Quick Facts About Cherry Pits:
Callers to the poison center often ask, “Do cherry pits have cyanide?” or “Are cherry pits toxic?”
Cherries contain cyanide compounds (called cyanogenic glycosides) in small amounts found inside the hard-outer shell called the pit or stone. If someone accidentally swallows the pit, it will pass through the system intact and come out in the stool. Cyanide is released only if the pit has been crushed or chewed. This is very unlikely while eating fresh cherries because the pit is too hard to be broken open. The concentration of the toxin is so low anyway that the amount available in a normal serving does not usually pose a risk for toxicity.
Other common names for cherry pits include cherry seeds and cherry stones. Cherries are part of the stone fruit family which includes plums, peaches, nectarines, and mangoes – all containing natural cyanide compounds within their pits.
Are Cherry Pits Toxic if Swallowed?
The amount of cyanide in each cherry pit varies widely, so it is difficult to determine exactly how many are too many. Cyanide toxicity is NOT expected from accidentally swallowing a few cherry pits, so symptoms are very rare. While not likely from cherry pits, symptoms of mild cyanide poisoning are dizziness, headache, significant anxiety, and vomiting. Symptoms of serious cyanide poisoning include an increased heart rate and blood pressure, difficulty breathing, kidney failure, seizures, and coma.
What to do if Someone Swallows a Cherry Pit
If you find someone has swallowed a cherry pit(s), do not panic. Wipe or rinse out the mouth and give them some water to drink. If problems start or you have questions, call the Missouri Poison Center right away at 1-800-222-1222. The poison center is open all day, every day, for poisoning emergencies and questions.
Important Information About Cherry Pit Poison
High-speed blenders used to make smoothies can crush cherry pits. Even when this occurs, only a small amount of cyanide is released. It is typically not a problem, but be safe and call the Missouri Poison Center right away at 1-800-222-1222 for specific recommendations and follow-up phone calls.