You are eating an orange or a lemon fruit and without caution, an orange seed slides down your throat.
You panic because you remember all those grandma stories about how the seeds will grow in your stomach and whatnot.
So, will you die from cyanide poisoning as a result?
Will you get appendicitis as alleged by some quarters?
Will the seeds be digested in the stomach?
Is the seed going to harm my unborn child if I am pregnant?
Is eating orange seeds normal?
These and more questions have been troubling many other citrus fruit eaters who have found themselves in your position.
First of all, RELAX! There is no cause for alarm when you swallow one or two seeds from an orange or lemon fruit.
In essence, swallowing a few orange seeds accidentally will not harm you in any way that is related to chemical poisoning or digestion. Neither will they grow in your stomach.
The only thing that I find a little of a concern with swallowing these seeds is the choking hazard that may result if the seed gets stuck midway in your throat.
This is however very rare because the seeds are smooth and slippery and will slide down the throat with ease.
So, let us revisit these myths and see whether they make sense from a food science perspective.
Myth 1: Swallowed Orange and Lemon Seeds Will Grow in Your Stomach
This is probably one of those children’s horror story myths that have been passed down many generations effectively to correct childhood behaviors.
I believe it started even before scientific experiments were performed on these seeds.
This must have been the only reasonable way to easily deter kids from eating fruit seeds due to the known cyanide poisoning effects in some of them.
It is however not true that seeds can grow in our stomachs.
Although we saw earlier in this article that seeds can germinate without soil, the conditions in our stomachs are way too hostile to allow seed germination.
There are lots of acids and chemicals in the stomach that will not allow this to happen.
Myth 2: You Will Die of Cyanide Poisoning if You Swallow Orange or Lemon Seeds
Cyanide is known to be lethal to humans.
It is scientifically proven that the core of citrus fruit seeds such as orange seeds, lemon seeds, and tangerine seeds have traces of a compound called amygdalin.
This compound is cyanogenic, which means it can be turned into cyanide through chemical processes in the stomach.
But we are talking about swallowing the seeds here and not chewing.
Although loaded with cyanogenic compounds, the core of citrus fruit seeds is usually protected with a hard outer cover that is indigestible.
If you do not break it down by chewing, the seed will just pass through the digestive system without being tempered with.
Also, swallowing a few seeds will have no poisoning effect since there is the issue of dosage.
How Many Orange Seeds and Lemon Seeds Are Lethal?
As noted earlier in my previous article here, studies have shown that you need to chew more than 80 fruit seeds to experience acute cyanide poisoning.
There are other citrus fruits such as tangerines which contain higher doses of amygdalin and can be lethal at relatively lower doses.
But again, we are talking about accidentally swallowing the seeds here.
In summary, you will not die of cyanide poisoning by accidentally swallowing a few orange or lemon seeds.
But it is best to avoid ingesting them by eating seedless fruits or removing seeds before eating to avoid even the mildest of cyanogenic compounds in your body system.
Myth 3: You Will Suffer Acute Appendicitis if You Swallow These Seeds
Appendicitis is a common disease caused by indigestible particles in the food tract accumulating in the appendix and causing an obstruction.
Acute appendicitis usually requires emergency surgery and can be lethal if not addressed early.
Studies such as this one here have shown that fruit seeds rarely accumulate in the appendix lumen.
Other recent meta-analysis clinical studies have also shown that swallowed fruit seeds have very little to do with appendicitis.
This means you cannot have acute appendicitis by swallowing a few orange or lemon seeds.
It is however advisable you avoid eating these indigestible seeds since little fragments have been noted in some of the appendicitis patients.
Myth 4: Swallowing Orange or Lemon Seeds Will Harm an Unborn Baby
One question that keeps coming up from expectant mothers is; what happens when I accidentally swallow orange seeds or lemon seeds while pregnant?
The good news is that you are unlikely to cause any harm to an unborn baby when you swallow a few citrus fruit seeds.
This has been confirmed by medical practitioners in this doctor-patient forum here.
As we have seen here, the digestive system is well accustomed to tasks that require cleaning of unwanted materials in the gut.
This means that your baby will be safe from any eventual instances of accidentally swallowing those seeds.
So, is it Alright to Swallow Orange Seeds or Lemon Seeds?
As much as all the myths we have seen here are false, you should not use that as an excuse to intentionally swallow those seeds every time you eat an orange or lemon.
In fact, it is advisable you avoid blending the seeds in your juice or smoothie.
It may be okay to swallow a few of the seeds but you might be unaware of some underlying problems in your body that may be accelerated by making this a habit.
For instance, you could be having mild appendicitis or other mild medical conditions that could be worsened by ingesting large amounts of these seeds.
So, avoid swallowing orange or lemon seeds intentionally.
What Happens if You Accidentally Swallow Orange or Lemon seeds?
As you can see, swallowing a few of these seeds is probably not going to have serious effects on your health.
But if you happen to accidentally swallow the seed, here are a few tips that can help you get through the situation comfortably.
- First, do not panic. Easier said, but you need to relax so that the seed can move down the digestive tract smoothly.
- In the event where the seed gets stuck in the throat and there is a choking hazard, you need to perform chocking first aid maneuvers immediately.
- You can drink water or a denser drink such as a smoothie or porridge to push the seed down the throat.
- If the victim is a baby, you may need to check out these simple chocking first aid tips by the Red Cross.
- If you are alone and you chock on the seeds, you can do a Self Heimlich Maneuver to push out the seed as demonstrated in the video below.
- Otherwise, just let the digestive system do its natural selection.
Other than apples, oranges and lemons are some of the most consumed fruits in the world with seeds that are inedible.
With their slippery seeds strategically placed in the fruit, it is uncommon to find yourself accidentally swallowing one or two seeds from time to time.
As noted in this article, this is something that should not worry you unless the seed ends up stuck in your throat and chocks you.
It is highly unlikely that you can be poisoned by swallowing orange or lemon seeds.
If you have a personal experience with swallowing these seeds, let me know in the comments how you handled the situation.