Did you know:
- Cyanide is found naturally in apple seeds.
- It also occurs in almonds, apricot kernels, lima beans, orange pips, cassava roots (tapioca), and bamboo shoots.
- These seeds contain a toxic compound called amygdalin that degrades into hydrogen cyanide (HCN).
- The form of cyanide found in cassava becomes harmless if the root is dried, smoked, or baked.
- Cyanide is also found in cigarette smoke. It can be chemically released from burning man-made products and plastics in industrial fires.
- It smells of bitter almonds, though not everyone can detect an odor. Some people get bright-red faces.
- Other signs of poisoning include dizziness, headaches, sickness, rapid body functioning, weakness, convulsions, unconsciousness, and lung failure. Cyanide stops the body from absorbing oxygen. Death comes from asphyxiation.
- Long-tern exposure to small amounts leads to weakness, paralysis, miscarriages, liver, and kidney damage.
- There is no natural antidote, but immediate hospitalization and medical intervention can prevent death in some cases.
- Cyanide (Zyklon B) was used in the German gas chambers at Auschwitz, and for many judicial executions in USA gas chambers.
- It is available in a quick-acting pill form for instant suicide. Soldiers in high-risk-of-capture situations were sometimes issued with cyanide pills.
- But don’t worry if you accidentally swallow some apple or orange pips. They have a hard protective coat that passes through the human body intact so that any harmful chemicals are not absorbed!
CDC, “Facts About Cyanide” at http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/cyanide/basics/facts.asp
Snopes.com, “Apple Seeds and Cyanide” at http://www.snopes.com/food/warnings/apples.asp
Stuart, Malcolm. The Encyclopedia of Herbs and Herbalism (London: Black Cat, 1987)
Wikipedia, “Cyanide Poisoning” at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyanide_poisoning