Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Symb. bot. 1: 78 (1790).
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.
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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.