Cherry pits are a common food waste item, but did you know that they contain a toxin that can be harmful to humans?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: It takes just a few cherry pits to cause toxicity in humans.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the dangers of cherry pits and how many it takes to cause harm. We’ll also explore the symptoms of cherry pit poisoning and what you can do to stay safe.

The Dangers of Cherry Pits

If you enjoy snacking on cherries, it is important to be aware of the potential risks associated with eating their pits. Cherry pits contain a toxin called cyanide that can be harmful to humans if consumed in large quantities.

What is the toxin in cherry pits?

The toxin found in cherry pits is called amygdalin. When consumed, amygdalin is broken down into cyanide in the body. Cyanide is a poison that can interfere with the body’s ability to use oxygen, leading to serious health complications.

How does the toxin affect the body?

When ingested in small amounts, the body is able to detoxify the cyanide and prevent any harmful effects. However, consuming large quantities of cherry pits can overwhelm the body’s detoxification processes and lead to cyanide poisoning. The symptoms of poisoning can range from mild to severe and can include headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and difficulty breathing.

What are the symptoms of cherry pit poisoning?

The symptoms of cherry pit poisoning can vary depending on the amount of cyanide ingested. In small amounts, symptoms may be mild and include headache, dizziness, and nausea. In more severe cases, symptoms can include difficulty breathing, seizures, and even death. If you believe you have consumed a large amount of cherry pits, seek medical attention immediately.

It is important to note that not all cherry pits contain the same amount of amygdalin, and the toxicity of the pits can vary depending on the type of cherry. While occasional consumption of a few cherry pits is unlikely to cause harm, it is best to err on the side of caution and avoid consuming them altogether.

How Many Cherry Pits are Toxic?

Cherry pits contain a compound called amygdalin, which can break down into cyanide when ingested. While the amount of amygdalin varies between different types of cherries, it’s generally present in small amounts and is only harmful if consumed in large quantities.

According to the American Cancer Society, a lethal dose of cyanide is typically between 100 and 200 milligrams for an adult. However, the amount of cyanide that can be derived from cherry pits varies widely based on factors such as the size of the cherries, the amount of amygdalin present, and how the pits are prepared.

It’s difficult to say exactly how many cherry pits would need to be consumed to reach a lethal dose, as this would depend on many factors. However, it’s generally recommended that people avoid consuming large quantities of cherry pits to minimize the risk of cyanide poisoning.

How many cherry pits does it take to cause symptoms of poisoning?

Consuming just one or two cherry pits is unlikely to cause any symptoms of poisoning. However, consuming larger quantities can lead to symptoms such as headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. In severe cases, cyanide poisoning can lead to seizures, coma, and even death.

If you accidentally swallow a cherry pit or two, you’re unlikely to experience any ill effects. However, if you consume a large quantity of pits or experience any symptoms of poisoning, it’s important to seek medical attention right away.

Are some types of cherries more toxic than others?

While all types of cherries contain amygdalin, some varieties may contain higher amounts than others. For example, bitter cherries (also known as wild cherries) are known to contain higher levels of amygdalin than sweet cherries.

Additionally, the pits of some cherries may be more toxic than others due to factors such as their size and the amount of amygdalin they contain. For example, the pits of apricots and peaches also contain amygdalin and can be toxic in large quantities.

Type of Cherry Amygdalin Content (mg per gram)
Sweet cherry 0.17
Bitter cherry 3.9

If you’re concerned about the amygdalin content of the cherries you’re consuming, it’s always a good idea to err on the side of caution and avoid consuming large quantities of pits.

Sources: American Cancer Society, National Institutes of Health

What to Do if You’ve Eaten Cherry Pits

Cherry pits contain a small amount of cyanide, which can be toxic to humans in large amounts. However, it would take a lot of cherry pits to cause serious harm. In general, if you accidentally swallow a cherry pit or two, you don’t need to worry. The cyanide is contained within the pit and is not released unless the pit is chewed or crushed.

When should you seek medical attention?

If you have eaten a large number of cherry pits or have intentionally chewed or crushed them, you should seek medical attention immediately. Symptoms of cherry pit poisoning include headache, dizziness, confusion, nausea, vomiting, rapid breathing, and even coma or death in severe cases.

How is cherry pit poisoning treated?

If you have ingested a large number of cherry pits, a doctor may induce vomiting or give you activated charcoal to help absorb the toxins. In severe cases, you may need to be hospitalized and given oxygen therapy or other treatments to stabilize your breathing and heart rate.

Can cherry pit poisoning be prevented?

The best way to avoid cherry pit poisoning is to simply avoid eating the pits. If you enjoy eating cherries, be sure to spit out the pits or remove them before eating. You can also purchase seedless cherries if you want to avoid the risk altogether.

Amount of Cherry Pits Severity of Poisoning
1-2 Mild to no symptoms
3-5 Moderate symptoms
6 or more Severe symptoms, medical attention required

Source: American Association of Poison Control Centers


In conclusion, cherry pits may seem harmless, but they contain a toxic substance that can be dangerous in even small amounts. If you suspect you or someone you know has ingested cherry pits, seek medical attention right away. It’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your health.

By understanding the dangers of cherry pits, you can take steps to prevent poisoning and stay safe while enjoying this delicious fruit.

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