fruit seeds contain cyanide?

Cecil, you’re only half right, well actually 1/3 right. As you said several different types of plants have not only cyanide, but benzeldehyde also! This itself is poisonous, but the two are more than one hundred times more poisonous than either of them are on their own! Why aren’t people dead from eating it then? What about the people in Hunza who eat apricots (which have the highest concentration of this stuff than anything else) like candy! Well, lucky for you seed lovers, these two molecules are bonded to a sugar molecule that makes it as harmless as sugar, literally. Sugar is just as deadly as this stuff. It’s chemical name is Amygdaline or Vitamin B17. How can this be safe if it’s two poisons? Well we use two poisons to season our food all the time. Chlorine, a deadly element, and Sodium, an explosively deadly element, are the chemical makeup of table salt. The bond in the vitamin B17 molecules are actually only broken when they come into contact with cells which do not contain an enzyme called rhodhenase. The normal cells in our organism contain this enzyme which neutralizes the vitamin. This causes it to be nothing more than a sugar and beneficial for energy. Only if a cell does not have rhodhenase (i.e. cancer cells) will the vitamin be deadly to that cell, but only that cell. Not only is it harmless, but it’s beneficial to your health. But, just like any other chemical, it’s not recommended that you have a sudden binge. But, trust me, nobody is going to drop dead from eating apricot seeds, even every day.

The original column was Are apricot seeds poisonous?. Just to keep everyone on the same page.

This is “The Straight Dope”, where we try to establish the truth about things, not “The Wonderful World of Quack Cancer Cures”, where innocents are murdered by lies.

On that note, I recall an episode of Law & Order (the good original series, not all those crappy spin-offs) in which a woman dies of cancer, and while trying to resuscitate her the ER staff is poisoned by cyanide gas, which turns out to be from a quack cancer treatment. Many Law & Order plots are “Ripped From the Headlines!” but I never ran across the reference for this (and am frankly too lazy to look.)

Did this, or something like this, really happen?


PubMed abstracts detailing cases of laetrile toxicity: REF and REF
From the US National Cancer Institute
Amygdalin (Laetrile) in “the presence of certain enzymes, amygdalin breaks down into glucose, benzaldehyde, and hydrogen cyanide”.

Benzaldehyde is the “smell of bitter almonds” - or marzipan smell, hydrogen cyanide is poisonous. You cannot compare this to NaCl, which ionises (breaks down) in solution into IONS, not elemental Na and Cl.

The effects of ‘treatment’ with laetrile mirrors the symptoms of cyanide poisoning, because HCN is released.

“These side effects can be potentiated (increased) by the concurrent administration of raw almonds or crushed fruit pits, eating fruits and vegetables that contain beta-glucosidase (e.g., celery, peaches, bean sprouts, carrots).”

So Soldier, I hope this information about the dangers of quack cancer cures should push back the veil of ignorance slightly.

This is all good and well, but you haven’t said anything to debunk the FACTS that have been presented. I’m no conspiracy theorist and it wasn’t suggested that it WAS a CURE for cancer; only what effect it would have on a cancer cell should it encounter one. What has been said by these responses gives no credible evidence to suggest that these facts are false.
In fact, the only theory that has supporting evidence from these responses is that there is an amount of brainwashing amongst the repliers. It was never suggested that Vitamin B17 was a cure for cancer, but these facts were immediately jumped on as a proposed cure, and with fervor!
Personally, I’m willing to hear conspiracy theories, but I take them with a grain of salt. I’m not, however, willing to be brainwashed into thinking that there are no untrue conspiracy theories. To believe that EVERYONE who proposes a conspiracy theory is a quack… well, doesn’t that seem like a conspiracy theory?
Is Vitamin B17 a cure? Is it a poison? I don’t know, I’ve never seen someone take it. I’ve eaten peach seeds and haven’t dropped dead, but I’ve never seen anyone cured either. It’s all speculation until I/you/we see it happen, and even then, if someone doesn’t want that information to get out, wouldn’t they be quick to label us as “quacks”?

Who, exactly, is this “someone” who “doesn’t want that information to get out”? Entertaining movies about innocent physicians convicted of murder and being pursued by obsessive US Marshals and one-armed men aside, I don’t think the pharmaceutical industry would stand a chance of repressing an effective cancer treatment against the ACS and the constellation of cancer research support societies. If someone could demonstrate that this Vitamin B17 was an effective treatment for cancer, research organizations would be all over this like papparazzi on Lindsay Lohan at a clothing-optional beach.

That kind of conspiracy makes for a good McGuffin, but in the real world, someone is going to grab the damn case, open it up, and find out what’s inside rather than wait for a screenwriter to divulge it (or not) in the third act twist.

But if you feel differently, perhaps you should arrange a double-blind study (with animals, of course) officiated by an objective party. If your proposal is sufficiently credible and you have the educational background and/or experience to justify your claims, I’m sure you could get funding from here.


This may have been addressed in this column

best to all,


I thought that Cyanide was derived from a seed from a plant found only in India. Am I mistaken, or am I thinking of an entirely different poision/dox?

Yep, you’re msitaken. Cyanide is a very simple compound made of one carbon attom and one nitrogen. It comes from a variety of sources and can be manufatured relatively eaisly using household chemcials. It can even be manufactured directly from fresh air with a little skill and an energy source.

I have no idea what you are thinking about. Possibly ricin although castor oil plants aren’t found only in India.

Is this what you’re thinking of?

one Carbon, One Nitrogen, and one Hydrogen.

Actually, no, HCN is hydrogen cyanide. “Cyanide” is a whole family of compounds characterized by the CN group. NaCN and KCN, for example, are also “cyanide”.

As long as we’re doing nitpicks, salt is not a seasoning but a food. (And a required one; you need salt to survive.) As Cecil has pointed out in a previous column.

Explains why my grandparents are still alive :wink: I have wondered why they can eat the things full of poison and still keep ticking. I just figured that the amount of poison was minimal and was expelled from the body, never allowing a dangerous buildup.

As to your thought… it’s a nice hypothesis and all, but unless you provide some outside empirical data for this idea, then I’m just going to file you under “Wishful Thinking”, along with the rest of my family who believe that the title of “Master Herbalist” means something and that a “liver flush” will clean your liver of toxins (how would they even know???).

You see, you can make a statement that A + B = C. You can even have many other people make the same statement. But without any data, for all I know A is not actually A, B is not actually B, and even if they were, they probably wouldn’t add up to C.

Way to go, Soldier! I completely agree with you on what you had to say. You can even buy a book called World without Cancer, by G Edward Griffin, which documents what you were mentioning about the wondrous workings of the cyanide/benzaldehyde combination. What I would seriously question, and this was something I read from the guy who originally answered the question about apricot seeds, is the claim that deaths can be traced to eating too many seeds with Vitamin B17 in them. The FDA and their cronies are so dead set against cancer cures that can’t be patented (like apricot seeds) that it is no surprise at all (if you’ve been dealing with this for a while, anyway!) that things might be totally fabricated about it. I’d have to see the actual death records to see where it was written on them that they died of poisoning from seeds such as apricot seeds. I remain tremendously skeptical of such claims.

Lastly, I would like to mention that Mr Griffin mentions in his great book the fact that he kept up with over 2000 people who had one thing in common: They all had Vitamin B17 in their diets in abundance (probably mostly by eating apricot seeds!). The wonderful result of Mr Griffin’s study was that NOBODY contracted the deficiency disease of cancer!!! I don’t know of any other single substance of which such a thing can be said. I believe he still monitors people in this same fashion today, and has the same conclusion, based on the same results.

I’m in shock that the post that resurrected this zombie also is a new registration and into quack science like the OP. That never happens. Ever.



Killed with a shotgun loaded with apricot pits.