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Jatropha glauca Vahl

Symb. bot. 1: 78 (1790).
Chromosome number
2n = 22
Jatropha lobata (Forrsk.) Müll.Arg. (1866).
Origin and geographic distribution
Jatropha glauca occurs in Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia, and extends to Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
In Ethiopia the whole plant including the root is mashed in water and the liquid is taken to treat constipation and used as ear drops to treat earache. The sap is taken as an astringent.
Methanol and chloroform extracts of fresh or dry leaves showed significant molluscicidal activity against the snail vector of schistosomiasis, Biomphalaria pfeifferi. The chloroform extract of the dry leaves showed the highest activity (LD50 10–100 ppm). Cold water extracts of the dry leaves also showed molluscicidal activity.
Small monoecious shrub up to 1 m tall with smooth, pale branches; stems and leaves glabrous to shortly hairy. Leaves alternate; stipules with 4–6 linear, gland-tipped lobes 1(–20) mm long; petiole 1–7 cm long; blade rounded in outline, deeply 3–5-lobed, base cuneate to truncate, middle lobe oblanceolate, 3.5–8 cm × 1.5–4 cm, the lateral lobes smaller, margins coarsely and irregularly toothed. Inflorescence a dense leaf-opposed cyme 2–11 cm long, with a solitary female flower terminating each major axis and male flowers in lateral cymules; peduncle up to 6.5 cm long. Flowers unisexual, regular, 5-merous, pale red; pedicel short; male flowers with c. 1.5 mm long calyx lobes, petals fused at base, obovate, c. 4 mm long, stamens 8; female flowers with 3–5 mm long calyx lobes, with stalked glands at margins, petals fused at base, oblong, c. 4 mm long, soon falling, ovary superior, almost globose, 3-celled, styles 3, 1.5 mm long, fused at base, 1.5 mm long, stigma 2-lobed. Fruit an almost globose capsule, c. 1 cm in diameter, glabrous, dehiscent into 2-valved cocci, usually 3-seeded. Seeds oblong, 8 mm × 4.5 mm, pale grey, caruncle deeply 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 glauca and have medicinal uses. In Sudan the root and stem extract of Jatropha aethiopica Müll.Arg. is taken to treat epilepsy and rabies. In Ethiopia the sap of the petiole of Jatropha pelargoniifolia Courbai is applied to ulcers. In Sudan an infusion of the roots and stem of Jatropha aceroides (Pax & K.Hoffm.) Hutch. is taken as a molluscicide. The methanol and chloroform extract of the root, stem and seeds showed significant antibacterial activity against Bacillus subtilis and Staphylococcus aureus, and the stem and root extract also against Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The plant is poisonous to livestock.
Jatropha glauca occurs in open bush land, extending to semi-desert conditions, on lava and limestone, from sea-level up to 1000 m altitude.
Genetic resources and breeding
Jatropha glauca is relatively common in its distribution area and is not browsed by livestock. It is therefore not likely to be threatened by genetic erosion.
Jatropha glauca shows interesting molluscicidal activities, and it would be worthwhile investigating the species chemically and pharmacologically in order to evaluate its possibilities.
Major references
• Al Zanbagi, N.A., Banaja, A.E.A. & Barrett, J., 2000. Molluscicidal activity of some Saudi Arabian Euphorbiales against the snail Biomphalaria pfeifferi. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 70(2): 119–125.
• Gilbert, M.G., 1995. Euphorbiaceae. In: Edwards, S., Mesfin Tadesse & Hedberg, I. (Editors). Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Volume 2, part 2. Canellaceae to Euphorbiaceae. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Department of Systematic Botany, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden. pp. 265–380.
• Jansen, P.C.M., 1981. Spices, condiments and medicinal plants in Ethiopia, their taxonomy and agricultural significance. Agricultural Research Reports 906. Centre for Agricultural Publishing and Documentation, Wageningen, Netherlands. 327 pp.
• le Floc’h, E., Lemordant, D., Lignon, A. & Rezkallah, N., 1985. Pratiques ethnobotaniques des populations Afars de la moyenne vallée de l’Awash (Ethiopie). Journal of Ethnopharmacology 14: 283–314.
Other references
• Barri, M.E.S., Onsa, T.O., Elawad, A.A., Elsayed, N.Y., Wasfi, I.A., Bari, E.M.A. & Adam, S.E.I., 1983. Toxicity of five Sudanese plants to young ruminants. Journal of Comparative Pathology 93(4): 559–575.
• Elegami, A.A., Almagboul, A.Z., Omer, M.E.A. & El Tohami, M.S., 2001. Sudanese plants used in folkloric medicine: screening for antibacterial activity. Part 10. Fitoterapia 72(7): 810–817.
• Gilbert, M.G., Holmes, S. & Thulin, M., 1993. Euphorbiaceae. In: Thulin, M. (Editor). Flora of Somalia. Volume 1. Pteridophyta; Gymnospermae; Angiospermae (Annonaceae-Fabaceae). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. pp. 267–339.
• Hemming, C.F. & Radcliffe-Smith, A., 1987. A revision of the Somali species of Jatropha (Euphorbiaceae). Kew Bulletin 42(1): 103–122.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
G.H. Schmelzer
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

G.H. Schmelzer
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
A. Gurib-Fakim
Faculty of Science, University of Mauritius, Réduit, Mauritius
Associate editors
C.H. Bosch
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
M.S.J. Simmonds
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AB, United Kingdom
R. Arroo
Leicester School of Pharmacy, Natural Products Research, De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester LE1 9BH, United Kingdom
A. de Ruijter
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
General editors
R.H.M.J. Lemmens
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
L.P.A. Oyen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article:
Schmelzer, G.H., 2007. Jatropha glauca Vahl. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.