• Decrease font size
  • Return font size to normal
  • Increase font size
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

FDA Poisonous Plant Database

  • Print
  • Share
  • E-mail
AUTHOR(S): Gilks, C. F.
TITLE: Cycads and sago.
YEAR: 1988 CITATION: Lancet, 1(), 181-182 [English]
FDA #: F05581
ABSTRACT: Professor Spencer and his colleagues suggest exposure to the neurotoxic seeds of certain cycads, false sago palms, as an important aetiological factor in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and parkinsonism dementia in the Mariana Islands and Western New Guinea (Nov 28, p 1273 74) and in a possible third focus in the Kii Peninsula, Honshu Island, Japan (Dec 19, p 1462-63. The probable identification of this toxin as ? N methylamino L alanine and the development of a primate model may have important implications in neuroscience research. It would seem appropriate to ban or strongly discourage the use of cycad products, especially the seeds, as foods or traditional medicines, and to look for similar exposure to cycad products in patients with motoneurone disease in other regions in the tropics. However, readers may be confused to be told that cycads have been used as food, as "types of sago and arrowroot". Sago is usually prepared from the starchy pith of the trunk of the sago palm Metroxylon sagu just before flowering, and it is still the food staple of several groups of people, especially in the Fly and Sepik river areas of Papua New Guinea. It is the only common staple prepared from a tree, in a very labour intensive process, and is poorly nutritious. When alternatives such as rice or sweet potato are available it is readily abandoned. It is commercially grown in Malaysia, where it is usually produced for human consumption as pearl sago from which a delicious milk pudding can be prepared. Sago from the pith of the cycad palm (Japanese sage) is not now commercially produced. Arrowroot, traditionally used to poultice arrow wounds, is usually prepared from the rhizome of the West Indian arrowroot herb (Maranta arundinacea). It is these days used for cooking, especially in sauces, and most of it comes from the Caribbean. The usual sources of sago and arrowroot should be appreciated before people with motoneurone disease are closely questioned about annual consumption of sago pudding or the use of arrowroot, and before these products are banned from the kitchen or dining table.
GRIN #: 12723 Exit Disclaimer
COMMON NAME: Japanese sago
STANDARD PLANT NAMECycas circinalis L.
GRIN #: 23393 Exit Disclaimer
LATIN NAMEMaranta arundinacea
STANDARD PLANT NAMEMaranta arundinacea L.
GRIN #: 103025 Exit Disclaimer
LATIN NAMEMetroxylon sago
STANDARD PLANT NAMEMetroxylon sagu Rottb.