Marsilea quadrifolia: Nature’s Answer to MSG-Related Health Concerns

December 8, 2023

In the world of natural remedies, the hidden potential of plants often remains undiscovered. Among these hidden treasures is Marsilea quadrifolia (M. quadrifolia), a simple aquatic plant known as water clover or daun semanggi in Malay.

Prof. Dr. Wong Ling Shing from INTI International University’s Faculty of Health and Life Sciences (FHLS), together with a collaborative team of researchers from Malaysia, India, and Saudi Arabia, has made a groundbreaking discovery. This unassuming aquatic plant has emerged as an unexpected defender against the harmful effects of monosodium glutamate (MSG) on the brain, addressing neurological disorders.

Prof. Dr. Wong Ling Shing from the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at INTI International University conducted a collaborative research which revealed that the plant Marsilea quadrifolia, also known as water clover, can help counteract the negative effects of monosodium glutamate (MSG) on the brain, thereby improving neurological health.

Neurological disorders are diseases that affect the central and peripheral nervous systems. These conditions involve the brain, spinal cord, cranial nerves, peripheral nerves, nerve roots, autonomic nervous system, neuromuscular junction, and muscles.

According to their research, titled “Neuroprotective potential of M. quadrifolia Linn against monosodium glutamate-induced excitotoxicity in rats,” MSG, a widely used food additive, has long been linked to potential harm to the central nervous system, contributing to issues such as obesity and the so-called “Chinese restaurant syndrome.”

The study simplifies the complex scientific understanding that taste enhancers in MSG can overstimulate taste cells and brain neurons, leading to damage and destruction of neurons through glutamate receptor activation.

“It is indeed surprising what this humble aquatic plant can do. Quercetin, a compound in M. quadrifolia, is crucial to its neuroprotective effects. Quercetin demonstrated a strong ability to counteract the harmful effects of MSG. Animals treated with M. quadrifolia extract showed notable improvements in locomotor activity, memory, and learning, coupled with reduced levels of sodium and calcium in the blood,” shared Prof. Dr Wong, adding that the plant is commonly found in lakes and rivers in parts of India, China, and Southern Europe.

Regarding the extraction process of M. quadrifolia leaves, Prof. Dr Wong explained that the leaves were collected locally in the wetlands of the Yercaud foothills in Salem, Tamilnadu, India, and confirmed by botanist Dr. A. Balasubraniam of the ABS Botanical Garden, India.

It is important to note that the study’s implications extend beyond the laboratory, as Prof. Dr Wong emphasises the need for vigilant monitoring before implementing pesticides in agriculture.

“As we become more aware of the impact of additives on health, it’s crucial to monitor pesticide use to safeguard beneficial soil organisms and human health. I believe that collective efforts from the community can significantly contribute to advancing our understanding of neurological disorders. By staying informed about the impact of additives on health and supporting initiatives that promote sustainable agriculture, individuals can play a crucial role in fostering a healthier future. Undeniably, awareness and advocacy for responsible pesticide use can further safeguard the environment and human health,” he said, acknowledging his team’s contribution to this research.

His comments shed light on the study’s broader implications, indicating that the research could lead to innovative approaches to treating and preventing neurological disorders, providing hope for improved health outcomes.

“Society stands to benefit from healthier food practices, driven by a better understanding of the impact of food additives like MSG. The call for careful pesticide monitoring promotes sustainable agriculture and safeguards the environment and human health,” he said.

This study uncovers insights into the protective qualities of M. quadrifolia against MSG-induced neurotoxicity and underscores the importance of continued research and exploration in this area.

“As we grapple with the rising trend of MSG consumption, this natural remedy offers hope for the future, suggesting potential solutions for neurological disorders and contributing to the broader discourse on healthier living through nature’s pharmacy,” he concluded.