Uses and Medicinal Value of The Jatropha Plant Species

Jatropha is a genus of flowering plants in the Euphorbiaceae spurge family. The name is derived from the Greek words (iatros), which means “physician,” and  (trophe), which means “nutrition,” hence the common name physic nut. Nettlespurge is another common name for this plant.

It is home to approximately 170 succulent plant, shrub, and tree species (some are deciduous, like Jatropha curcas). With 66 species found in the Old World, the majority of these are native to the Americas.

These plants produce male and female flowers separately. As with many members of the Euphorbiaceae family.

Jatropha contains highly toxic compounds. Its species have long been used in basketry, tanning, and dye production.

In the 2000s, one species, Jatropha curcas, sparked interest as an oil crop for biodiesel production as well as medicinal value when used as lamp oil; native Mexicans in the Veracruz area developed a Jatropha curcas variant lacking toxic compounds, yielding a higher income when used as a source for biodiesel due to its edible byproduct. Toxicity may return if toxic types pollinate edible Jatropha.

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Plantae

Clade: Tracheophytes

Clade: Angiosperms

Clade: Eudicots

Clade: Rosids

Order: Malpighiales

Family: Euphorbiaceae

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Subfamily: Crotonoideae

Tribe: Jatropheae

Genus: Jatropha

Uses of Jatropha Plant 

  1. The Seri people of Sonora, Mexico, use the stems of haat (Jatropha cuneata) to make baskets. An elaborate process is used to roast, split, and soak the stems. 
  2. Krameria grayi, another plant species, is used to make the reddish dye that is commonly used.
  3. Spicy jatropha (J. integerrima) is grown as an ornamental in the tropics because of its constantly blooming crimson flowers.
  4. In Mexico and the southwestern United States, the Buddha belly plant (J. podagrica) was used to tan leather and produce a red dye. It’s also popular as a houseplant.
  5. Jatropha curcas oil is primarily converted into biodiesel for use in diesel engines. Jatropha curcas was named one of the best crops by Goldman Sachs in 2007. However, despite their abundance and use as oil and reclamation plants, none of the Jatropha species  have been properly domesticated, resulting in variable productivity and an unknown long-term impact on soil quality and the environment. According to a 2009 study, Jatropha biodiesel production requires significantly more water than other common biofuel crops, and initial yield estimates were optimistic. Previously, Worldwatch Institute estimated that 1 acre of cultivation could produce 202 gallons (4.8 barrels) of biodiesel
  6. The oil extraction cake, a protein-rich product, can be used for fish or animal feed (if detoxified).
  7. It is used as a biomass feedstock to power power plants or to generate biogas, as well as a high-quality organic fertilizer.
  8. It is drought and pest resistant, and its seeds contain 27-40% oil, with an average of 34.4%.
  9. After oil extraction, the remaining press cake of jatropha seeds could be considered for energy production.
  10. Jatropha curcas is also being researched for its potential use as a carbon sequestration plant in arid environments.
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Phytochemical Substances Found in Jatropha Plants;

  1. Saponins
  2. Flavonoids
  3. Glycosides 
  4. Tannins
  5. Terpenoids

Medicinal Properties of the Jatropha Plant

  1. Because of its antihyperglycemic properties, it is used to treat diabetes.
  2. It is a widely used treatment for malaria.
  3. It has phytochemical properties that can lower blood cholesterol levels.
  4. It is beneficial in the treatment of hyperlipidemic cardiovascular disease.
  5. It contains antioxidant nutrients such as phosphorus, selenium, zinc, and vitamins C and E.
  6. It contains sodium benzoate, which is also used in pharmaceuticals to treat patients with urea cycle enzymopathies and to preserve liquid medicine.
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The Negative Effects of Excessive Consumption of Jatropha Plant 

Members of the genus Jatropha, like other members of the Euphorbiaceae family, contain a number of toxic compounds. 

Jatropha curcas seeds contain the highly toxic toxalbumin curcin, a lectin dimer. They also contain phorbol, which is carcinogenic. 

Despite this, the seeds are occasionally consumed after being roasted, which reduces some of the toxicity. Its sap is a skin irritant, and just three untreated seeds can be fatal to humans.

 Western Australia banned Jatropha gossypifolia in 2005 because it was invasive and highly toxic to humans and animals. It is still used as medicine in some areas, but one study discovered that the dried leaf has no antifungal activity.

Here are some of the negative effects of consuming the plant.

  1. Pain in the abdomen
  2. There is a burning sensation in the throat.
  3. When eaten raw, it is toxic to the body.
  4. Heart Arrest
  5. Failure of the kidneys
  6. Respiration Difficulty 

Species of Jatropha Plant 

  1. Jatropha gossypifolia 
  2. Jatropha multifida
  3. Jatropha podagrica 
  4. Jatropha acanthophylla 
  5. Jatropha bullockii 
  6. Jatropha cardiophylla 
  7. Jatropha cathartica 
  8. Jatropha chamelensis 
  9. Jatropha costaricensis 
  10. Jatropha cinerea 
  11. Jatropha cuneata