Apricots are a popular type of fruit, but not all parts of the apricot should be eaten: hydrocyanic acid is formed during the digestion of apricot stones. Thus, eating the stones can lead to serious, even fatal, poisonings. Such products should generally not be consumed.
Apricot stones or “Apricot stones bitter” are sold increasingly for direct consumption as a snack in stores and via the internet. Sometimes, they are even endorsed as an inexpensive and effective anti-cancer product. The alleged effect is based on the vitamin B 17 (laetrile or amygdalin) or the poisonous hydrocyanic acid contained in the stone that should kill cancer cells. However, this healing effect has not been confirmed scientifically to date.
Hydrocyanic Acid Causes Poisoning
Chewing and digesting apricot stones forms hydrocyanic acid from the cyanide released by amygdalin. The human body is capable of degrading a certain amount of hydrocyanic acid, but if too much acid is ingested, various poisoning symptoms can appear. The symptoms of an acute poisoning case range from headaches, difficulty in breathing, dizziness and cramps to cyanosis, coma and eventually death. Children need only to ingest small doses to suffer serious poisoning. In addition, older or sick persons are more susceptible to serious poisoning if their own detoxification system does not work adequately anymore.
The acute reference dose (ARfD) is at 75 µg cyanide per kg body weight according to the German Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung (BfR). This corresponds to 4.5 mg in a person weighing 60 kg. This harmless dose equals about two large, bitter apricot stones per day. Children should not consume these stones at all.
Diagram: Apricot seeds are enclosed by a woody stone, similar to almonds.