Cherry pits contain trace amounts of cyanide. While accidentally eating a few cherry pits will not kill you, eating more than 20-30 can lead to dangerous toxicity. Your body can withstand up to 50 mg of cyanide before it becomes poisonous.
How much cyanide is in cherry pits?
Cherry pits contain a substance called amygdalin. When amygdalin reacts with enzymes in your saliva, your body converts amygdalin to cyanide.
However, this chemical is released when the cherry pit is chewed or crushed, meaning that it is usually not a concern if cherry pits are accidentally swallowed whole. Because they are indigestible, they will travel through your intestines without being broken down.
Chewing and swallowing several pits, though, can be dangerous. This is especially true for children, since they are far more susceptible to cyanide toxicity than adults. Children are also more likely to choke if they swallow cherry pits.
If too many cherry pits have been consumed by mistake, seek medical assistance.
What are symptoms of cyanide toxicity?
Signs and symptoms of cyanide toxicity depend on three main factors:
- Number of seeds consumed
- Whether the seeds were swallowed or chewed
- Whether the seeds were ground or roasted
Common symptoms may include:
Serious symptoms—which only occur in very cases in which a large number of cherry pits have been consumed—may include:
Are there any benefits of cherry pits?
According to a few studies, cherry pits may contain compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Antioxidants help prevent cell damage and can protect the body from disease.
Cherry extracts have been proven to lower uric acid levels and have been suggested as potential therapy for gout, although it is unclear whether there is a link to cherry pits themselves.
Furthermore, cherry pits have several culinary applications, including extracting chemicals from the kernels to make liqueur.
What should you do if you have eaten cherry pits?
If you believe you have ingested a few cherry pits, rinse your mouth, drink plenty of water, and relax. If you feel uneasy or have symptoms such as nausea and dizziness seek medical treatment. Antidotes of accidental cherry pit poisoning or cyanide toxicity include:
- Methemoglobin generators
- Direct binding agents
- Sulfur donors
However, there is no universally agreed upon therapy for cyanide poisoning. The sole cyanide poisoning therapy licensed for use in the United States is a kit including amyl nitrite, sodium nitrite, and sodium thiosulfate.
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NCPC. I swallowed a cherry pit! https://www.poison.org/articles/i-swallowed-a-cherry-pit-184
Missouri Poison Center. Cherry Pits. https://missouripoisoncenter.org/is-this-a-poison/cherry-pits/
BC Drug and Poison Information Centre. Cherry Pit. http://www.dpic.org/faq/cherry-pit