Wednesday July 11, 2018 Q&A

Which of the following do cherry pits contain?


1 a deadly poison

2 an antibiotic

3 an antiseptic

Correct answer: a deadly poison

It’s cherry-picking season in Switzerland. Sun-drenched in their glossy red skin, they’re just waiting to be picked and eaten. But are they totally safe?

Cherry pits contain amygdalin, which, when a cherry pit is crushed or chewed and then ingested by a human, produces prussic acid in the body. Prussic acid is better known as cyanide – a deadly poison.

Cyanide can cause stomach and head pain, vertigo, asphyxia, palpitations, convulsions, nausea and vomiting. If left untreated, high doses of cyanide can lead to cardiac arrest and death.

It takes 1.5mg of amygdalin per kilogram of body mass – i.e. somewhere between 50 and 100mg – to kill a person. Since the amygdalin content of cherry pits is 3.9mg/g, you would have to crush and eat a huge number of them to get a fatal dose.

In 2017, a British man decided to crack open three cherry pits and eat the seeds. He became very sick and his temperature shot up. He survived, but not until after being rushed to the hospital.

Other fruits actually contain even higher levels of amygdalin. The pits of apricots and greengage plums contain around four times as much, but their pits are even tougher.

Happy cherry picking!