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Scientific Name(s): Lathyrus cicero., Lathyrus odoratus., Lathyrus sativus.
Common Name(s): Caley pea, Chickling vetch, Everlasting pea, Flat-podded vetch, Grass pea, Red pea, Singletary pea, Spanish vetchling, Sweet pea, White pea, Wild pea
Medically reviewed by Holevn.org. Last updated on May 22, 2019.
Despite its known toxicity, Lathryus has been cultivated for animal and human consumption. The development of low-toxin subspecies has renewed interest in the legume as a source of animal feed protein. No animal or clinical data are available regarding the use of Lathyrus for any clinical condition. Limited in vitro studies have explored the antioxidant and antifungal properties of isolated chemical constituents of Lathyrus.
Clinical evidence is lacking to support specific dosage recommendations for Lathryus.
Contraindications have not been identified; however, use is not recommended.
Avoid use. Adverse effects have been reported.
None well documented.
Information regarding adverse reactions with the use of Lathyrus is limited.
Some species are neurotoxic.
- Fabaceae (pea)
- Leguminosae (bean)
Lathyrus is a widespread genus, with more than 160 species growing worldwide (both annual and perennial) and approximately 60 species identified in the United States. The genus includes the popular garden plant L. odoratus (sweet pea), grown for its scent and wide array of colors.1, 2 The legume L. sativus (grass or white pea) is cultivated for animal and human consumption, especially by subsistence farmers in areas of low rainfall.3 The vine grows up to 1 m in length, has an extensive root system, and bears seeds (ie, the peas) that are eaten or dried and used as a powder/flour.2 The edible chickpea (Cicer arietinum) is not a member of the Lathyrus genus, nor is the garden pea (Pisum spp.).1
Data from fossils indicate that Lathyrus has been cultivated since the Neolithic Age (approximately 10,200 BC to between 4,500 and 2,000 BC). The toxic effects of Lathyrus were described as early as 370 BC by Hippocrates. History records episodes of neurolathyrism, a neurological disease of humans and domestic animals caused by eating certain legumes of the genus Lathyrus, particularly during droughts or wars when consumption of the hardy pea increased.2, 4, 5 The plant is native to the Mediterranean region and has been cultivated in North America since the 1700s.2, 6
The development of low-toxin subspecies has renewed interest in the legume as a source of animal feed protein.3
L. sativus pea consists primarily of protein high in lysine but deficient in methionine, cysteine, and tryptophan; the plant is also low in polyunsaturated fatty acids and has a high starch content.3, 7 A variety of compounds with potential neurotoxic effects have been identified; see Toxicology.
Histaminase, which has antioxidant properties, has been identified in L. sativus,8 and a polygalacturonase-inhibiting protein has also been described.9 Flavonoids and triterpenoid saponins have been investigated in the L. sativus pea.7, 10 Other compounds isolated from seeds of Lathyrus spp. include lectins, tannins, phytates, divicine, amylase inhibitors, and oligosaccharides.3, 11
Uses and Pharmacology
No animal or clinical data are available regarding the use of Lathyrus for any clinical condition.
Limited in vitro studies have explored the antioxidant7, 8, 12, 13 and antifungal9, 10 properties of isolated chemical constituents of Lathyrus.
Clinical evidence is lacking to support specific dosage recommendations for Lathryus.
Pregnancy / Lactation
Avoid use. Adverse effects have been reported; see Toxicology.2, 14
None well documented. Studies in guinea pigs suggest that the toxic effects of Lathyrus spp. may be potentiated by vitamin C deficiency15 and by coadministration of manganese.16, 17, 18
Information is limited. Rhinitis and asthma related to occupational exposure to L. sativus flour have been reported.19
The seeds and foliage of Lathyrus contain toxic chemicals, primarily the beta isomer of 3-N-oxalyl-L-2,3-diaminopropanoic acid (ODAP), but also alpha-amino-gamma-(isoxazolin-5-on-2-yl)-butyric acid and beta-aminopropionitrile.2 Animal studies indicate that the alpha isomer of ODAP is relatively nontoxic, and that the water-soluble beta isomer can be converted to the less toxic alpha isomer by boiling in water and draining.2, 20 Methods of cultivation suggest that concentrations of the toxic beta ODAP are affected by growth conditions, varying from 0.1% to 2.5%.21, 22
Lathyrism is a neurologic disorder (neurolathyrism) caused by chronic Lathyrus intoxication rather than acute toxicity; its effects can be reversed in the early stages by cessation of seed consumption.2, 18 Symptoms include spasticity of the lower extremities and an ataxic gait resulting from increased leg muscle tone with muscle weakness. Other symptoms may include GI distress, urinary frequency, and sexual dysfunction.2 The condition is less common in well-nourished adults and postmenopausal women.2, 18, 20 Studies in rodents and other animals suggest that some species (such as guinea pigs) are more susceptible to these toxic effects.18, 23 The mechanism of action continues to be investigated; current evidence suggests that CNS changes due to neurolathyrism include subarachnoid, pial, and subpial hemorrhage as well as demyelination in the cerebellum.18, 24
Osteolathyrism in humans, evidenced by skeletal deformities and aortic rupture, may be a manifestation of the sequelae of chronic neurolathyrism.2
- L. odoratus
- L. sativus
- Grass Pea
- Sweet Pea
- White Pea
1. Lathyrus L. [pea]. USDA, NRCS. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov/, 2016). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA. Accessed December 18, 2015.2. Barceloux DG. Grass pea and neurolathyrism (Lathyrus sativus L.). Dis Mon. 2009;55(6):365-372.194466803. Yan ZY, Spencer PS, Li ZX, et al. Lathyrus sativus (grass pea) and its neurotoxin ODAP. Phytochemistry. 2006;67(2):107-121.163323804. Fikre A, Van Moorhem M, Ahmed S, Lambein F, Gheysen G. Studies on neurolathyrism in Ethiopia: dietary habits, perception of risks and prevention. Food Chem Toxicol. 2011;49(3):678-684.209506655. Mishra VN, Tripathi CB, Kumar A, et al. Lathyrism: has the scenario changed in 2013? Neurol Res. 2014;36(1):38-40.240701696. Mikić A, Mihailović V, Ćupina B, et al. Towards the re-introduction of grass pea (Lathyrus sativus) in the West Balkan Countries: the case of Serbia and Srpska (Bosnia and Herzegovina). Food Chem Toxicol. 2011;49(3):650-654.206961977. Sarmento A, Barros L, Fernandes Â, Carvalho AM, Ferreira IC. Valorization of traditional foods: nutritional and bioactive properties of Cicer arietinum L. and Lathyrus sativus L. pulses. J Sci Food Agric. 2015;95(1):179-185.247524128. Alirezaei M, Delfan B, Dezfoulian O, et al. The plant histaminase: a promising enzyme with antioxidant properties versus histamine release in isoprenaline-induced myocardial infarction in rats. J Physiol Biochem. 2014;70(3):837-847.252044629. Tamburino R, Chambery A, Parente A, Di Maro A. A novel polygalacturonase-inhibiting protein (PGIP) from Lathyrus sativus L. seeds. Protein Pept Lett. 2012;19(8):820-825.2276218410. Khan NA. Two antifungal active triterpenoid saponins from the seeds of Lathyrus plants. Nat Prod Res. 2011;25(18):1687-1694.2189948211. Hanbury CD, White CL, Mullan BP, Siddique KH. A review of the potential of Lathyrus sativus L. and L. cicera L. grain for use as animal feed. Anim Feed Sci Technol. 2000;87(1-2):1-27.12. Singh SS, Rao SL. Lessons from neurolathyrism: a disease of the past & the future of Lathyrus sativus (Khesari dal). Indian J Med Res. 2013;138(1):32-37.2405655413. Polatoğlu K, Arsal S, Demirci B, Başer KH. DPPH scavenging, PRAP activities and essential oil composition of edible Lathyrus ochrus L. (Cyprus Vetch, Luvana) from Cyprus. J Oleo Sci. 2015;64(3):309-314.2575743514. Wagstaff DJ. International Poisonous Plants Checklist: An Evidence-Based Reference. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2008.15. Amba A, Kumar M, Upreti RK, Khanna SK, Das M. Effect of dietary administration of Lathyrus sativus pulse on intestinal biochemical parameters in normal and scorbutic guinea pigs. Biomed Environ Sci. 2002;15(4):315-322.1264298816. Kumar M, Kannan A, Upreti RK, Mishra G, Khanna SK, Das M. Toxic Interaction of Lathyrus sativus and manganese in guinea pig intestine. Toxicol Mech Methods. 2003;13(4):295-300.2002115417. Mishra G, Shukla R, Hasan M, Khanna SK, Das M. Potentiation of neurotoxicity of Lathyrus sativus by manganese: alterations in blood-brain barrier permeability. Toxicol Mech Methods. 2009;19(4):318-326.1977822318. Enneking D. The nutritive value of grasspea (Lathyrus sativus) and allied species, their toxicity to animals and the role of malnutrition in neurolathyrism. Food Chem Toxicol. 2011;49(3):694-709.2111236419. Antón Gironés M, de la Hoz Caballer B, Muñoz Martín T, Cuevas Agustín M, Sánchez-Cano M. Occupational rhinoconjunctivitis and asthma by exposure to Lathyrus sativus flour. Allergol Immunopathol (Madr). 2005;33(6):326-328.1637122020. Onar AN, Erdoğan BY, Ayan I, Acar Z. Homoarginine, β-ODAP, and asparagine contents of grass pea landraces cultivated in Turkey. Food Chem. 2014;143:277-281.2405424021. Fikre A, Negwo T, Kuo YH, Lambein F, Ahmed S. Climatic, edaphic and altitudinal factors affecting yield and toxicity of Lathyrus sativus grown at five locations in Ethiopia. Food Chem Toxicol. 2011;49(3):623-630.2065597522. Woldeamanuel YW, Hassan A, Zenebe G. Neurolathyrism: two Ethiopian case reports and review of the literature. J Neurol. 2012;259(7):1263-1268.2208110123. Amba A, Seth K, Ali M, et al. Comparative effect of dietary administration of Lathyrus sativus pulse on behaviour, neurotransmitter receptors and membrane permeability in rats and guinea pigs. J Appl Toxicol. 2002;22(6):415-421.1242474524. Khandare AL, Babu JJ, Ankulu M, Aparna N, Shirfule A, Rao GS. Grass pea consumption & present scenario of neurolathyrism in Maharashtra State of India. Indian J Med Res. 2014;140(1):96-101.25222783
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