Why You Should Never Eat Lychee Seeds

Ripe with a sweet punch and musky aroma, Lychee is a small tropical fruit native to Southeast Asia. The delicate drupe arrived in the United States circa 1916 and has since become a treasured exotic fruit (per Britannica). According to a press release from Technavio, the global lychee market is expected to increase by $1.52 billion by 2026. Based on market trends, 30% of its growth will come from North America. The low-calorie fruit is high in vitamin C, copper, and potassium and may help prevent heart disease, cancer, and diabetes (per Healthline).

Lychee can be baked into pastries, refined into syrups, or more popularly, used in martinis. While the little fruit is tasty and packed with nutritional value, lychee seeds are actually poisonous due to their toxic compounds and should be avoided at all costs (per LIVESTRONG.com). Britannica states that eating the fruit's seeds is linked to a deadly medical condition called hypoglycemic encephalopathy, which drops a person's blood sugar to fatally low levels.

Unripe Lychee fruit is also toxic

It's not just lychee seeds that are poisonous — the toxins are also present in unripe lychee fruit and the risk of a hypoglycemic encephalopathy diagnosis is particularly high when lychee is consumed on an empty stomach (per Britannica). According to BBC, for over 20 years, more than 100 children in Bihar, India died annually from lychee poisoning. Their symptoms included convulsions, loss of consciousness, and acute swelling of the brain. It took doctors and scientific researchers years to link the deaths to unripe lychee consumption.

According to SFGATE, a ripe lychee fruit is marked by red flesh and a sweet juicy flavor while unripe lychee is small, green, and hard. Once lychee is harvested, it does not continue to ripen like many other drupes do, such as avocados and apricots. If you pick an unripe drupe from a lychee tree and set it out to ripen for later enjoyment — don't hold your breath and definitely don't consume it.

If you want to enjoy the health benefits and delectable flavor of the lychee fruit — always ensure that it is consumed ripened and the seeds are removed entirely.