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Jatropha - Mareya

(Spurge family)


Jatropha L.

One hundred and seventy-five species are principally found in tropical and subtropical regions but also in North America and southern Africa.

Species bearing stinging hairs, and at one time included within this genus, are now considered to belong to a distinct genus, Cnidoscolus Pohl.

Jatropha curcas L.
Physic Nut, Purging Nut, Jarak, Jarak Pagar, Jarak Belanda

The tree is used in hedges and planted in graveyards (Barrett 1956, Irvine 1961). The sap of the tree turns brown and brittle when dried, stains linen, and can be used as a marking ink (Oliver 1961).

The greenish viscid juice and pounded leaves are rubefacient (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962, Smitinand & Scheible 1966) and styptic and can cause inflammation of the eyes (Irvine 1961). The sap can cause dermatitis (Hurst 1942, Morton 1958, Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962, Souder 1963) but is used by children in Malaysia and in Africa for blowing bubbles (Burkill 1935, Irvine 1961). The seeds contain a poison that acts on the skin producing redness and pustules on the skin (Burkill 1935, Smitinand & Scheible 1966). They are drastically purgative when ingested and have been used as a vermifuge (Chopra & Badhwar 1940, Lewis & Elvin-Lewis 1977, Morton 1981). Toxicity varies from tree to tree, some bearing apparently harmless seeds, others violently purgative (Morton 1958). Burkill (1935) refers to two races in Malaysia, one with dark seeds and one with pale seeds. Frequent eating of roasted seeds, even from an apparently harmless tree, can produce sores in the mouth (Morton 1958, Morton 1981). The seed oil, known as Chinese castor oil, hell oil, or Oleum Infernale has been used for soap and illumination. It is violently purgative. The husk of the seeds contains a toxalbumin, curcin, related to ricin of Ricinus communis L. (Webb 1948a).

Wimmer (1926), possibly referring to Jatropha curcas, made mention of the irritating hairs of Jatropha cereus, a name of no botanical standing. Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk (1962), citing an earlier source, noted that the stiff hairs of the fruit [of Jatropha curcas] cause great pain for twenty-four hours or longer, sometimes accompanied by fever. These reports are unreliable and must refer to a different plant because the fruits of Jatropha curcas do not bear such hairs (Hyde et al. 2022).

Adolf et al. (1984) showed the presence of 12-deoxy-16-hydroxyphorbol esters in the seed oil and demonstrated their irritancy using a mouse ear assay.

Jatropha glandulifera Roxb.

Nadkarni (1976) noted that this species has counter-irritant juice. Chopra & Badhwar (1940) referred to the violently purgative property of the species.

Jatropha gossypifolia L.
Spanish Physic-Nut Tree, Wild Physic Nut, Belly-Ache Bush, Wild Cassava, Cotton-Leafed Physic-Nut, Jarak Merah, Jarak Hitam, Jarak Beremah, Jarak Kling

Souder (1963) lists this species among spurges that cause an acute dermatitis on contact with their sap or latex. A yellowish-brown substance in the pith of old stems is used to provoke sneezing (Quisumbing 1951, Irvine 1961). The seeds are toxic but less so than those of Jatropha curcas (Oakes & Butcher 1962). They do, nevertheless, possess a drastically emetic and purgative oil (Chopra & Badhwar 1940, Morton 1958, Morton 1981).

Morton (1981) records a variety of local medicinal uses of various parts of the plant, including the use of the roots as an application for dermatitis caused by Hippomane mancinella L.

Adolf et al. (1984) demonstrated the presence of irritant 12-deoxy-16-hydroxyphorbol esters in this species.

Jatropha integerrima Jacq.
[syns Adenoropium integerrimum Pohl, Jatropha hastata Jacq., Jatropha pandurifolia Andrews]
Peregrina, Spicy Jatropha

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Jatropha multifida L.
Coral Plant, French Physic Nut, Spanish Physic Nut

Pammel (1911) and Souder (1963) list this species as being irritant.

The oil from the seeds, named pinhoen oil, has properties similar to those of Jatropha curcas L. (Chopra & Badhwar 1940, Burkill 1935, Morton 1958). As little as one seed will cause violent vomiting and purging if ingested (Morton 1981).

Adolf et al. (1984) demonstrated the presence of irritant 16-hydroxyphorbol esters in this species. There is also some support for the occurrence of benzyl glucosinolate in the latex of this species (Kjær 1960), a source of the potentially allergenic mustard oil benzyl isothiocyanate. See also Cruciferae

Jatropha nana Dalz. & Gibson

In Indian indigenous medicine, the juice is used as a counter-irritant in ophthalmia (Nadkarni 1976).

Jatropha podagrica Hook.
Gout Stick

Souder (1963) lists this species among spurges that cause an acute dermatitis on contact with their sap or latex. Adolf et al. (1984) demonstrated the presence of irritant 16-hydroxyphorbol esters in this species.

Mabea Aubl.

All the Mabea species of the section Taquari possess long, hollow, sarmentose branches, and are infested by ants (Wheeler 1942).

Macaranga Thouin

About 280 species are found in tropical Africa, Madagascar, Indomalaysia, Australia and the Pacific region. Some yield kino gum (Burkill 1935).

A number of species have been reported to have hollow stems inhabited by ants (Ridley 1910, Bequaert 1922, Corner 1952, Menninger 1967, Airy Shaw 1975, Rickson 1980):

Macaranga beccariana Merr.
[syn. Macaranga hypoleuca Müll.Arg. var. borneensis Hutchinson]
Macaranga caladifolia Becc.
Macaranga cornuta Müll.Arg. — Horned Ant-Mahang
Macaranga dibeleensis De Wild.
Macaranga formicarum Pax & K.Hoffm.
Macaranga hosei King — Hose's Mahang
Macaranga hullettii King
Macaranga hypoleuca Müll.Arg. — White Mahang, Mahang Puteh
Macaranga kingii Hook.f. — Devil's Mahang
[syn. Macaranga insignis Merr.]
Macaranga maingayi Hook.f. — Maingay's Mahang
Macaranga motleyana Müll.Arg. subsp. griffithiana Whitm.
[syn. Macaranga griffithiana Müll.Arg.]
Macaranga myrmecophila Diels
Macaranga puberula Heine
Macaranga saccifera Pax
Macaranga schweinfurthii Pax
[syn. Macaranga rosea Pax]
Macaranga triloba Müll.Arg. — Common Mahang 

Macaranga chrysotricha K.Schum. & Lauterb.

All parts bear long, stiff, straight, irritant golden hairs (Airy Shaw 1980).

Macaranga hispida Müll.Arg.

This species has irritating brittle hairs on twigs and petioles (von Reis Altschul 1973).

Macaranga thompsonii Merr.

Souder (1963) lists this species among spurges that cause an acute dermatitis on contact with their sap or latex.

Mallotus Lour.

Two species are found in tropical Africa and Madagascar. About 140 species are found in eastern and south-eastern Asia and from Indomalaysia to New Caledonia and Fiji, northern and eastern Australia. Mallotus philippinensis Müll.Arg. yields kamala dye.

Mallotus mollissimus Airy Shaw
[syn. Croton mollissimus Geiseler]

The stems are sometimes myrmecophilous below the nodes (Airy Shaw 1980).

Mallotus oppositifolius Müll.Arg.

The fresh leaves are applied as a styptic (Dalziel 1937).

Mallotus subulatus Müll.Arg.

The seeds are beaten and used for marking the faces of young persons (Irvine 1961).

Manihot esculenta Crantz
[syns Manihot utilissima Pohl, Jatropha manihot L.]

Sweet and bitter cultivars are known (Rogers 1963). This species is cultivated for manoic or cassava meal (Brazilian arrowroot) and tapioca. The poisonous juice is processed to yield an antiseptic, cassareep, used in preserving meat. Goitre, tropical ataxic neuropathy, and tropical amblyopia have been linked to chronic cyanide intoxication caused by eating cassava (Conn 1973, Liener 1980).

Souder (1963) lists this species among spurges that can cause an acute dermatitis on contact with their sap. The raw roots and leaves are poisonous when ingested (Lewis & Elvin-Lewis 1977). The seed oil is drastically purgative (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962).

Manihot glaziovii Müll.Arg.
Ceara Rubber

Souder (1963) lists this species among spurges that can cause an acute dermatitis on contact with their sap.

Mareya micrantha Müll.Arg.

The plant is said to have local anaesthetic properties. The common name is derived from its use as an abortifacient (Irvine 1961).

Richard J. Schmidt

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