Jatropha curcas L.

Nota de alcance

DIVERSIDAD GENÉTICA Y MEJORAMIENTO DE PLANTAS MEDICINALES= Medicinal plants and improvement of medicinal herbs:

The genus Jatropha belongs to the family Euphorbiaceae having significant economic importance. The present investigation was undertaken with an aim to understand phylogenetic relationships among seven species (J. curcas, J. glandulifera, J. gossypifolia, J. integerrima, J. multifida, J. podagrica, and J. tanjorensis.) which are widely distributed in India, using nuclear ribosomal DNA ITS sequence (nrDNA ITS) and to compare the results with multilocus marker analysis systems reported earlier for the same genus. The size variation obtained among sequenced nrDNA ITS regions was narrow and ranged from 647 to 654 bp. The overall mean genetic distance (GD) of genus Jatropha was found to be 0.385. Highest interspecific GD (0.419) was found between J. glandulifera and J. multifida. The least interspecific GD (0.085) was found between J. gossypifolia and J. tanjorensis. The highest intraspecific GD was observed in J. podagrica (0.011) and least in J. gossypifolia (0.002). The phylogram obtained using nrDNA ITS sequence showed congruence with the phylograms obtained using multilocus markers system reported earlier with minor variations. The present study also strongly supports high phylogentic closeness of J. curcas and J. integerrima. The only exception found was J. podagrica which clustered with J. multifida in earlier based on multilocus marker analysis, was clustered with J. curcas in the present analysis. The sequence data generated in the present investigation will help for further studies in intraspecies population, and their phylogentic analysis, biogeographical, molecular evolution studies and also pave way for future phylogetic and/or evolution studies among the other groups belongs to the family Euphorbiaceae. © 2008 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.

Nota de alcance (en)

The genus Jatropha is of neotropical origin, with more than 100 representatives in America.

The species is common in semi-arid regions of South and Central America; in Venezuela it occurs in the hot regions. Now it is cultivated all over the tropics, from 0-1700 m a.s.l. It supports poor rocky soils, and endures low precipitation, yielding fruits after 2-3 years. It reaches an age of 30-50 years.

Ethnobotanical and general use

Nutritional use
The plant is toxic and therefore seldom used for food. Heat treatment would however remove the toxic substances, but this has not been done on a large commercial scale. Seeds of the related Ricinus communis can be detoxified by fermentation and are then used as food. This would also probably be possible with seeds of Jatropha. Toasted seeds are not toxic and are eaten by the natives. There are also varieties with a low content of phorbol esters which can be eaten toasted.

Economical utilization

Jatropha curcas is commonly used as an ornamental or hedge plant in tropical countries (living fences). It furthermore stabilizes shifting dunes. Its seeds contain 50-60% of a semi-drying oil which is used as an illuminant, for manufacture of candles, soap, lubrication, and in wool-industry. The   kernel contains 35% protein, but the meal is toxic and is therefore used only as a fertilizer. The species could be grown as an oil-seed plant. The seed coat could serve as a combustible biodiesel.

Medical use
Leaves and seeds are mainly used in popular medicine. However, branches, roots and the latex (used separately) have their applications. Medicinal drugs: plantae, latex, semen. Leaf The use of the different plant organs is manifold. The leaves are used externally as cataplasms or as a bath, as well as internally. Many curative effects are ascribed to the plant. A decoction of the leaves is locally used for a bath in case of fever and against catarrh. Taken orally, the decoction cures gastrointestinal irritations (such as constipation, diarrhoea, dysentery, stomach pain, intestinal parasites) and haemorrhoids, cataract, venereal diseases, toothache, eczema, erysipelas, gonorrhoea, gout, leprosy, neuralgia, malaria, sunburn and rheumatism. The fresh leaves are applied in the treatment of erysipelas, wounds, swellings, burns, ulcers and jaundice. They are rubefacient and revulsive. The leaves in decoction are applied as a cataplasm for external ulcers.For infected wounds, ulcers and indigestion, some leaves of a twig end are boiled in water and the wounds are cleaned with this decoction. The same decoction prepared together with the leaves of Hyptis suaveolens and of orange is taken against pain of the stomach. Yellow abscised leaves are boiled in water to cure kidney problems. Extract and latex of leaves and twigs are externally applied to cure haemorrhoids, ulcers, herpes and other infections of the skin. The decoction is applied as a cataplasm and a galactogogum. Fresh levaes in decoction are laxative, fresh and ground they are used as a cataplasm to mature abscesses and tumours. To cure headache, the leaves of Jatropha curcas are ground together with leaves of Petiveria alliacea and the mixture is soaked in water for 2-3 hours. The water is used to wash the hair. The sap of the petioles is rubbed on gums of children to cure mouth ulcers. Stem (twig). The following healing properties are ascribed to the leaves and the bark: stomachic, antiinflammatory, stupefacient, narcotic, as a galactogogum, a vulnerary and an odontalgic. The decoction of the bark is used against colics and as an appetite stimulant. Latex. The latex of the leaves and the stem which is slightly rubefacient and antiseptic, is locally used for the treatment of gingivitis, to heal wounds, fractures, haemorrhoids, haemorrhage, herpes, ulcer, insect bites, burns, and warts. It is also applied for gargles and mouthwash against infections of the mouth and inflammations of the tongue, as well as against toothache and leprosy. Wound healing, stomachic, haemostatic antihaemorrhoidal and verrucocidal properties are ascribed to the latex as well. The latex of the stem is used in certain regions to cure infections of the mouth of children and as a keratolytic. The pure latex of leaves and stems is applied on wounds and poisonous insect bites for cicatrization. In the form of drops it controls nasal haemorrhage, herpes, ulcers, haemorrhoids and burns. Peasants put the pure latex on a wad of cotton and apply it locally in the mouth, although it is well known that the latex is caustic. Applied to the temples for several days the latex cures inflammations of the eyes. Root. The root ground and boiled in hot water is used as a specific remedy against dysentery. The ethanolic extract of the root has antibacterial activities against Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pyogenes, and Streptococcus viridans. The methanolic extract of the root has anticonvulsive properties. Seed. The seed and particularly its oil, is the part of the plant mostly used. The oil of the seed is applied to treat fractures, gout and burns. However, the seeds have first of all purgative and emetic properties and are used in case of oedema. With good reason, the plant is called higuera infernal in popular medicine, which means infernal fig, referring to the drastic purgative effects. The oil is applied for oedema, chronic paralysis and against intestinal worms. It is a very drastic vermifuge and a laxative. 4 or 5 fresh or dry seeds in decoction are taken as an emetic and a purgative; after which 2-3 cups of tea or coca-cola have to be taken. The fruit and seeds are reported to have contraceptive properties. The oil of the seeds is extracted by pressure in a hot medium. Although it has a   purgative effect, it can be used in the treatment of gout and toothache. The phorbolester causes vormiting and diarrhoea.

Method of use
As already mentioned, the different plant organs can be applied fresh, dried, in decoction and infusion, as a cataplasm or a bath. They are applied externally and taken orally. For exact details see above (the mentioned organs and the latex). Latex and oil are used either partly diluted or concentrated. The toxic principle which is present in all plant organs can be eliminated by heating.

Healing properties
The latex is caustic and the seed oil is emetic and purgative. Antibacterial activity has been demonstrated in the root. Leaves and branches have effects on lymphocytic leukaemia. The root shows anticonvulsive properties. In some species of Jatropha, an antitumour compound has been reported. Abortive properties are attributed to the leaves. For further healing properties see the description of the different organs and of the latex and oil. Euphorbiaceae Rll

Chemical contents
Bark, fruit, leaf, root and wood contain hydrocyanic acid. The latex  eliminates warts very effectively, and its activity seems to be selective for verrucose tissue, acting as a chelating asgent. The most toxic substance is the protein curcin. Other contents are jatrophine, curcasine, tannins (latex, bark), sapogenins and others. Recently, slimy substances were extracted from the seeds. In Jatropha curcas, magnesium shows the highest concentration of all other elements and its degree of concentration in the different organs varies most conspicuously. Ripe feminine flowers have the highest magnesium concentration of all organs. The oil extracted from the seeds has a brilliant yellow colour, is liquid at ambient temperature and has neither a peculiar smell nor taste; its meltingpoint is very low at -8 to -6 oc. The irritant constituents of Jatropha curcas are polyunsaturated esters of 12 dioxi -16-hydro xiphorbol. The calorific value of the oil of Jatropha multifida is 13.647 kcal!g. Oil of Jatropha curcas contains up to 72.2-84.0 o/o of oleic acids and linoleic acids. The oil can be used as fuel for agricultural machines. The constituents of the genus include tannins, sapogenins, alkaloids, toxalbumins, cyanogenic compounds ethereal oils.

It is suggested that 4-5 seeds are lethal for humans. The oil is not only toxic for humans, but also for cattle, fish, rats and molluscs. It is used as a fish poison by the native population. The toxic elements of the seed are the protein curcin, tiglinic acid and crotonic acid. They provoke acute abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, inflammation of the mucosa of the stomach and even coma after several hours. The minimum lethal dose of seed oil for rats is 1 ml per animal injected subcutaneously. The latex is a  skin irritant and rubefacient when externally applied and is toxic when internally taken. It has a caustic effect. An abortive property is ascribed to the leaves. Leaves and roots have pest-control properties and can be applied against Aulacophora foveicollis, Lipaphis erysimi, termites, mosquitos, Musca domestica and snails. In some species of Jatropha an antitumor compound has been identified. New antileukemic jatrophone derivatives have been found in Jatropha gossypifolia.Curcin, similar to ricin, is the most important toxic principle of Jatropha curcas. A resin which has been found in the oil of the seeds of Jatropha curcas produces redness and pustular eruptions on the skin. All species of Jatropha are probably toxic to cattle, but the animals seem to avoid eating them. The common symptoms associated with intoxication by Jatropha curcas are burning of the throat, followed by distension of the stomach, giddiness, vomiting, diarrhoea, drowsiness, collapse and death (BLOHM 1962). Interesting information on the variability of toxicity in plants and the toxic effects exercised on man are found in the bibliography. BLOHM (1962) states that the effect of the poison varies with the individual. Native people may already be accustomed to the toxicity, when they frequently ingest the poison in small doses. Immunization of animals against the action of ricin has been achieved through repeated injection of sublethal quantities of this substance; animals treated in this way may ingest up to 10 times the fatal dose without showing signs of intoxication; the serum of these animals is an effective antidote for persons poisoned by ricin. A similar procedure could also be developed for curcin. In the poisoning by ricin the following treatment has been recommended by the 'Dispensatory of the United States': gastric lavage, administration of saline cathartics, maintenance of fluid and electrolyte equilibrium and symptomatic measures. According to GARCIA-BARRIGA (1975) alcoholic drinks are antidotes against the toxic substances of the entire plant. Furthermore, toxic alkaloids which disturb the nervous system are present in Jatropa curcas; saponinsare also present, but in contrast to the alkaloids they are not absorbed, but exercise local effects on the digestive tract. LIENER (1969) found that the lethal dose of certain saponins is less than 100 mg/kg body weight, and that death is caused by inflammation of the digestive system. HEIN (cited by Liener) demonstrated that distribution and content of saponins in the distinct parts of the plant depend on the temperature of the environment. GESTETNER et al. (1972) were able to show that the toxic action of the seed can be inhibited by cholesterol and ~ sitosterol, which is present in Jatropha curcas. It is interesting to note that the plant seems to be very toxic in certain geographic regions, while in others, wehre Jatropha is part of the human diet it is not poisonous. CANO & HERNANDES (1984) suppose that in regions where the seeds are eaten, the content of saponins is inactivated by the presence of~sitosterol. A further suggestion is that different varieties of Jatropha curcas contain different amounts of toxic substances and it would be very important to compare seeds from regions where they are eaten with those where they are refused. For the plant itself, the toxic compounds are a mechanism of self defense, as certain saponins are growth inhibitors of some microorganisms and of pathogenic protozoa (GESTETNER et al. 1972).

Tree. One seed (more was said to be fatal) is ground, soaked in water overnight, and small amounts of extract are drunk on an empty stomach to treat intestinal parasites (G-P, C-CR). Hazlett 14260, 14287, CATIE.


Uses: menstrual cramp.                                                 

Origin: Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Gabon, Guyana, Guatemala, Honduras, Madagascar, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, South Africa, Suriname, USA, Venezuela.           


Latex: Dental analgesic when swabbed a tooth-cavity by the French Guiana Palikur and Wayapi. In French Guiana, the latex is mixed with lard for a resolutive pomade.

Leaf: Cataplasm for neuralgia, fever, wounds, headaches, swellings; foot-rub for sand fleas. Leaf used for abcesses, coughs and colds, heart problems, pain, sores and toothaches in NW Guyana.

Leaf and Fruit: Decoction for abdominal disorders, rheumatism, ulcers and swellings.

Seed: Parched with ginger in decoction for menstrual pain. Oil is emetic, purgative; grated in poultice for abscesses.

Seed Toxicity Seed contains the toxalbumin curcine. Seeds have a depressant action on the central nervous system .Contains the irritant diterpenoid 12-deoxy-16-hydroxy-phorbol.


Origin: Native to Mexico, widely cultivated and naturalised in New and Old World Tropics.

Pharmacological Activities: Antidiabetic, Anti-inflammatory, Anticancer, Antiprotozoal, Antiviral, Coagulant  Haemolytic, Lipolytic, Insecticidal, Molluscicidal and Wound healing.
Toxicity: Abortive


Physic nut (Jatropha curcas – Euphorbiaceae) is a native plant to Central America and Mexico, although at present it is also widespread throughout South America, Africa, and some regions of Asia and Europe. From a medicinal point of view J. curcas is used in several ways, although perhaps the most important pharmacological studies have focused on the validation of the use of the aerial parts and latex in the treatment of Candida and warts. To a lesser extent, also on the antiparasitic, antimicrobial, antiviral, anticlotting, anti-inflammatory and antitumour activities. Since physic nut contains several irritant and toxic components, the use of this species as medicinal is somewhat limited.

Nota de alcance

PARTE UTILIZADA= Used part: Hojas, savia.

ACCIÓN FARMACOLÓGICA= Pharmacological action: La savia en aplicación local es muy empleada en candidiasis bucal y leishmaniasis cutánea; la aplicación de las hojas frescas como compresas, resulta útil para tratar erisipela, quemaduras solares, heridas y úlceras en piel; etc.

COMPOSICIÓN QUÍMICA= Chemical composition: Las hojas contienen alfa-amirina; una mezcla de beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol y campesterol; 7-ceto-beta-sitosterol, stigmast-5-eno-3beta,7alfa-diol y stigmast-5- eno+3beta,7beta-diol (Duke, 1984; Ronquillo, et al., 1989), isovitexina y vitexina (Duke, 1984), jatrofina (Seaforth & Adams, 1983) y diterpenoides (curcusonas A, B, C y D) (Glasby, 1991). Las semillas contienen hasta 40% de un aceite purgante color amarillo, semisecante (Nuñez, 1978), que contiene los ésteres de los ácidos palmítico, esteárico (10-17%), linoleico (18-45%), oleico (45-62%), mirístico y araquidónico (Seaforth & Adams, 1983), ácidos orgánicos (crotónico y tiglínico), sacarosa, rafinosa, staquiosa, glucosa, fructosa y galactosa (Duke, 1984 & Escobar, 1972); la proteína tóxica curcina, curcasina y taninos (Poll, 1984; Seaforth & Adams, 1983). La corteza contiene una sapogenina esteroidal y taninos (35%) (Orellana, 1987). El látex contiene taninos (10%). Según el análisis proximal, 100g de la semilla fresca contiene: humedad (6.6g), proteína (18,2g), grasa (38g), carbohidratos totales (33,5g), fibra (15,5 g) y residuos (4,5g) (Duke, 1984).

ZONA GEOGRÁFICA= Geografical zone: Sudamérica. 


Parte empleada: fruto.
Usos: encías y herpes labial (fuegos).
Preparación: para los fuegos untar savia del piñón en el labio o encía dos veces al día.


Nativa de Centro, Sud América y el Caribe en campos húmedos y secos, en planicies o colinas, más abundante en orillas de barrancos o sembrados como cerco vivo en alturas inferiores a 1,500 m s.n.m.; cultivada y a veces naturalizada en los paleotrópicos (STANDLEY & STEYERMARK, 1949).  En Panamá esta especie se encuentr en Bocas Del Toro, Coclé, Chiriquí, Colón, Darién, Herrera, Los Santos, Panamá y Veraguas (CORREA, et al, 2004).

Usos etnomédicos y modo de empleo:
En Centroamérica la decocción de hojas se usa tópicamente para baños en fiebre y catarros; por vía oral para tratar afecciones gastrointestinales (estreñimiento, disentería, gastralgia, hemorroides y parásitos) (CÁCERES & SAMAYOA, 1989; GIRÓN, et at, 1991), enfermedades venéreas, dolor de muelas, eczema, erisipela, gonorrea, gota, lepra, neuralgia, paludismo, parálisis y reumatismo (DUKE, 1984; ORELLANA, 1987). Las hojas frescas se usan para tratar erisipela, heridas, hinchazón, quemaduras, úlceras e ictericia (XIMÉNEZ, 1967; ESCOBAR, 1972; ALCORN, 1984; DUKE, 1984; GIRÓN et al, 1991). La decocción de la corteza se usa para tratar cólicos y despertar el apetito (SEAFORTH & ADAMS, 1983). El látex se dice antiséptico y hemostático, se usa para tratar cataratas, gingivitis, heridas, fracturas, hemorroides, hemorragias, herpes, llagas, picaduras, quemaduras, úlceras, verrugas (NÚÑEZ, 1975; MENDIETA & DEL AMO, 1981; ALCORN, 1984; DUKE, 1984; 1986; MARROQUÍN, et al, 1997; ROSS, 1999) y sinusitis (VAN DEN BERG, 1984); para hacer gárgaras y enjuages para infecciones bucales e inflamación de la lengua (MORTON, 1981; WILLIAMS, 1981; DUKE, 1984; ZAMORA-MARTÍNEZ & POLA, 1992) y para el dolor de muelas (ORELLANA, 1987). A las hojas y corteza se les atribuyen propiedades catártica, desinflamante, estomáquica, estupefaciente, galactogoga, narcótica, odontálgica y vulneraria (NUÑEZ, 1975; DUKE, 1986; NAQVI et al, 1991); a las semillas propiedades catártico-eméticas y purgantes (XIMÉNEZ, 1967; MENDIETA & DEL AMO, 1981; DUKE, 1984); y, al látex propiedades cicatrizantes, estomáquicas, hemostáticas y verrucocidas (AGUILAR, 1966; DUKE, 1986; MARROQUÍN et al., 1997). A toda la planta se le atribuyen propiedades ictiotóxicas moluscicidas y rodenticidas (ESCOBAR, 1972; DUKE, 1984). El aceite de las semillas se extrae por presión en caliente y tiene potencial económico; es usado como combustible, lubricante, iluminante y para fabricar jabón, candelas y pintura (DUKE, 1986; NÚÑEZ, 1978); tiene una actividad purgante drástica, pero puede usarse en el tratamiento de gota y dolor de muelas (MARTÍNEZ, 1959; WILLIAMS, 1981). Se acostumbra a sembrar como cerco vivo, como sombra para el ganado y para ornato de patios y jardines (STANDLEY & STEYERMARK, 1949; NÚÑEZ, 1978). Las hojas se usan para envenenar peces y fumigar insectos domésticos; la ceniza de la raíz se usa como sustituto de la sal (DUKE, 1986). Las semillas tostadas se comen con chile o mole (NÚÑEZ, 1978; ALCORN, 1984), de donde viene su nombre en algunos lugares de maní de palo (ORELLANA, 1987). Se ha diseminado al resto del mundo, teniendo un amplio uso medicinal, por ejemplo: en la India (REDDY, et al, 1988) el jugo de hojas frescas con ajo y alcanfor se usa para tratar la epilepsia, la decocción de raíz por vía oral para tratar la fiebre tifoidea y el extracto etanólico de partes aéreas como analgésico (SINGH & ALI, 1994); en Egipto el extracto acuoso de las semillas se usa oralmente para tratar la ictericia (KHAFAGY, 1977); en Guam (INMAN, 1967) las semillas se dicen tóxicas, tres frutos pueden ser fatales o provocan síntomas de un purgante: intensos dolores abdominales, vómitos, escalofríos, espasmos musculares y a veces adormecimiento, la piel se humedece en exceso y hay pulso lento, en Sudán se administran oralmente como anticonceptivos a las mujeres (MAMEESH, et al, 1963) o como abortivas en Vietnam (PETELOT, 1954) y se usan para tratar el constipado en Somalia (SAMUELSSON, et al, 1992).

Nota bibliográfica

1) ALONSO, Jorge ; DESMARCHELIER, Cristian. Plantas medicinales autóctonas de la Argentina : bases científicas para su aplicación en atención primaria de la salud. Buenos Aires: L.O.L.A, 2005, pp. 444-446.

2) 270 (doscientos setenta) plantas medicinales iberoamericanas. Santiago de Bogotá : CYTED-SECAB, 1995, pp.287-291.

3) SUDHEER PAMIDIMARRI, D.V.N.; CHATTOPADHYAY, B.; REDDY, M.P. Genetic divergence and phylogenetic analysis of genus Jatropha based on nuclear ribosomal DNA ITS sequence. Molecular Biology Reports. 2009, vol.36, nº7, p.1929-1935.

4) South American medicinal plants : botany, remedial properties, and general use / I. Roth, H. Lindorf. Berlin ; New York : Springer, c2002. -- p. 492.

5)Hazlett, Donald L. Economic Botany, v. 40 no.3 1986. -- p. 339-352

6) Geraldini , Isanete, Journal of Ethnopharmacology v. 173, 2015 . -- p. 383-423

7) Robertt, A., et al.. Medicinal Plants of the Guianas (Guyana, Suriname, French Guyana)/Smithsonian NMNH. cited online: 17-08-2017

8) Plantas medicinales de La Matamba y El Piñonal, municipio de Jamapa, Veracruz/ Escamilla Pérez, Blanca Edith; Moreno Casaola, Patricia. INECOL: Mexico, 2015, 99p.

9) A guide to medicinal plants / Hwee Ling, Koh; Tung Kian, Chua; Chay Hoon, Tan. Singapore:  World vScientific Public Co. Pte. Ltd., 2009. p 289 p.

10) Plantas medicinales autóctonas de la Argentina. Bases científicas para su aplicación en atención primaria de la salud / Jorge Alonso y Cristian Jorge Desmarchelier. - 1a ed. - Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires: Corpus Libros Médicos y Científicos, 2015.

11) Gupta, Mahabir P.; Santana, Ana Isabel; Espinosa, Alex/ Plantas medicinales de Panamá. sd: sd. - p. sd.

Jatropha curcas L.
Término aceptado: 14-Dic-2007