Malus (appleseed): toxicity.

Date: Tue, 10 Oct 1995 13:50:52 -0700
From: Howie Brounstein <howieb.TELEPORT.COM>
Subject: Re: apple pits/ seeds

>Has anyone heard this about apple seeds? pits being poisonous? My grandpa used to eat them alone, and I have never removed them from the fruit before juicing. Please comment!

Apple Seeds are indeed poisonous; however, the seeds must be crushed or they will pass through the digestive system, hopefully to be replanted with natural fertilizers later.

I'm not sure of exact amount of crushed apple seeds you need to eat to poison yourself, but typical juice amounts won't hurt you. A bowl full of crushed seeds will.

A sad teacher story. When I first took a poisonous and edible plants of the northwest class many years ago, the teacher mentioned one of his students had committed suicide after taking his class by eating a bowl full of crushed apple seeds.

Howie B
C&W Herbs, Inc.
Eugene, Or USA

From: christopher hedley <christopher.GN.APC.ORG>

Cyanogenic glycosides of the same group as Apricot seeds and bitter almonds. Best to avoid eating seeds from rose family fruit... although the toxicity is variable.

Howie, thank you. A sad story but a useful teaching story.

Christopher Hedley

By the way; I noticed that replies to the question on apple seed toxicity came out at 4 arsenics, which is wrong, to 8 cyanogenic glycosides, which is correct. Does this mean that queries to the list have a 2:1 chance of being answered correctly ? This is not a comment on the usefulness of this list - which I'm sure the most informative on the Internet -

From: "Peter L. Schuerman" <plschuerman.UCDAVIS.EDU>

> Apple seeds contain arsenic, tolerable in trace amounts but lethal as an overdose.

You know, I've heard this before and it doesn't sound quite right. The only way that apple seeds would contain arsenic is if 1) it was present in the soil that the apple tree is growing in and 2) the apple tree went out of its way to concentrate the arsenic in the seed tissue.

Many seeds contain cyanogenic glycosides... sugars which release cyanide when they are digested (such as amygdalin, found in almonds and peach pits). These compounds, by the way, were the basis for the claims of "laetrile" (which contains cyanogenic glycosides)... the idea was that cancer cells, being more metabolically active, would absorb more of these compounds and so get a higher dose of cyanide than cells in normal tissues of the body.

I'm not sure, but I would suspect that apple seeds contain cyanide (actually, cyanogenic glycosides) rather than arsenic. Does anyone know more about this?

From: James Morley <jm12kg.LION.RBGKEW.ORG.UK>

> I'm not sure, but I would suspect that apple seeds contain cyanide (actually, cyanogenic glycosides) rather than arsenic. Does anyone know more about this?

Apple pips do indeed contain amygdalin, a cyanogenic glycoside.

There is one anecdotal story of a man who liked the taste of apple pips so much that he used to save them in a jar. On his birthday he decided to give himself a treat and ate the whole lot. He died!

On a more practical note, it is well known that amateur entomologists crush a leaf of cherry laurel (_Prunus laurocerasus_) into a jar to kill the insects that they are collecting.

For more detail on the chemistry and toxicology of the Rosaceae see: Frohne, D. & Pfander, H. J. 1983. A Colour Atlas of Poisonous Plants and Fungi. A handbook for Pharmacists, Doctors, Toxicologists and Biologists. Wolfe Scientific Ltd: London.