Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Bull. Soc. Bot. France 55, Mém. 8: 83 (1908).
Origin and geographic distribution
Jatropha chevalieri occurs in Mauritania, Senegal, Mali and Niger.
In Senegal the leaves and latex are considered haemostatic, and are applied directly on wounds to stop bleeding. The latex is also locally applied to mumps. The root extract is taken for treating complications of syphilis and leprosy. In Niger the oil from the grilled seeds is applied to boils and abscesses. Powdered seed mixed with lizard fat, is massaged onto the skin to treat spleen pain. The leaves are used to apply henna to the skin.
The latex of Jatropha chevalieri contains the cyclic oligopeptides chevalierin A, B, and C. Chevalierin A showed weak activity against Plasmodium falciparum. Jatropha chevalieri is toxic to herbivores.
Deciduous, somewhat succulent, monoecious shrub up to 1 m tall; branches longitudinally striate, glabrous. Leaves alternate; stipules divided into filiform segments; petiole 3–7 cm long, glabrous; blade broadly ovate in outline, 5-lobed to the middle, 6–12 cm long, base deeply cordate, lobes ovate, sharply sinuately 5–8-toothed, papery, glabrous. Inflorescence a terminal corymb, with a solitary female flower terminating each major axis and male flowers in lateral cymules; peduncle up to 3 cm long, glabrous; bracts lanceolate, apex acuminate, with gland-tipped teeth. Flowers unisexual, regular, 5-merous; pedicel short; sepals fused at base, 2–3 mm long; petals slightly longer than the sepals, apex rounded, greenish yellow; disk fleshy; male flowers with 8 stamens, filaments partially fused; female flowers with superior ovary, 3-celled, styles 3, fused at base, stigma 2-lobed. Fruit a somewhat fleshy to dry capsule, broadly ellipsoid, up to 1.5 cm long, shallowly 3-lobed, dehiscent into 2-valved cocci, usually 3-seeded. Seeds oblong-ellipsoid, up to 1 cm long, smooth, caruncle large, 5–6-partite.
Jatropha comprises about 170 species, mainly in warm temperate regions and seasonally dry tropics. Africa counts 70 native species and Madagascar has 1 endemic. Another West African species with medicinal uses is Jatropha kamerunica Pax & K.Hoffm. from Senegal, Mali and Cameroon. In Senegal the seeds are taken as a strong purgative.
Jatropha chevalieri occurs mainly on sandy soils, e.g. sand dunes. In the dry zone of Mauritania it occurs in wadis, in the Sahel zone in savanna and shrub vegetation.
Genetic resources and breeding
Jatropha chevalieri is not very common, but is probably not in danger of genetic erosion.
Jatropha chevalieri has not been subjected to extensive chemical or pharmacological research, despite its interesting local uses. The latex contains cyclic peptides, compounds which show a large spectrum of biological activity and are sought after as promising lead compounds for drug discovery.
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Correct citation of this article:
Schmelzer, G.H., 2007. Jatropha chevalieri Beille. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.