If you’ve been hearing about the goodness of avocado seeds and are just about to dismiss the claim as a recent fad, hang in there. South American folk medicine was clued in to the benefits of avocado seeds long before we caught on. In places where the avocado originated, people have been using avocado seeds for ages to treat everything from diabetes to dysentery – even snakebite. And not just for health; avocado seeds are used for beauty and cosmetic purposes too, with the seed powder used to treat dandruff and an ointment made from it used as a rouge-like cosmetic.1 Thankfully for the skeptics among us, modern science has been able to back up many of these uses. Here’s a closer look.
1. Can Fight Cancer
We haven’t found any mention of avocado seeds for cancer in folk medicine literature, but a 2013 study found that ethanol extracts of the avocado fruit and seed could induce death (apoptosis) in cells affected by leukemia or blood cancer. The researchers even suggest using avocado as an alternative treatment for leukemia.2
Another study found that a lipid called avocatin B found in avocado seed was helpful against acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a cancer of the blood and the bone marrow. Blood cells develop from stem cells in the bone marrow. Avocatin B targeted AML stem cells without targeting normal blood stem cells.3 This selective nature of the lipid is what can make it a potential cancer cure.
2. Lowers Cholesterol Levels
The avocado is a heart-healthy fruit. It has a high fat content, but the fat is primarily made of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) or good fats, which keep your cholesterol levels from rising.
The seed, however, has more effect in lowering the lipid profiles in blood and liver than the fruit pulp itself, as an animal study in the World Journal of Dairy and Food Sciences found.4
The avocado seed contains more antioxidants than the fruit’s flesh and is more effective in lowering cholesterol.
One of the helpful ingredients in it is beta-sitosterol, a plant steroid alcohol, which helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels by interfering with cholesterol absorption into the blood. The other is tocopherol, a vitamin E antioxidant, that mops up free radicals. Free radicals have a role in fat deposition in the arteries, leading to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases.5
3. Lowers Blood Pressure
Herbalists in Nigeria recommend mixing the seed powder into soups, paps, and puddings to treat hypertension or high blood pressure. And science is now being able to back this use.6
When taken in the right dose, avocado seed extract can lower blood pressure.
A study on rats with high blood pressure found that water extract of avocado seeds can reduce blood pressure by reducing the total cholesterol levels, LDLs, and the triglycerol levels, and increasing the HDLs or the “good cholesterol.”
But the helpful effect of the seed extract depends on the dose as a high concentration of antioxidants in the seed can cause hypothyroidism, which in turn increases the cholesterol levels.7
4. Has Anti-Diabetic Effects
In South American cultures, avocado seed decoction or hot-water extract is used to manage diabetes. A 2013 study concurs, adding that the hot-water extract of avocado seeds can even protect liver, pancreatic, and kidney tissues.8 But for it to be able to manage diabetes effectively, the seed extract must be taken orally for a prolonged period of time.
Avocado seed extract can lower diabetes and protect liver, pancreatic, and kidney tissues.
The anti-diabetic effect of avocado seeds is due to its calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, zinc, and chromium content.9 These elements regulate key enzymes involved in the formation of glucose and help the body use existing glucose better, thus fighting diabetes. The seed also contains other glucose-lowering antioxidants like flavonoids, saponins, steroids, tannins, and alkaloids.
5. Has Anti-Fungal And Anti-Bacterial Effects
Traditionally, avocado seed has been used in its countries of origin as a treatment for parasitic and fungal infections. Modern research attributes this to the various natural anti-fungal plant chemicals like phytosterols, triterpenes, fatty acids, furanoic acids, and flavonol dimers in it.10
Avocado seed extract can be as potent as or even more so than a standard dose of streptomycin when it comes to treating certain fungal and bacterial infections.
A study also compared the potency of avocado seed extract on disease-causing fungi and bacteria (including those that cause typhoid, gonorrhea, and pneumonia) with a standard 30 mcg dose of the antibiotic medicine streptomycin. In a few cases, depending on the medium, avocado seed extract worked better than streptomycin, thanks to these plant chemicals.11
6. Helps With Diarrhea And Bladder Problems
The Mayans used avocado seed decoction to treat bladder problems and the grated seed as a condiment in their cooking sauces.12 The decoction of the seed has been, and still is, used in folk medicine to treat dysentery and diarrhea.13 It is also anti-inflammatory for the liver. Also known to function as a diuretic, it can eliminate uric acid and treat kidney stones.
7. Helps The Skin Against Sun Damage
Avocado seed extracts have also been found to reverse or manage the skin damage and inflammation caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV rays can cause skin cancer by DNA damage. But the unique lipid molecules and polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols (PFA) in avocado stop the condition before it progresses to cancer.14
Avocado seed extract can prevent skin damage caused by UV rays.
As far back as 1989, the United States had patented an oil-based composition made from grated avocado seed, sulfur, castor oil, cod liver oil, peppermint spirit, orange water, and camphor for the treatment of dry scalp and dry skin conditions. The mixture was to be applied on the affected area for a substantial period of time and then shampooed or washed off for best results.15
In traditional medicine, the seed powder is used to cure dandruff and the seed oil is used to treat skin eruptions.16
8. Can Treat Aches And Pains
Because the seed has a local anesthetic effect, along with an ability to reduce inflammation and increase blood circulation, in folk cultures, its paste is used to reduce muscle pain and even treat arthritis. The seed or its decoction is also placed in the tooth cavity to cure toothache.17
9. May Be Useful For Contraception
Some South American cultures like the Quechua and the Siyona-Secoya also use the seed decoction as a contraceptive.18 They consider it safe to use as it does not cause permanent sterility. The decoction is made by boiling the seed in 4–5 cups of water for 15 minutes till it turns bright red. It is then had during menstruation.
With regard to using avocado seeds for menstruation, traditional usage seems tricky. While the Quechua and the Siyona-Secoya use it to stop menstruation, in some parts of Colombia, the seed tea is used to bring on menstruation.19 So hold off on using the seed for this particular effect.
Have Avocado Seeds In Limited Quantity
Having discussed the benefits, let’s now address the topic of a raging debate: should you at all have avocado seed? Isn’t it supposed to be poisonous? The California Avocado Commission claims that avocado seeds contain elements unintended for human consumption, but does not mention which elements.20 They could be possibly referring to persin, because of which avocado is toxic to certain animals. But persin is not toxic to human beings. The seeds also contain certain chemicals that can break down into cyanide, which is harmful, but the amount is too low to cause any damage.
It’s Not Toxic Unless You Overdose
A 2013 study finds that the seed can be toxic when eaten in large amounts – large being the operative word here – but doesn’t cause any genetic damage. The researchers also go on to say that they hope the seed and its extracts could be used in food, cosmetic, and pharmaceutical material.21
Another study recommends that you should have it to lower your cholesterol and gain benefits from the antioxidants which are present in higher quantities in the seed than in the fruit flesh.22
Have no more than half the seed in one day. High doses may have an abortion-inducing effect.
Let’s not dismiss eating avocado seeds as a passing fad. Modern science has been able to back up many of these folk uses through animal studies and in vitro studies using avocado seed extracts.
From anecdotal evidence, we see that the benefits are many and the risks few, which include stomach upset and allergic reaction. If you have latex allergy, do stay away from both the fruit and the seed. And to avoid stomach problems, start with a small dose of this bitter seed, say half a teaspoon. In fact, half the seed should be your maximum daily limit, anyway. High doses might also have an abortive action.
Use Avocado Seeds In Tea Or In Smoothies
- Smoothies: Dry it or dehydrate it in the microwave oven and grind it into a powder. Mix it into smoothies or use as garnish for salads.
- Avocado seed tea: Put chunks of the seed in a tea infuser and pour boiling water over it. To mask the bitter taste of the seed, add honey or other natural sweeteners.
And As Face Mask And Shampoo
- Face mask: Dry it and grind it and mix with mashed banana, avocado pulp, and olive oil to make a quick DIY face-exfoliating mask.
- Shampoo: Boil grated avocado seed in water. Let it cool. Strain it and mix it to a small portion of your regular shampoo for soft, thick hair. The saponins in it have soap-like function.
So, go on and incorporate this seed in your diet and beauty kit, but take care not to overdo it and reverse its many beneficial effects.
Your Doubts Answered
1. Are Avocado Seeds Safe To Eat?
[expert_opinion expertname=’jenniferkanaan’ opinion=”The seed of avocados is where most of the nutritional benefits are. It contains 70% of the fruit’s antioxidants that help regulate your intestinal functions along with polyphenols, the same ones that are associated with green tea. The seeds are also very high in fibers! Just keep in mind that the idea of eating the avocado seed is a recent one and there are not many experiments done on the subject of the long-term effects of eating avocado seeds.”]
2. How Often Can I Drink Avocado Seed Tea?
[expert_opinion expertname=’jenniferkanaan’ opinion=”Similar to anything, it is better to have it in moderation, even healthy foods. Eating or drinking a lot of avocado seeds can result in constipation because it is high in tannin.”]
3. Will Eating Avocado Seeds Interact With Any Medication?
[expert_opinion expertname=’jenniferkanaan’ opinion=”It is always better to double check with your doctor or holistic health practitioner before introducing a new item to your diet. Start with small quantities and monitor how you feel. If all goes well, you can start increasing quantities or have it more regularly.”]
|↑1||Morton, Julia Frances. Fruits of warm climates. JF Morton, 1987.|
|↑2||Bonilla-Porras, Angelica R., Andrea Salazar-Ospina, Marlene Jimenez-Del-Rio, Andres Pereanez-Jimenez, and Carlos Velez-Pardo. “Pro-apoptotic effect of Persea americana var. Hass (avocado) on Jurkat lymphoblastic leukemia cells.” Pharmaceutical biology 52, no. 4 (2014): 458-465.|
|↑3||Lee, Eric A., Leonard Angka, Sarah-Grace Rota, Thomas Hanlon, Andrew Mitchell, Rose Hurren, Xiao Ming Wang et al. “Targeting mitochondria with avocatin B induces selective leukemia cell death.” Cancer research 75, no. 12 (2015): 2478-2488.|
|↑4, ↑22||Shehata, M. M. S. M., and Sahar SA Soltan. “Effects of Bioactive Component of Kiwi Fruit and Avocado (Fruit and Seed) on Hypercholesterolemic Rats.” World Journal of Dairy & Food Sciences 8, no. 1 (2013): 82-93.|
|↑5, ↑7||Imafidon, K. E., and F. C. Amaechina. “Effects of aqueous seed extract of Persea americana Mill.(avocado) on blood pressure and lipid profile in hypertensive rats.” Adv Biol Res 4, no. 2 (2010): 116-121.|
|↑6||Ozolua, R., O. Anaka, S. Okpo, and S. Idogun. “Acute and sub-acute toxicological assessment of the aqueous seed extract of Persea americana Mill (Lauraceae) in rats.” African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines 6, no. 4 (2009).|
|↑8||Ezejiofor, Anthonet Ndidi, Abednego Okorie, and Orish Ebere Orisakwe. “Hypoglycaemic and tissue-protective effects of the aqueous extract of Persea americana seeds on alloxan-induced albino rats.” (2013).|
|↑9||Alhassan, A. J., M. S. Sule, M. K. Atiku, A. M. Wudil, H. Abubakar, and S. A. Mohammed. “Effects of aqueous avocado pear (Persea americana) seed extract on alloxan induced diabetes rats.” Greener Journal of Medical Sciences 2, no. 1 (2012): 5-11.|
|↑10||Leite, João Jaime Giffoni, Érika Helena Salles Brito, Rossana Aguiar Cordeiro, Raimunda Sâmia Nogueira Brilhante, José Júlio Costa Sidrim, Luciana Medeiros Bertini, Selene Maia de Morais, and Marcos Fábio Gadelha Rocha. “Chemical composition, toxicity and larvicidal and antifungal activities of Persea americana (avocado) seed extracts.” Revista da Sociedade Brasileira de Medicina Tropical 42, no. 2 (2009): 110-113.|
|↑11||Idris, S., G. Ndukwe, and C. Gimba. “Preliminary phytochemical screening and antimicrobial activity of seed extracts of Persea americana (avocado pear).” Bayero Journal of Pure and Applied Sciences 2, no. 1 (2009): 173-176.|
|↑12||Kunow, Marianna Appel. Maya Medicine: traditional healing in Yucatan. UNM Press, 2003.|
|↑13||Hatfield, Gabrielle. Encyclopedia of folk medicine: old world and new world traditions. ABC-CLIO, 2004.|
|↑14||Rosenblat, Gennady, Shai Meretski, Joseph Segal, Mark Tarshis, Avi Schroeder, Alexandra Zanin-Zhorov, Gilead Lion, Arieh Ingber, and Malka Hochberg. “Polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols derived from avocado suppress inflammatory response and provide non-sunscreen protection against UV-induced damage in skin cells.” Archives of dermatological research 303, no. 4 (2011): 239-246.|
|↑15||Ruiseco, Mario G. “Oil based scalp treatment composition.” U.S. Patent 4,849,214, issued July 18, 1989.|
|↑16||Dabas, Deepti, Rachel M Shegog, Gregory R Ziegler, and Joshua D Lambert. “Avocado (Persea americana) seed as a source of bioactive phytochemicals.” Current pharmaceutical design 19, no. 34 (2013): 6133-6140.|
|↑17||del Refugio Ramos-Jerz, María. Phytochemical analysis of avocado seeds (Persea americana Mill., cv Hass). Cuvillier Verlag, 2007.|
|↑18||Duke, James A., and Rodolfo Vasquez. Amazonian ethnobotanical dictionary. CRC press, 1994.|
|↑19||De Gezelle, Jillian. Q’eqchi’Maya Reproductive Ethnomedicine. Springer, 2014.|
|↑20||Is It Safe to Eat the Avocado Seed? Calfornia Avocado Commission.|
|↑21||Padilla-Camberos, Eduardo, Moisés Martínez-Velázquez, José Miguel Flores-Fernández, and Socorro Villanueva-Rodríguez. “Acute toxicity and genotoxic activity of avocado seed extract (Persea americana Mill., cv Hass).” The Scientific World Journal 2013 (2013).|