Toxic Plant for Humans that Causes Paralysis – Indian Pea and Neurolathyrism

There are several toxic plants for humans that may result in temporary or permanent paralysis. Some of these may also lead to death if a person ingests too much of them. The problem is, some of these flora are not harmful in small amounts. However if someone eats a large quantity of a particular plant in one sitting or over several days or weeks, they can get sick.

Indian pea- via Wikimedia

Indian pea- via Wikimedia

Indian pea is one of the popular plants that can lead to paralysis if you eat too much of it. This is actually used for food in times of famine. People rely on it as a food when there is really nothing else to eat. It is a grain legume, so the seeds are full of protein. If you don’t know this plant as the Indian pea, you may know it as the Rosary pea.

The seeds contain a neurotoxic amino acid known as ODAP. If ODAP is ingested over long periods, it causes wasting, severe muscle rigidity and paralysis. This plant doesn’t cause itching or give any other immediate sign that it might be harmful to health. Always remember, this is not a food that you should eat daily or for a long period of time. People who eat it consistently develop a condition known as Neurolathyrism.

Neurolathyrism usually occurs after widespread famine. People eat too much of the Indian pea in an attempt to get the protein that their bodies need but end up taking in too much ODAP. That leads to paralysis in the lower body and the wasting away of muscles in the buttocks.

Source: Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov , “Studies on Neurolathyrism”, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8472656

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