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Frequently (and not so frequently) Asked Questions

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BRIEF: Has a scientific analysis ever been made of Buckeyes?


QUESTION:
Do you know if scientifific analysis has ever been made of Buckeys? I heard about them being "inedible" several years ago from my father in law. So I went out and got some to show him he was wrong. THIS IS NOT A JOKE!!! I am 29, I am the oldest of 8 children, my Great Uncles , Grandma and Grandpa all died in their 90s. Just so you'll know none of us were poisoned we have ate Buckeys for years. No problems or complications at all. I do have some health problems now but it was from a fall and being struck by lightning. My father in law would set there and gasp and tell me to call a doctor. My great Uncle always ate them and gave them to us. They have a slightly nutty, slightly bitter taste. So please see if this was researched or merely folklore and legend.

ANSWER:

Buckeyes from the genus Aesculus contain a dangerous poison called aesculin. It is a coumarin-like glycoside, which can cause serious illness in humans at a sufficient dose. Symptoms reported include: restlessness, involuntary urination and defecation, vomiting, diarrhea, twitching, loss of coordination, stupor. (Fuller and McClintock Poisonous Plants of California). The nectar and pollen kills bees! We always moved our hives away from the blooming buckeyes. Deaths have occurred in Europe, but I never heard of any Americans killed by these. The California Indians would use buckeyes as food, but only if the acorn crop failed and only after extensive leaching with hot water. Why are you not poisoned? 1) You are not eating the same kind of buckeye I am thinking of. You may be applying this name to some other tree other than Aesculus or you may have a species of Aesculus which is just not very poisonous. 2) You are not eating enough to get a toxic dose. 3) You are damned lucky. Probably #3 if you were struck by lightening are are still walking around.