Natural toxins in fruits, teas, herbs, and vegetables

Many of you are aware of toxins reportedly found in plants many people ingest frequently such as Pokeweed Phytolacca americana - Wikipedia. Annonacin in pawpaw is less well known Annonacin - Wikipedia. Sassafras tea which I truly love contains safrole Sassafras Tea Safety | Food Safety | Andrew Weil, M.D.. Arsenic can actually be found in almost everything This is another interesting article The pits of most stone fruits contain amygdalin, which breaks down into hydrogen cyanide Wanted to put this information out there and get some opinions on what you consider the perfect crops to grow? It’s not just fruits and vegetables poisons such as mercury are in much of our food supply e.g. Fish How Does Mercury Get Into Fish? - Scientific American. Cilantro is a crop I find fascinating when it comes to getting rid of heavy metals in the body!

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Annonacin can kill nerve cells on contact and is not filtered by the brain’s blood barrier. Ingesting too much Annonacin brings on a non-reversable condition called ‘Atypical Parkensons Disease’.

To develop this condition, you would have to ingest annually at least:
Hundreds of Paw Paw, or
A few dozen Cherimoya, or
A half dozen Soursop aka Guanabana.

Annonacin is used to topically kill cancer cells; e.g. micro-encapsulated and injected. Ingesting it orally just allows the drug to kill nerve cells at random – it does not “seek” out cancer cells. The lifetime clinical dosage (topically) is 90mg. A single Soursop fruit contains 35mg. The plant is grown in South America by pharmaceutical companies.

One great tragedy in the health supplements industry is guanabana tablets – sold as a cancer preventative at GMC. Last I looked, a single tablet contains 60mg of Annonacin.


As a kid, we were told rhubarb leaves were poisonous. I am personally sure that eggplant is toxic!!:wink:

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Rhubarb leaves are very poisonous Rhubarb - Wikipedia. Technically eggplant is a nightshade which is why no one ate them originally lol! Potatoes, tobacco, peppers, tomatillo, tomatoes etcetra are all believed to be mostly safe. There are still people that look on any member of the nightshade with distrust but I love some of the aforementioned. The reason why unknown nightshade were not eaten was because some nightshade were known to be deadly Solanaceae - Wikipedia

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Most stone fruit pits (including almonds) contain some cyanide. After all that “almond flavor” is from cyanide. The edible versions of these seeds/pits/nuts are just varieties which have cyanide level low enough to be safe to eat.

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Sweet pit apricots and others always make me a little cautious for the reasons you mention.

I think the dose makes the poison. Even vitamins and minerals your body needs can be deadly if ingested in high enough concentrations.

I’m not so much worried, though, about a specific thing as what you touch on in general. Yes, there are some fruits and vegetables that have natural toxins in them.

There are a lot more though that now come with toxins like heavy metals because of the decades and decades of pollution we have unleashed into our environment. An additional concern is the diseases, sickness, and chemicals that often come as part and parcel of factory farming that in turn can make humans who eat these products sick.

The fact is that the USDA, the FDA, and the EPA have been underfunded for years. Companies get away with a lot of things, and part of the reason why is because random testing just doesn’t happen at high enough intervals for companies to be truly worried. I am no expert, of course, but my opinion is informed by the articles I’ve read on everything from the meat industry, to peanut butter processing facilities, to water testing. The folks at these organizations seem to be doing all they can, but they’re the first to admit that they’re overworked, underfunded, and can only catch the occasional “baddie” even though they know there are many more out there. The money that is there is often not used for random testing but to clean up existing issues.

I think our food and water supply would be a lot safer if the rules we had were rigorously enforced, and penalties steep enough to ensure compliance. It is the man-made toxins that now come with our food, far more than the low dose of toxins fruits and vegetables naturally come with, most of which are easily flushed from the body that are the most problematic.

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So should we or should we not eat Paw Paws? I understand deer and insects won’t eat them … Kinda scary?

Agreed, toxicity is all in the dose. There are still a lot of “toxins” in common foods we eat. For example, if you took all the toxin in the amount of potatoes the average American eats each year and took it all at once, it would be enough to kill a horse (much less a human). But spread out over a years time it is fine (well with perhaps the exception of making arthritis worse and a few of the other things nightshade family plants are tied to).

It’s all a dance, the plants put up a defense to keep from being eaten, the hungry critters find a way around those defenses. And clever plants find a way to engage animals in their propagation. It all keeps changing (although not usually in a time frame that humans will notice).


Spud… deer don’t much eat the leaves on pawpaws… but it’s the preferred plant for some swallowtail butterfly larvae. Have seen claims that in some suburban areas in the northeast, where the whitetail population is uncontrolled, the only surviving understory vegetation is pawpaws.
Some critter eats pawpaws… I didn’t catch 'em in the act, but the rascals got about as many of this year’s fruits as we did - but they left the seeds.

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A colleague of mine is a research neurologist. He’ll let his children eat Paw Paw but not Cherimoya.

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We’ve gone round and round on this in the past here. My memory is that paw paws don’t represent an insidious problem unless they are a dietary staple- eating a lot of them during their season is fine, maybe don’t dry them and eat them as a part of your regular diet.

Many plants we eat create their own insecticides and if they were researched the way commercial pesticides are there would be a serious global movement to eat nothing but synthetic food. You only discover the carcinogenic and many other potentially harmful qualities of substances when you look for them. People smoked tobacco for centuries before it was known to cause cancer and not many substances are as carcinogenic as it.

Slugs and possums, at least, don’t hesitate to eat the fruit and neither did native Americans.

Here is a rather extended discussion about the danger of paw paws that includes the current state of the research it look like.

There is a link on this article to the actual study- the authors are concerned about chronic exposure and not occasional exposure.

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Follow-up question: does annonacin survive cooking (ie: making pawpaw bread)?

Yes – certainly in the process of making tea with boiling water. This was the downfall of residents on the Island of Guadaloupe.

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Several plants are hyper-accumulators of nitrates (NO3-). I have read about it in the context of “eat the weeds” because amaranth species (like the scourge Palmer amaranth) have edible foliage. Amaranth can accumulate high levels of nitrates, particularly in fertilized soil.

Foliage nitrate toxicity is probably better known to cattlemen, as corn stalks accumulate considerable nitrates and toxicity can be a problem in some years when corn is cut for silage.

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Someone recently brought up on the forum that mushrooms pick up soil toxins as well.

strictly speaking most vegetable foods have toxins. non-toxic plants were eaten to extinction long ago. spinach and sorrel have oxalic acid, apples and coffee have caffeic acid, figs and parsnips have psoralens, tomatoes and potatoes have various alkaloids. The nitrates in commercial (fertilized) green vegetables can be detrimental to young children.

One can make a broad statement that fruits, as a group, are less toxic because they are meant to be eaten, but yes, you have the annonacee and avocado counter examples. The more a part of a plant is involved in reproduction, the more toxic it is, so seeds take many of the top spots in toxicity. Wheat germ agglutinin is deadly in milligram quantities.

At the same time, man has found ways to minimize toxicity. from soaking acorns to get rid of tannins, to soaking beans to eliminate protease inhibitors, to pressure cooking beans to deactivate lectins, to fermenting any cracked seed to eliminate phytates, we have evolved our own defenses.

Whereas most toxic compounds are organic molecules, particularly proteins, absorption of excess toxic metals in soils is mostly a modern (man made) problem. Specially when it comes to cadmium, which comes predominantly from P fertilizers.


The water-soluble (made from dehydrated acidic solutions) fertilizers that my father and then I used throughout my lifetime have varying amounts of Phosphate but never any (completely untraceable) cadmium. There’s never any question about the contents: it’s on the label and in the MSDS.

I’m not sure I quite follow. I thought glib was saying trace (toxic) elements will show up in certain fertilizer-type products unintentionally or in minute quantities and therefore not be on the label.

I used to use Ironite yearly on my lawn until a report came out that said it had lead in it. (This was not a report from the manufacturer.). Sure, it wasn’t a lot, but being that there isn’t a safe amount of lead and that yearly applications of Ironite could cause the lead to build up, I do not use this product on my lawn anymore.

I think glib was more talking about situations like this than manufacturers putting something in and then not labeling that it is in there.

I’ve heard elderberry stems, leaves, unripe fruit and roots are toxic. some even say the ripe fruit can be toxic if not cooked 1st. some say no.

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