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Lathyrus. Lathyrus sativus. White Vetch, Chickling Vetch.

Botanical name:

Lathyrus. Lathyrus sativus L. (Fam. Leguminosae.) Jarosse, Gesse, Kasari (Ind.).—The White or Chickling Vetch, the seed of which is used in Europe as a food both by man and animals, under the name of "mutters," produces, when taken too freely, a condition known as lathyrismus. Horses which have been fed on the plant for a considerable period drop while performing the lightest work, in consequence of paralysis of the hind extremities, and in many cases death has followed from bilateral paralysis of the recurrent laryngeal nerves and consequent asphyxia. This laryngeal affection does not occur in the human subject, and death very rarely takes place. In man the muscles of the lower extremities below the knee are apt to be especially affected, the abductors more than the abductors. The muscles of the face, neck, and upper extremities are very rarely, if ever, attacked. The reflexes and the general sensibility are usually not influenced; but Giorgieri has seen the tendon reflexes increased. According to Cantani, the galvanic contractility of the paralyzed muscle is altered, and the transverse markings of the muscles are nearly obliterated by fat globules. In fatal cases the spinal cord has been found normal. Astier obtained from the seeds a poisonous alkaline volatile liquid. According to him, this, being volatile, is not present in preparations such as pressed cakes made at a high temperature, which are consequently not poisonous. If, however, such cakes have been prepared at low temperature, they exhibit toxic properties, owing to the retention of the toxic principle. This is in conformity with the experience of the peasants in some parts of Europe, who mix the ground white vetch seeds with wheat flour, and boil the mixture for food. E. M. Holmes states that these seeds should not be used in foods in any proportions, as they are poisonous. (P. J., 1913, 795.)


The Dispensatory of the United States of America, 1918, was edited by Joseph P. Remington, Horatio C. Wood and others.



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