site logo

Lathyrus Sativus

NAT. ORD., Leguminosae.

COMMON NAMES, Wild Vetch. Chick pea.

PREPARATION.--Trituration of the dried pea.

(Dr. W. A. Dewey contributed the following paper

concerning this remedy to the Medical Century, 1899):


The Lathyrus is a vetch, and a member of the leguminosae family growing

in India.

This remedy, which produces a perfect picture of certain spinal

affections, has been known for over a century. In Christison's

Toxicology it is stated that it causes paraplegia, dragging gait,

turning-in of the toes, stiffness and semi-flexion of the knee-joints.

The attention of the homoeopathic profession was directed to the drug

as a possible remedy in paraplegia, in the British Journal of

Homoeopathy, Vol. III. Here is found an account of a wheat famine in

India, where the peas of the plant were substituted for wheat and used

as a food. Those who subsisted on it were taken, even during sleep,

with sudden paralysis of the lower limbs; this occurred without

warning, in young men more than in young women, and was never recovered

from. Another observer records fifty cases who had eaten the Lathyrus

bread and all stated that they became paralytic during the wet season of

the country, that they went to bed quite well and awoke with stiff legs,

unsteady gait, and aching, but no severe pain. The upper extremities

were free.

Another who saw the disease in Algeria and described the symptoms found

in ten cases observed that they came on suddenly, in damp weather, with

some pains in the loins, trembling, motor paralysis and exaggerated

reflexes. He attributed these phenomena to an acute transverse myelitis

with degenerative changes in the cord.

A German writer states that the drug produces disturbances of nutrition

of the muscles of the lower extremities, paresis, and that the muscles

of the trunk and neck and face remain unaffected. Sensation remains

normal. It seems to produce a sclerosis of the pyramidal tracts of the


In animals the same condition is found; namely, paralysis of the hind

legs. Pigs drag their hind legs and horses give out.


From all the sources which I have been able to find, the following seem

to be the symptoms caused by the drug:

Sudden loss of power in the lower extremities, from the waist down.

Tremulous, tottering gait.

Great exaggeration of the reflexes.

Stiffness and lameness of the ankles and knees.

Excessive rigidity of the legs; flexion difficult; spastic gait, the

legs becoming interlocked, and walking is difficult or impossible.

Sudden onset of the trouble, and apparent aggravation in cold and damp


Emaciation of the gluteal muscles also observed.

Those having taken it walked on the metatarso-phalangeal articulation,

the heel not touching the ground.

Impossible to stand steady; swayed from side to side, but closing the

eyes had no effect. This with the exaggerated reflexes would exclude its

use in locomotor ataxia.

Debility and tremors of the legs.

Rigidity of the adductors of the thighs.

Staggering gait, with eyes fixed on the floor.

Could not extend or cross the legs when sitting.

Sensibility unimpaired.


From these symptoms it will be seen that the effects of the drug

correspond to many spinal symptoms, but more especially to what is known

as spastic paraplegia. Indeed, Struempel asserts that it produces a

perfect picture of this disease.

It is not so often that such a perfect picture of a disease can be had

as in this instance. The disease itself is easily recognized by the

stiff, spastic gait; the spasm of the adductors, causing the knees to

strike each other, or to become locked, causing the patient to fall; the

shuffling of the feet; the excessive muscular rigidity and the other

well-known symptoms of paraplegia.

Therefore, reasoning from our law we would expect the drug to be of

service in such cases, and although our pathogenesis of it is coarse we

may be permitted to apply it to a disease whose symptomatology is of the

coarse order; for it is often difficult to elicit any fine and

characteristic symptoms in diseases like ataxic and spastic paraplegia.

It has been recognized as a remedy by but few of our writers on nervous

diseases. O'Connor finds that marked benefit follows its use in old

cases of myelitis with marked spastic symptoms. Bartlett, in Goodno's

Practice, recommends it in excessive knee-jerk and rigidity. Hart

speaks of it as a remedy in locomotor ataxia, but the absence of sensory

symptoms and the presence of exaggerated reflexes would seem to

contra-indicate it in this disease. He also speaks of it in spinal

anemia, giving as symptoms: "Numbness, followed by pain in the lower

extremities; sensation of a band around the body; unable to step or

distinguish one limb from another"--symptoms which I am unable to find

that the remedy produced. Elliott also speaks of it.


The clinical record of Lathyrus, though very meagre, gives great hope

that it may prove useful in numerous cases of bed-ridden paraplegiacs

and in infantile spinal paralysis, as well as in certain forms of


The following is a resume of all that I can find published:

I. Case of spinal paraplegia, relieved.

II. A case of multiple sclerosis in a young man of twenty-eight who had

been ill seven years and unable to walk for six years was greatly

benefited by Lathyrus [Latin: ezh]x.

III. Case of paraplegia, could walk after taking the remedy for some


IV. Case of paraplegia, no improvement.

V. Rheumatic paralysis, with stiff knees, could walk after use of

Lathyrus. (Clark Homoeopathic World.)

VI. In a case of a clerk with loss of power of the lower limbs, reflexes

exaggerated, knee-jerk violent, locomotion difficult and unsteady,

probably a case of transverse myelitis, Lathyrus [Latin: ezh]x, night

and morning, gave most satisfactory results. The patient could walk a

mile without assistance. (Simpson, Homoeopathic Review.)

VII. In a man aged fifty-two who had been unable to walk for six years,

the paraplegia coming on after a "stroke" from exposure to wet,

Lathyrus [Latin: ezh]x practically cured in eight months. He had been

tied to a chair for six, and at the time he stopped treatment he was

walking four miles daily. (Blake, Homoeopathic Review.)

From the fact that the Lathyrus disease occurs frequently in certain

mountainous regions of Asia it has been remarked that it is akin to

Beri-Beri, which has been traced to eating the Lathyrus bread.