While stone fruits aren’t as popular in India as they are around the world thanks to the climate necessary to cultivate them, that doesn’t mean that we don’t’ enjoy the occasional peach or cherry. Unfortunately, the cherry you pop into your mouth after a cocktail could actually kill you (well, not the cherry exactly, but the pit).
Each pit, big or small, contains potentially dangerous levels of cyanide. Yes, cyanide, like the pills that secret service agents use to off themselves to avoid capture in Hollywood films. However, the cyanide in fruit isn’t the same compound as the hydrogen cyanide found in chemical weapons.
In fact, in small doses, the cyanide in stone fruits can be handled by the body’s natural processes. The body takes the harmful substance and transforms it into thiocyanate — an innocent compound that gets excreted through your urine. In large doses, however, cyanide of any kind can do some real damage. It prevents your cells from using available oxygen, resulting in cell malfunction and death.
Unfortunately for cherry lovers, it seems that a single cherry pit contains enough cyanide to be potentially lethal for a 160-pound human. A potentially lethal dose of cyanide is just 0.1 grams. A cherry pit carries approximately 0.17 grams in a single seed.
However, there’s no need to panic if you swallow a cherry pit. The cyanide is contained inside the pit’s sturdy exterior. You can’t digest the outside of the pit — so if you swallow it, the chemical is just passing through you, safe and sound inside the pit’s hard shell. But if the pit shatters somehow — or if you bite it open — do not swallow! You could die! Who knew a fruit could potentially kill you?