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The sloe, also called Prunus Spinosa by biologists, is common with its distinctive spines and deep dark blue berries and is therefore well known. The fruits of this wild plum species used to be very popular for juices, liqueurs and jams and have recently been attracting increasing attention again. But what about the well-known wisdom that the raw sloe fruit is poisonous and can only be eaten processed?

Are sloes poisonous raw?

First of all, when viewed objectively, the answer to this question is yes. Because the kernels of the sloe, which is a stone fruit, contain the hydrocyanic acid glycoside amygdalin, which increases in the human body after consumption hydrogen cyanide is converted. However, one should already put it into perspective at this point, since other pome fruit kernels also contain the same substance. The amygdalin content of apple seeds or bitter almonds is significantly higher than that of sloe berries. In addition, it should be emphasized that the skin and pulp of the sloe do not contain this substance and are therefore non-toxic and completely harmless from a purely medical point of view. In general, the berries of the sloe should not be eaten with the seeds. But even eating individual seeds is considered harmless.

The situation is different for children, especially small children. Your organism cannot yet break down the required quantity of hydrocyanic acid. The consequence of eating sloe kernels is then fast diarrhea and vomiting!

notice: For animals, especially birds, raw sloes are completely harmless and non-toxic. Therefore, the thorny bushes are not only popular retreats and even breeding grounds for birds, but also an important source of food in the onset of winter.

Sour/bitter taste

But where does the common and persistent belief that sloes are poisonous come from? If you try a Prunus Spinosa berry early in autumn, this question will almost answer itself. When eaten raw, the berries initially have a very sour and sometimes tart-bitter taste. This taste is mainly caused by the high proportion of tannic acids in the pulp. Looking back at the question of the toxicity of the berries, it can be expressly emphasized here that the tannic acids have a strong adverse effect on the taste, but this is by no means related to any possible toxicity.

Blackthorn, Prunus spinosa

notice: Particularly sensitive people can indeed react to the tannic acid content if they eat too much. However, this is by no means a matter of toxic substances in the sloe, but rather a special sensitivity or sensitivity of the individual person.


Again and again one reads that raw sloes have both a laxative and adrift effect. As mentioned, the laxative effect only occurs in very sensitive people or when large amounts of the berries are consumed. The same applies to the adrift effect. In medical terms, this means the property of the contraction of vessels. However, this effect is of particular importance for the medical application of the ingredients. It does not have to be considered when eating "usual" amounts. Since harvesting the sloe is very laborious, the maximum amount of berries consumed should regulate itself anyway.


However, there is a way to eat the fruit of the sloe raw and enjoy it at the same time. Because if you wait for the first frost, the berries suddenly become tasty without losing their characteristic aroma. But how does that happen and does it always happen when there is frost?

The change in the pulp content is actually caused by the freezing. Because then the tannins are broken down and converted into sugar. Thus, on the one hand, the sour to bitter notes are reduced, while the sweetness increases at the same time.

However, it should be noted at this point that the change in taste has no connection with whether the berries are poisonous. Ultimately, the frost only makes berries that can be eaten raw before that edible.

tip: If the frost is a long time coming, you can put the sloe berries in the freezer for a while to simulate natural frost.

notice: Please note that this article is by no means a substitute for a doctor's visit. There is no guarantee of the correctness of medical statements.
Detailed information on first aid in the event of poisoning and important information on the poison control centers can be found here.

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