What Happens If You Swallow A Lemon Seed?

When you were little, the grown-ups may have told you that if you swallowed seeds, a tree would grow out of your stomach. If you happened to be a soil-eater as well, the deal was sealed! But in reality, what happens if you swallow a lemon seed? Nothing dramatic. Unless you have irritable bowel syndrome, the lemon seeds will effortlessly come out the other side.

Why Are We So Scared of Swallowing Lemon Seeds?

Hopefully, you’re pretty internet savvy. So you know you shouldn’t believe everything you read on random websites. You probably spotted this video, recognizing it as a well-filmed parody.

But childhood fears aside, what’s so terrifying about swallowing lemon seeds? It’s the taste. That bitter palate screams at your brain – there’s no way this thing is good for you!

It gets even more intense because we often swallow lemon seeds accidentally. You might bite into one as you inhale some lemon meringue pie. Or it might slip onto your tongue as you sip your lemonade. It might even sink to the bottom of your lemon tea mug. You’ll be enjoying a rich citrusy flavor when suddenly an acerbic note hits the front of your tongue. It’s so sharp!

The shock on your taste buds could put you off the rest of your meal, and it will haunt you whenever you see ‘lemon flavor’ on anything. You might also worry about choking on lemon seeds. Beyond that practical problem, lemon seeds contain amygdalin. It’s a benign natural chemical, but if it gets into your stomach, your enzymes convert it to cyanide which is toxic.

This same risk occurs if you swallow apple, cherry, peach, or apricot seeds. But you’d have to swallow at least a hundred seeds for the poison to kick in. Most of the time, you’ll only ingest one or two lemon seeds in your cup. If you’re unlucky, you may get up to five before you give up and leave the juice alone. So even with the chance of cyanide exposure, you’re fairly safe.

What’s the Deal with IBS?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a condition that affects your large intestine when you eat certain types of foods. Trigger foods can cause stomach pain, diarrhea, cramping, bloating, gas, or constipation, so you have to be really careful about your diet. If you have confirmed IBS, swallowing a lemon seed can cause symptoms because your system is super sensitive.

In mild cases, you may go to the toilet more often. But you might also get blocked up and be unable to do a number two for uncomfortable lengths of time. When you finally get to go, you may experience pain and possible bleeding. In extreme cases, you may find that you can’t swallow, you’re showing signs of anemia, and you’re vomiting or losing weight inexplicably.

IBS ranges from mild to severe and can escalate quite suddenly. Patients should avoid any type of citrus, which includes lemons. They don’t affect everyone, but to be on the safe side, limit your intake because the acid content can irritate your digestive system. A seed or two does no harm, but if you swallow them as part of a larger lemon meal, it could mess with you.

Think of it this way. The seed slipped into your mouth as you were drinking lemonade, chili shots, tequila wedges, or even your favorite lime martini. (As an extra caveat, alcohol can trigger IBS as well, so heads up) So while only a few seeds slipped past your tongue, you’ve still ingested several ounces of lemon juice or a few grams of lemon cake. It’s going to hurt!

Can Swallowing Lemon Seeds Be Good For You?

Yes! Ironically, the thing that’s scary about swallowing lemon seeds could be the very factor that makes them beneficial. Lemon seeds seem poisonous because they have a sharp, bitter taste. It almost feels like a pin-prick on your tongue, so it has to be toxic, right? Wrong. That harsh palate comes from salicylic acid, which is the primary ingredient for making aspirin.

Lemon seeds are also used to make lemon essential oil. The seeds are crushed to get those healing juices out, and the quality is quite different from the fruit itself. Lemon seed oil may often infuse additives to get that distinctive sour scent, with its hints of lavender, pine, and rose. But the seed itself has an acrid aftertaste – just try licking one! It’s not a pleasant plan.

Despite its rough reputation, the vitamin C and antioxidants in a lemon seed can do wonders for your skin. Some of its top benefits include:

  • Reducing pain
  • Killing bacteria
  • Minimizing acne
  • Controlling pimples
  • Keeping skin youthful
  • Relieving burns and itches
  • Moisturizing and hydrating
  • Curing fungal toe infections

All that said, lemon seeds can only help or harm you if they split open inside your stomach. Your juices and enzymes would have to burn off the seed’s protective coating before your body can access the seed’s internal oils and chemicals. If the seeds are crushed before you swallow them, that would work too. It would also expose more surface area for absorption.

But if you accidentally chew a lemon seed, the taste will make you reflexively spit it out. You’ll probably rinse your mouth with something sweet to get rid of the flavor. But none of the potentially beneficial bits of the seed will hit your digestive tract or get absorbed into your cells. So you’ll still get zero negative effects when you happen to swallow a lemon seed.

Spit or Swallow?

What if seeds really could grow in your stomach? They can’t, but it’s an interesting thought experiment. So then, what happens if you swallow a lemon seed? It won’t hurt you. You’ll have a horrible taste in your mouth for a bit. But the seed will pass through your system in good time without doing any damage. It may even do some good while it’s in there, so yay!

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