Apple Seeds Have Poisonous Cyanide
What is Cyanide?
The Center for Disease Control says that cyanide is a deadly chemical that is fast acting and can be found in multiple forms. Cyanide can be colorless and odorless, so people may not be aware that they are exposed to cyanide.
“Cyanide is released from natural substances in some foods and in certain plants such as cassava, lima beans and almonds. Pits and seeds of common fruits, such as apricots, apples, and peaches, may have substantial amounts of chemicals which are metabolized to cyanide. The edible parts of these plants contain much lower amounts of these chemicals.” -- The Center for Disease Control
Cyanide is known as the following:
- Hydrogen cyanide (HCN)
- Cyanogen chloride (CNCl)
- Sodium cyanide (NaCN)
- Potassium cyanide (KCN)
Cyanide gas is used in the military as a poisoning agent and is also known as the following:
- Hydrogen cyanide (AC)
- Cyanogen chloride (CK)
Growing Up With Apples
Fresh fruit and vegetables was a big part of my growing up world. I remember my grandparents' garden and the trees grown along the neighboring yards. Among the trees were apple trees of all sort. The trees were very productive and neighbors invited us to pick fruit as much as we desired.
One thing that stood out in my mind was the overwhelming advice that we do not chew or swallow the seeds. Some neighbors would even advise us to make sure our pets didn't get ahold of the seeds, too. I remember one neighbor repeating, "...and make sure you don't leave those apple core around for your dog to chew on, Baby. You know those seeds are poisonous. They'll kill you if you eat too many."
Apple Seeds Are Poisonous
Apples have many health qualities, hence the adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
Apples are low in calories, providing approximately 50 to 65 calories (depending on size). Apples are rich in dietary fiber, aiding in digestive health. Apples provide antioxidant protection and are a great source of vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, potassium, and iron.
But, be careful; apple seeds contain a cyanide compound referred to as cyanogenic acids. Accidental ingestion of a few apple seeds once in a while probably will not affect you. In fact, swallowed seeds normally pass through the body with your normal bodily function.
Chewed seeds, on the other hand, open the outer protective shell of the seed and expose your body to the toxin found inside the seeds. Symptoms of cyanide poisoning can range from mild, such as headache, dizziness, confusion, and vomiting to severe, such as respiratory arrest, kidney failure, coma, and death.
Be aware of other plants that contain cyanogenic acids. This poisonous compound can be found in the pits and seeds of cherry, peaches, plums, almonds, pears, and apricots. While it is highly unlikely that you will accidentally or purposefully chew into the pits and seeds of these fruit, it is likely that your pets and livestock may have an opportunity to congest excessive amounts of cyanide if left unattended.
The following information about food sources that contain cyanide is written about apricot kernals, however, the report also mentions apple seeds as one of several "cyanogens". This report is found at the FDA Poisonous Plant Database.
References to case histories and to methods of preparation of apricot kernels (and other cyanogens including peach kernel, plum kernel, apple seed, etc.) would greatly facilitate this work.— Krieger, R. I.
© 2011 Marlene Bertrand