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Apple Seeds Have Poisonous Cyanide

Updated on October 19, 2016
MarleneB profile image

Marlene spends numerous hours researching solutions to common and sometimes obscure health and beauty issues. She shares her results here.

Apple Seeds

Apple Seeds
Apple Seeds | Source

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


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    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 2 years ago from USA

      Hello Suzanne Day. I have bitten into a few apple seeds by accident. The taste is so bitter I can't imagine anyone eating them on purpose.

    • Suzanne Day profile image

      Suzanne Day 2 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      Useful information on apple seeds. I know that they tasted funny for a reason, probably nature did not intend for us to ingest them as part of the fruit....a mechanism for the survival of the seeds maybe?

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 3 years ago from USA

      Yes, peachpurple. Growing up, I was told not to eat the seeds. I'm glad I listened.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      i didn't know that apple seeds are poisonous, I don't eat them anyway

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 3 years ago from USA

      Touché about the poisonous foods, poetryman6969. After learning about apple seeds, I went on to read about other foods that can be poisonous, too.

    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 3 years ago

      It can be astonishing how many foods are poisonous if not treated properly. I think I read that raw kidney beans are not good for you. Fortunately nobody eats them that way!

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 3 years ago from USA

      Hello colorfulone. Scientists say a person would have to eat a lot of apple seeds before it would be considered toxic. Some scientists say the opposite. Since I am not a scientist and since the scientists can't agree, I think I'm safer not eating the seeds.

    • colorfulone profile image

      Susie Lehto 3 years ago from Minnesota

      I had heard this about apple seeds containing cyanide, and forgotten about it. Some people do eat the whole apple, seeds and all. It makes me wonder how many seeds a person would have to consume for it to be dangerous.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 5 years ago from USA

      wqaindia - Yes. I grew up on that mantra. Apples do have a lot of benefit going for them.

      cloverleaffarm - There is no doubt apples are very nutritious. But, 400 pounds! That's a lot of apples. The fact is that apples do contain cyanide and scientists disagree as to what level is safe and what level is too much. I opt to just not chew on the seeds. That way, I get as little cyanide in my body as possible. I do this, especially since I live on well water which the FDA says has an acceptable amount of cyanide in it. What's acceptable? I don't know and scientists don't know, so that's the concern. What if I'm drinking water that has too much cyanide and then I start chewing on apple seeds which have cyanide. At some point, I just want to not have so much cyanide in my body. Just knowing that if I chew on apple seeds is good information for my cyanide planning and consumption program.

      alocsin - Yeah. I grew up being told not to chew on apple seeds. As a child I never knew why. It wasn't until I took a botany class in college that I discovered the seeds had cyanide in them. Like any allergy, some people are highly affected by cyanide; most people have a high tolerance level for cyanide and so it doesn't affect them. It's just something nice to know.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Wow, I did not know that about apple seeds. But they've never been a problem for me because, probably like most people, I don't eat or chew them. Thanks for the warning though. Voting this Up and Useful.

    • cloverleaffarm profile image

      Healing Herbalist 5 years ago from The Hamlet of Effingham

      Apples are a wonderful source of vitamins, and delicious fiber.

      If memory serves, you would have to eat 400 pounds of apples for the cyanide to have any effect.

    • wqaindia profile image

      Ashok Goyal 5 years ago from 448 Dalima Vihar Rajpura 140401 Punjab India

      An apple a day, Keeps the doctor away.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 5 years ago from USA

      Hello The Reminder and wqaindia, while it is true that the human body can handle small amounts of cyanide, this hub is merely stating the fact that apple seeds contain cyanide. Fact. More than that is knowing how much is too much to consume. A greater concern is not just with humans, but with our pets and other animals who may not have discernment of how many apples they consume, and may consume enough to cause problems.

    • wqaindia profile image

      Ashok Goyal 5 years ago from 448 Dalima Vihar Rajpura 140401 Punjab India

      Before the information could make me believe I have to make complete chemical analysis of the apple seed and would like to go through research papers. However Our body can detoxify small quantities of cyanide compounds found in apple seeds and Cherry pits.

    • The Reminder profile image

      The Reminder 5 years ago from Canada

      Great hub! But I will do some more research to see all the effects of the seeds on us.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 5 years ago from USA

      tillsontitan, you are right about the controversy taking place right now. While doing research for this hub, I read some interesting stories about how the FDA allows manufacturers to have a certain level of cyanide in apple juice. People are in an uproar about that.

      shampa sadhya, thank you for your kind feedback.

      rajan, thank you for your positive feedback.

      ...and thank you for sharing!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Seems you have opened a bit of controversy about the apple will be interesting to see how this plays out.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • shampa sadhya profile image

      Shampa Sadhya 5 years ago from NEW DELHI, INDIA

      Voted up and useful!

      Avery useful hub. It is indeed a valuable hub. Thanks for sharing and I am sharing it too.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Thanks for sharing this useful bit about apple seeds , Marlene. Voted up and shared.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 5 years ago from USA

      Thank you unknown spy and dwachira, I have heard and read that some health aficionados claim that eating apple seeds can help cure cancer. Some health professionals agree with them. But, some professionals disagree. I don't know. All I can do is read what is fed to me and then I have to make the determination from that. I think each person has to do what they think is best for them. Your feedback is most appreciated.

    • dwachira profile image

      [ Danson Wachira ] 5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Thanks for this information, i never knew that before, got to be careful.

    • unknown spy profile image

      IAmForbidden 5 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

      Thank you for this information. A person, i forgot who, told us that we should eat the seeds of apples because it has many benefits on the body..

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 5 years ago from USA

      Hi internpete. Cyanide is becoming a big issue these days because of the fact that apple juice is made with the apple seeds and some doctors - Dr. Oz being one of them - have concerns about the consumption of cyanide in children over a long period of time. I never ate apple seeds. And, I no longer drink apple juice anymore, because since I started looking into it, I see that doctors don't agree on the subject. I figure it is best for me to stay out of the mix.

    • internpete profile image

      Peter V 5 years ago from At the Beach in Florida

      Wow, how interesting! I vaguely remember learning this when I was much younger but had forgotten since then! Good to get the word out just in case.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 5 years ago from USA

      Hi archhome. Thank you for your feedback. Yeah. Just as you mentioned, I did state, "...ingestion of a few apple seeds once in a while probably will not affect you." I'm just a lay person putting the information out there as I find it. Doctors and health practitioners have polar opinions about this subject. Far be it from me to try to sort it all out. Veterinarians say that people need to be aware of plants in their yard that contain cyanide because animals have a tendency to ingest large quantities and get sick. The verdict is still out as to whether cyanide kills cancer. I do believe in doing my own research, so I am grateful to you for referring a valuable resource to me. I'm definitely going to look for the film you mention.

    • archhome profile image

      archhome 5 years ago

      Apple seeds same as apricot kernels and even bitter almonds contain vitamine B17 - so vital to prevent or fight cancer. And there is no "free" cyanide in those seeds. Vitamine B17 is formed of two molecules of glucose, one molecule of benzaldehyde and one molecule of hydrogen cyanide. B17 can only be broken and release cyanide if gets in contact with cancer cell. Which means it can effectively fight cancer by killing it with cyanide. B17 is harmless for human cells. This is NOT TRUE that apple seeds and apricot kernels are dangerous to anybody when eaten. Of course as any other food rich in vitamins, apple seeds should not be eaten and in huge amounts, but if you eat even three of four apples a day, and chew the seeds, you will not even have hint of side effect. Do you know that in those countries, where apricot kernels are popular food, cancer does not exist. Don't believe me, do your own research. Film called World Without Cancer might be very useful and interesting to watch first. You should know that business of treating cancer brings about 50 billions per year to doctors and pharmacist. And if all people knew how to prevent and cure cancer, those inside the industry would never make this fortune while others are dying. By the way I often hear how "dangerous" the seeds and kernels are, but those who claim that, they never support their words by any evidence. Would you wonder why?

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 6 years ago from USA

      Thank you for stopping by again, Sweet Chococarrie. It is interesting that the apple is a healthy fruit, yet the inside of the seeds have a dangerous poison. Still, you would have to chew on far more than your fair share of seeds before feeling any negative effects. Most people have the sense to limit their intake, but the main concern is with pets and livestock. They eat without regard to limitation and many pets become ill or die from overeating the apple seeds.

    • Sweet Chococarrie profile image

      Sweet Chococarrie 6 years ago from My Heart To Yours

      Passin By To Say Hello Dear Friend and Really Very Thankful for the Knowledge of the Seeds of the Apples's Disadvantage

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 6 years ago from USA

      Hi Sweet Chococarrie, since I was a little girl I was taught never to eat the apple seeds. I never asked why until I was all grown up and now I know about the cyanide, so I think I will never eat the seeds of apples.

    • Sweet Chococarrie profile image

      Sweet Chococarrie 6 years ago from My Heart To Yours

      Very Informative and I Love To Prepare Homemade Apple Juice but i don't include seeds of course, and Was A Good Warning Then Not to Eat or Include the Seeds of the Apples.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 6 years ago from USA

      Oh, by the way, tonymead60, your comment was inspirational in that it made me realize I should update the title to reflect closer to the facts. Thanks, again. Your feedback was truly valuable.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 6 years ago from USA

      Hi tonymead60, thank you for your feedback. I am still in research mode about apple seeds. Like you, I do hear that people would have to consume a large quantity to be affected negatively, however, I wonder who determines how much is too much for each person. Then, my next question is whether or not cyanide has a cumulative effect on the body; or is it expelled with normal bodily activities? I don't know. To be on the safe side, I'll just not eat them. Thanks, again for your feedback.

    • tonymead60 profile image

      Tony Mead 6 years ago from Yorkshire


      it was interesting to find this hub, because I was speaking recently with some scrumpy makers in the apple centre of Devon and they were saying that when the apples were crushed by the old stone horse-drawn wheel they did crust the pips and although they knew there was some cyanide released they rekoned you would have to consume huge quantities of cider or scrumpy for there to be any effect. Most small producers use presses these days which leaves the pips in tact.

      nice hub.

      cheers Tony

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 6 years ago from USA

      I have never (knowingly) eaten apple seeds, however I recently learned that commercial juice producers do not remove the seeds prior to making the juice for consumption. I have not had any trouble in the past, so I imagine it must be safe enough to drink. But, I elect not to chew on apple seeds if I can help it. I am glad they have not caused harm to you.

    • Taleb80 profile image

      Taleb AlDris 6 years ago

      Thank you so much for the link.

      It is painful & funny how I do eat the seeds while it is known that they are toxic, even before I was born.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 6 years ago from USA

      Thank you Taleb80 for your feedback. I have updated this hub to include a link to the FDA Poisonous Plant Database. Here is the link to the list of fruits with cyanide. The article starts with apricot kernels, but then includes a list of other fruit plants that contain cyanide, including apple seed (toward the bottom):

    • Taleb80 profile image

      Taleb AlDris 6 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this hub.

      Actually, I have the habit of eating full apple with seeds, someone told me that it is good for health.

      Could you please give the links to read more about it.

      I voted Useful.


    • martinyz profile image

      martinyz 6 years ago

      Thanks for sharing. Will make sure the seeds are removed when making my fruit juice.


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