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Cyanide Poisoning from Apples, Peaches, Cherries, Plums, etc.

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Cyanide Poisoning from Apples, Peaches, Cherries, Plums, etc.

The weather is nice, so I was out looking at trees and shrubs to add to my garden. I noticed the tags on trees from the Prunus genus (cherries, peaches, plums, apricots, almonds) carried the warning that the leaves and other parts of the plant can be toxic if ingested. That's true of other members of the rose family as well (large family which includes roses, but also apples and pears). The plants produce cyanogenic glycosides which can lead to cyanide poisoning in people and animals if enough of the compound is ingested. Some leaves and wood contain relatively high levels of the cyanogenic compounds. Seeds and pits from these plants also contain the compounds, though you need to chew several of the seeds to get a dangerous exposure. (This Letter to the Editor of American Family Physician cites references for fatalities from apple seeds and apricot kernels, in addition to other plants.) If you swallow the odd seed or two, don't be concerned. Your body is well-equipped to detoxify low doses of cyanide. However, consult poison control if you suspect your child or pet (or farm animal) has eaten several seeds. If you're out camping and want sticks for roasting hotdogs and marshmallows, avoid using twigs from these plants.

Apple Seeds & Cherry Pits Are Poisonous | Drugs from Plants
Photo: Darren Hester

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