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I find the issue of natural toxins interesting.Mainly because the average person is oblivious of their existence.As far as they are concerned, toxins are harmful substances which are introduced into food.

Knowingly or unknowingly, we eat at least one natural toxin with every meal.It must be alarming to realize that we may be ingesting CYANIDE!

The picture that is painted of cyanide is that it is lethal.This is true, but we do ingest small amounts which our body has the ability to neutralize.

You may be surprised to find out that plants containing substances which give off cyanide are ubiquitous in nature i.e they are so many.They are described as being cyanogenetic (meaning they can generate cyanide from one or more of their constituent compounds).

It is conservatively estimated that more than 2000 plant species are cyanogenetic, a lot of which are our everyday food source.

I believe it is important that I first explain the "what and how" of cyanide, thereby demystifying it for readers who are not science inclined.

Do not worry, I will not delve into meaningless structures, but try to give you the high street explanation.This will give better understanding as I proceed on this subject of Natural Toxins.

Cyanide exists in its simplest form in nature as a gas (we all know what gases are}.This gas is called hydrogen cyanide.Notwithstanding, it can also exist in combination with other substances.

When these substances undergo some processes, then it is possible for the gas to be released.Hydrogen cyanide (HCN) is highly poisonous.Despite the fact that a lot of cyanide containing substances have always existed in nature, the gas was first isolated by a scientist called Carl Scheele in the later half of the eighteen century, specifically 1782.

Scheele was a brilliant scientist who discovered and isolated a lot of compounds.Unfortunately, the discovery of hydrogen cyanide was his waterloo.Unintentionally, he helped to provide a practical demonstration of its toxic effects by accidentally becoming its victim.Scheele was poisoned, while trying to create anhydrous cyanide.He died.

Should we say that he died so that you may know how toxic cyanide is? Jokes apart, hydrogen cyanide can kill in minutes.Unfortunately, it is difficult to identify by smell because the gas almost has no smell (some people identify it with the smell of bitter almonds, but even then, only 40% of people are said to be able to smell it.You must have a keen nose indeed.Even then, who wants to smell hydrogen cyanide, it's too dangerous).

When cyanide is in combination with other substances, it is sometimes not toxic.In-fact, this loss of toxicity when it is complex-ed with some compounds, is the basis of the treatment of cyanide poisoning.Antidotes for cyanide poisoning involve the use of substances like sodium nitrite, sodium thiosulphate and amyl nitrate.These can be quite effective if administered promptly by a trained medical professional.

How easy is it to come in contact with cyanide poisoning? Interestingly, fatal cyanide poisoning from our food is very rare.The amount we ingest with our food is usually very minimal and our body can handle it at ease.Unfortunately, we are unwittingly exposed to unnatural sources of cynanide which our bodies may not be able to deal with.The reason for this is that when man-made polymers such as polyacrylonitrile, nylon and melamine are burned they produce hydrogen cyanide(HCN)gas.

These substances are used in clothes and furnishings and so HCN gas can be produced when a fire is burning and anyone near the fire can be exposed to it, inhale it and get poisoned.This may seem far fetched, but it is happening increasingly every day!

Next time you pass through a place where they are burning a collection of plastics, quickly move away from that location and try not to inhale the smoke.Cynanide poisoning is not always accidental.There have been cases of deliberate poisoning too.In 1982 seven people in Chicago, a major city in North America, were killed by Tylenol tablets (painkillers) which were spiked with cyanide salts.

Cigarette smokers take in a little cyanide with each cigarette which is generated by the cigarette.Smokers generally have more cyanide in their blood than other people.Conversely, they suffer the physiological effects of excess cyanide in their system.

What is the presence of cyanogenetic foods in our diet? I must first warn you that if you refuse to eat certain foods because their plants source has cyanogenetic compounds; then, you will be doing yourself a great dis-service.Understanding how cyanide is inactivated during food processing, helps us to enjoy our food.Also knowing how to complement our diet to neutralize the natural toxins we ingest is important.

This way, we do not throw away the baby with the bath water.This is because a lot of these plants have important nutrients that our body needs.You may be surprised to find out that some of the plants grown as food sources for humans and animals, which contain cyanogenetic compounds are, sorghum (sorghum spp.), corn (Zea mays), and manihot or cassava (Manihot utilissima), and can be used safely provided attention is paid to processing of the food to remove the toxic compounds.

Fortunately, these food plants were known to primitive tribes very long ago and they had conquered them for food by finding methods to remove their toxins.Life is about conquering your environment.



That was interesting.

Thanks for sharing.