Conkers can be found in spikey green casings which when are split open reveal the shiny and distinctive seed inside. These grow from horse chestnut trees and should not be confused with sweet chestnut trees. They may look similar on the tree but the seeds inside are very different and if you mistake a conker for a sweet chestnut you could end up feeling very sick which is why you should not eat conkers.
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Dangers of Eating Conkers
Conkers look fairly harmless so it’s understandable to wonder whether or not you can eat them but they are poisonous to humans and many animals. You shouldn’t allow your pets to eat them and even animals like hedgehogs can get fatally sick from accidentally eating conkers.
The poison that causes most of the problem is Aescin. This poison if eaten in high enough doses can cause paralysis or even death. This is the biggest problem with consuming conkers, you don’t know precisely how much of this toxin you are consuming.
A side note to this is that conkers are also very bitter in flavour so it is unlikely you would want to eat them, even if you could.
What makes this issue slightly confusing is that many health stores sell supplements that contain small amounts of this compound. However, we would not recommend that you try and eat conkers or horse chestnuts in order to consume any of this poison because the type and dose amount is considered highly carefully in natural supplements.
Side Effects from Eating Conkers
If you have accidentally eaten a conker then the first thing you might feel, after getting over the bitter and difficult to eat taste, is abdominal pain. Your stomach is not going to find it easy to attempt to digest conkers and you will notice stomach pain and as the conker moves through your system this can spread throughout your abdomen.
This may feel like an ache or like the cramping style of abdominal pain you might get if you are suffering from diarrhoea or food poisoning.
Another side effect that might occur is vomiting or any of the symptoms you would usually expect from food poisonings. These can be a general feeling of being unwell, fever, chills, diarrhoea and headaches. You may get some, none or all of these depending on how much you consume and how it reacts in your body.
If you only eat a small amount of the poison in conkers then you would expect milder symptoms.
If your dog, cat or other wildlife has eaten conkers then you might notice the same type of symptoms. So if you suspect your pet has eaten conkers on a walk or while outside then keep a careful eye on them for signs of distress.
What to Do If You Eat Daffodils
It’s unlikely you will have managed to eat enough of this bitter seed to cause too much of a problem but if you have consumed any amount or you are worried a child has, then you should seek medical advice if you are concerned. Keep a careful watch for symptoms and drink plenty of water to help your body stay hydrated while it works to get rid of the toxins in your body.
Luckily our bodies are pretty good at dealing with mild stomach upsets and with plenty of rest and water, you may be fine, as long as your symptoms are not too bad.
Watch out for symptoms and if you are worried your vomiting and symptoms are life-threatening you should seek urgent emergency health care immediately. If in doubt always consult your doctor or ring NHS direct on 111 in England and 101 in Wales to ask for advice on what you should do next.
You will be offered advice and where necessary help to deal with your problem.
If your pet has consumed conkers then you should follow the same advice. Keep an eye on them for any signs of pain or distress, ensure they have access to plenty of water and contact your vet for further advice, especially if your pet is in a lot of pain or has been suffering from severe side effects.
Dogs and cats can dehydrate easily and may need some medical care and the earlier you seek help from a vet the better the chances for your pet.
Other Questions about Eating Conkers
Below are some other questions people often ask when it comes to eating conkers. If you do find yourself with further questions, however, then please do ask in the comments area at the bottom of this page:
Can You Eat Horse Chestnuts?
Horse chestnuts, although chestnut in name, are not chestnuts you would want to eat and are in fact another name for conkers. The rules outlined on this page will also apply to horse chestnuts.
Can You Eat Conkers Roasted?
Whether they’re roasted or raw, conkers should not be eaten. They can be dangerous to eat and are not pleasant tasting either.