Almonds and other seeds containing Cyanide
You probably had some almonds earlier this week and, unless zombies are much smarter than we thought, you’re still perfectly fine and very much alive, so how can almonds contain any poison? It turns out that trees like to protect their seeds by slipping some cyanide in their composition. It’s the plant world’s sneaky way of saying: “Maybe you’ll eat my offspring, but you’re going down as well!”
The poison is present only in a specific species of almond, namely the “bitter” ones, which are a broader and shorter version of the sweet almond. Although each bitter almond only contains tiny amounts of cyanide, the substance is dangerous enough that it is illegal to sell raw almonds in the US. Nowadays all almonds must be processed through heating in order to eliminate germs and render the poison harmless.
Some of the other “deadly” seeds we mentioned before are apple, cherry and apricot seeds, all of which contain a form of cyanide compounds. However, no need to stop eating fruit, the poisonous compound is present in small enough quantities that you’d have to eat a bunch of seeds before you fell down dead.
This ingredient used for seasoning food and producing root beer is derived from the dried root bark of the sassafras tree, a plant native to eastern North America. The bark of the tree has been used since ancient times, usually as a painkiller, insect repellant or scent in soaps. The only problem with the plant is that it contains safrole, a compound found to be highly carcinogenic both in animal tests as well as in self-reported human cases.
The FDA banned Sassafran from any mass produced food item in the 60’s and added Sassafran tea to the list of dangerous items just a few years later. Of course, one would need to consume Sassafran in massive quantities in order to induce cancer, but combined with other factors the risks of developing the deadly disease were too risky for the government, barring some kind of new Sassafras industry lobbying group.
Since then, the tree bark has been allowed back into usage in moderate quantities as long as the carcinogenic compound is removed. Nowadays, it is used in traditional Creole cooking as well as in some root beers who want to stay true to the “root” portion of their name.
A lot of things have been said about nutmeg and several forums recommend it as an alternative to weed. Even Malcolm X talks about drinking nutmeg diluted in water as a way to get drunk. The truth is that while commercially available nutmeg is harmless; consuming a raw nutmeg nut could make you hallucinate and even die. Of course, the necessary dose for this to happen is much higher than anything you’d put in a cake: you need 10 grams of raw nutmeg just to get dizzy.
Nonetheless, two deaths in recent times are attributed to excessive amounts of nutmeg: an 8 year old and a 55 year old. The plant is also dangerous for animals, including dogs and livestock, so think twice before letting your pet have a glass of eggnog.
What other dangerous goods are you regularly consuming? Let us know below!
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