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Apple Seeds Have Poisonous Cyanide

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

Apple Seeds

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.

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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Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 09, 2015:

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 from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on October 09, 2015:

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?

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on May 02, 2015:

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

peachy from Home Sweet Home on May 02, 2015:

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

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on January 26, 2015:

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 on January 26, 2015:

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!

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on November 18, 2014:

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.

Susie Lehto from Minnesota on November 15, 2014:

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.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on March 04, 2013:

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.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on March 03, 2013:

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.

Healing Herbalist from The Hamlet of Effingham on March 03, 2013:

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.

Ashok Goyal from 448 Dalima Vihar Rajpura 140401 Punjab India on March 02, 2013:

An apple a day, Keeps the doctor away.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on March 02, 2013:

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.

Ashok Goyal from 448 Dalima Vihar Rajpura 140401 Punjab India on March 02, 2013:

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 from Canada on March 02, 2013:

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

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on March 02, 2013:

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!

Mary Craig from New York on March 02, 2013:

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 from NEW DELHI, INDIA on March 02, 2013:

Voted up and useful!

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

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on March 02, 2013:

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

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on July 08, 2012:

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.

Danson Wachira from Nairobi, Kenya on July 08, 2012:

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

Life Under Construction from Neverland on July 07, 2012:

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..

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on July 07, 2012:

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.

Peter V from At the Beach in Florida on July 07, 2012:

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.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on June 08, 2012:

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 on June 08, 2012:

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?

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on May 22, 2012:

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 from My Heart To Yours on May 22, 2012:

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

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on May 21, 2012:

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 from My Heart To Yours on May 21, 2012:

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.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on January 05, 2012:

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.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on January 05, 2012:

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.

Tony Mead from Yorkshire on January 05, 2012:


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

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on December 28, 2011:

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.

Taleb AlDris on December 28, 2011:

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.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on December 26, 2011:

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):

Taleb AlDris on December 24, 2011:

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 on September 20, 2011:

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

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