Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Candollea 5: 381 (1934).
Origin and geographic distribution
Jatropha dichtar occurs in eastern Ethiopia, Somalia and northern Kenya.
In northern Somalia and in Kenya the sap of the aerial parts is used as eye drops to treat eye infections. A root decoction is taken to treat abdominal pain. The peeled root is crushed and soaked in cold water, and the bitter infusion is taken as an emetic and laxative. The root can also be chewed and swallowed for these purposes.
Neither chemical analysis nor phytopharmacological screening has been done on Jatropha dichtar.
Much-branched monoecious shrub up to 3 m tall, with stiffly erect branches arising from near ground-level; bark dark purplish brown, peeling; short shoots densely shortly hairy; sap watery, turning reddish and drying black. Leaves alternate, 2–3 at the apex of short shoots; stipules forming strong, straight spines (0.5–)1–5 cm long, sharply pointed, purplish brown or black; petiole 0.5–2 cm long; blade broadly ovate to almost round in outline, shallowly 3–5-lobed, 1.5–5.5 cm × 1.5–6 cm, base narrowly cordate, lobes rounded, apex obtuse, almost entire or indistinctly toothed, densely shortly hairy, greyish yellow-green. Inflorescence a dense axillary cyme up to 6.5 cm long, with a solitary female flower terminating each major axis and male flowers in lateral cymules; peduncle short, densely shortly hairy; bracts ovate-lanceolate to linear-lanceolate, 3–9 mm long, densely shortly hairy. Flowers unisexual, regular, 5-merous, cream-coloured; pedicel short; calyx lobes linear-lanceolate, densely hairy outside; petals oblanceolate, 14–19 mm × 5–7 mm, rounded, clawed, reflexed; disk glands 5, free; male flowers with calyx lobes 4–5(–8) mm long, petals fused at base, disk glands cylindrical, stamens 10 with filaments fused except at apex; female flowers with calyx lobes 1–1.5 cm long, petals free, disk glands ovoid, ovary superior, almost globose, 3-celled, styles 3, c. 1 cm long, fused at base, stigma 2-lobed. Fruit a 3-lobed ovoid capsule 1.5–2.5 cm × 2–3 cm, each lobe with a thick apical ridge, densely shortly hairy, green, tinged orange-pink at apex, dehiscent into 2-valved cocci, usually 3-seeded. Seeds ovoid, c. 1.5 cm × 1 cm, dark brown mottled, somewhat shiny, caruncle covering the apex, fringed.
Jatropha comprises about 170 species, mainly in warm temperate regions and seasonally dry tropics. Africa counts 70 native species and Madagascar has 1 endemic. Several other Jatropha species occur in the same region as Jatropha dichtar and have medicinal uses. In Kenya the latex from Jatropha ellenbeckii Pax is applied to wounds to improve healing. In Somalia and Ethiopia pieces of root of Jatropha rivae Pax are eaten as a strong purgative. In Kenya an infusion of the roots of Jatropha parvifolia Chiov. is taken as an emetic and to treat fever. The plant is burnt inside the home as the bad smell keeps flies and mosquitoes away. Its twigs are used as a layer under the sleeping mat. In Somalia the fresh roots of Jatropha nogalensis Chiov. are chewed to treat snakebites, and the juice is also externally applied to the wound. The roots of Jatropha spicata Pax, from East and southern Africa are cooked in Somalia with chicken and the soup is eaten to treat gonorrhoea. The ground root mixed with water is taken as a strong purgative. In Kenya, the Boran people take a leaf or stem infusion as a laxative. The ethanol extract of the roots showed antibacterial activity in vitro.
Jatropha dichtar occurs among lava rocks, and is locally common in open bushland on red sandy soils, at 200–900 m altitude.
Genetic resources and breeding
Jatropha dichtar is relatively common in its distribution area and not threatened by genetic erosion.
Unless pharmacological and chemical analyses prove otherwise, Jatropha dichtar will remain of local importance only.
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Correct citation of this article:
Schmelzer, G.H., 2007. Jatropha dichtar J.F.Macbr. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.