oa South African Medical Journal - Poisoning with the seeds of Argemone Mexicana (Mexican poppy) in human beings : Indian epidemic dropsy in South Africa

Volume 24, Issue 18
  • ISSN : 0256-9574
  • E-ISSN: 2078-5135



A review of the history, symptoms, post mortem appearances, and histology of epidemic dropsy in India is given. Investigations made by Indian workers in order to ascertain the cause, or causes, of epidemic dropsy have also been discussed. From the results of their investigations it appears reasonable to accept that mustard oil, wilfully or accidentally, adulterated with argemone oil is the cause of epidemic dropsy. Our investigations into a fatal disease which occurred in the Carnarvon district and which resembled Indian epidemic dropsy in all its aspects, fully support the conclusions of the Indian investigators, namely, that epidemic dropsy is caused by the eating of food contaminated with the seed, or oil, of Argemone Mexicana. Methods of treatment and prevention of epidemic dropsy are descriptionbed. As this dangerous plant is such a very common weed on cultivated lands on which crops for human and animal consumption are grown, it is urged that immediate steps be taken to enforce its eradication.

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