancer "cure" that actually contained poison.

Jason Vale, 51, and his 77-year-old mother Barbara Vale are accused of fraud. The two allegedly sold a fake cancer medicine out of the mother's home in Queens. The fake medicine was made from seeds found inside apricot pits, which they dubbed "Apricots from God."

Apricot seeds do not contain any substances doctors or scientists believe useful in treating cancer, but they do contain chemicals that bodies metabolize into cyanide, a deadly poison, when ingested. Rather than cure cancer, the medicine allegedly sold by the pair can be fatal.

Authorities were seen to be removing several large vats which reportedly contained toxic chemicals from the Vale home. Barbara Vale was released after posting a $100,000 bond, but Jason Vale was apparently taken to a local hospital before posting a bond of the same amount.

Selling the fake treatment, their so-called "the answer to cancer," had allegedly resulted in the mother and son receiving over $850,000 in a PayPal account, according to NBC.

apricot seeds
The fake cancer cure known as "Vitamin B-17," or laetrile, is extracted from apricot seeds and has no known medical benefit. However, it does contain substances the body converts into the highly toxic chemical cyanide. Getty

The pair is far from the first believed to offer a bogus cure consisting of or based on apricot seeds. A popular quack medicine, the substance involved was allegedly first synthesized in the 1950s by a self-proclaimed "doctor" with no formal medical training or education, and marketed as "Vitamin B17." The substance bears no resemblance to a vitamin.

It was popularized in the 1970s by a medical doctor who was associated with a far-right conspiracy group. He later lost his medical license for issues related to the harmful substance, but not before making millions of dollars by providing the non-cure to cancer patients. In addition to "Vitamin B17," the substance is sometimes also called laetrile, or amygdalin.

Proponents of the fake medicine often propose elaborate conspiracy theories, claiming that the government or the medical industry is trying to "suppress the truth" about their fake cancer cure. They fail to supply any reputable evidence in support of their claims, and neglect to mention that the seeds and extracts have been studied and found to be both toxic and ineffective at treating cancer.

Instead, they promote the treatment as a "natural" alternative to real medicine, without evidence. This can sometimes be a compelling sales pitch to patients who are often terminally ill and may believe they have "nothing to lose."

Medical experts caution that aside from the direct harm fake "medicines" can cause desperate patients, the quack remedies can result in devastating damage in several other ways. Patients often take fake cures instead of conventional medicines and proven treatments that might provide an actual benefit.

Rather than treating their condition and possibly extending their lives, or increasing the quality of their remaining life, they are given a cruel false hope that ultimately leads nowhere and sometimes actually hastens their demise. Scammers offering "miracle cures" also sometimes bankrupt patients or their families with expensive fake treatments.

money in pill bottles
Fake medicines and bogus cures often make those who sell them a considerable amount of money, at the expense of vulnerable people who may feel they have "nothing to lose." Getty

Jason Vale states on his website that he is battling cancer, and attributes his status as a champion arm wrestler to the phony cyanide-based treatment. A picture of the man next to a bible, accompanied by the title "My Strory [sic]" precedes several text entries showcasing what he describes as a decades-long battle against "terminal cancer." He says he was initially diagnosed with kidney cancer, but a successful battle against "butt cancer" is also mentioned on the site.

A different page on the site extols the virtues of ingesting cyanide, saying "we eat some cyanide every day but it's not enough to help us," and wrongly claiming "it's safer than sugar or salt." In what looks like an attempt at discouraging the use of real medicine, another sentence claims "there has never been a chemical pharmaceutical drug that has cured a disease."

Cyanide is highly toxic, and a poison that has historically been used in executions and suicides. The chemical, or substances the body converts into the chemical, does exist in small amounts in certain foods, but it's almost never enough to cause damage. Far larger amounts are found in rarely eaten materials like bitter almonds or apricot seeds, which are generally not considered safe to eat. Scientists are unlikely to ever claim human bodies need more cyanide to "help us."

Jason Vale has a history of legal trouble concerning the quack cure. He was previously convicted of a criminal contempt charge after ignoring a judge's order to stop selling the same supposed remedy online in 2003, and sentenced to 63 months in prison.