Are Rose Hip Seeds Poisonous?

Question: I have read that rose hip seeds contain cyanide, is it truly safe to consume the tea with ground seeds?

Some species of Rosaceae family do contain a small amount of cyanide. However, I can find no reference in any scientific journals stating that rose hip (Rosa canina) seeds are toxic.

Not consuming rose hips would be a little like saying “don’t eat apples” because their seeds contain cyanide too.

Ray Mears in his “Wild Food” book mentions on page 189 that Rosaceae “…protect their fruits and seeds (particularly the kernels of their fruit stones) by lacing them with compounds called cyanogenic glycosides that release cyanide as soon as any cells are damaged…”.

But Mears is talking in general here as he is referring to the whole of the Rosaceae family, rather than one species.

Thomas J. Elpel on page 101 in his book “Botany in a Day” states “…the seeds are nutritious too and should be eaten.”

A reader picked Elpel up on this claim (again he lists no scientific reference to their edibility), saying “I’ve always been told (by at least one well-renowned primitive skills instructor) that they are inedible or even poisonous.”

Elpel replies on his website, “In twenty years I’ve never come across any reference to the seeds of rose hips being poisonous, except that they are hairy and could potentially become a choking hazard”.

It is easy to make a statement of fact based on one’s own personal experience. Does that mean you can trust the information?

That depends, and as I have previously written, you need to proceed with caution when eating any wild food.

As far as I am concerned my family and I have no problem making a rose hip tea which includes rose hip seeds.

So what does the science say?

Well, there is a considerable reference to the Rosa canina seeds being nutritious and used for the treatment of chronic pain.

One would think that if rose hip seeds wherein anyway toxic, that it would have been made very clear in the scientific research.

At the end of the day, you have to decide whether to try a wild food or not.

References

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  1. Interesting and useful post. A few years ago I read somewhere that rose hips seeds should not be eaten, but forgot the source of that information. Then a few days ago I read in a book “The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants” by Matthew Wood that the rose hip (Rosa canina) “seeds (not used in medicine) contain a glucoside and are toxic, producing torpor, vertigo, and headaches.” page 427.

    • Dave – Thanks for the reference. Matthew is referring to the tiny amount of cyanide found in the seeds, which in large quantities would induce those symptoms. It’s kind of like saying don’t eat apples. But everyone has to make the call themselves 🙂

  2. Thanks for clearing this up. Minutes ago I picked both firm and soft rosehips and am preparing them (taking off hairy ends) for making either a vineagar or a tincture – after testing as a tea of course! Frankly, my motivation was avoiding the finicky work of de-seeding them. If they contain some goodness and aren’t a risk I will just do them whole, after splitting for menstrum access to the innards.

  3. Robin,

    I would like to make rose hip seed oil using both the rose hip and the seeds. Can you tell me how to do this or a website that contains this information?
    I was going to grind the seeds in a coffee grinder and use the hips as is and put them in a crock pot on the lowest setting with carrier oil like almond, avacado or neem and let cook all day. Will this work? Do you know the benefits of the seeds of rosehips? Thanks,

    Joy

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