Jatropha podagrica

Botanical Name

Jatropha podagrica Hook


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Vernacular Names

Malaysia Jarak Buncit, Jatrofa buncit, Jarak Gajah
Indonesia Jarak Bali, Jarak Batang Gajah
China Fu Du Shu
English Gout stalk   [1] [6]



Jatropha podagrica is a member of the Euphorbiaceae family. The stem and branches are characteristically swollen at the base, marked with numerous pits where leaves had dropped. The leaves are palmate and deeply pinnatifid, or ciliated glandular stipules. Few leaves appear at one time and only at the apices of the branches. Petioles are long with peltate five-lobed glabrous leaf blades. Flowers are in large cymes on long peduncles. They are small, orange-red, monoecious. Female flowers are few, in the axils of the main bracteas. Calyx cup-shaped, five-lobed, the lobes erect, very obtuse. Corolla are deeply five or six-partite, the segments ovate and spreading. Stamens six to eight in numbers, and yellow in colour. The filaments combined at the base and have fiv glands united in a ring. The  ovary is ovate, with similar glands. They style is short, much divided into green stigmas. [2]


J. podagrica is native to Central America but had been promoted as ornamental throughout the world. [2] [3]

Plant Use

The plant is promoted as an ornamental mainly because of the unique stem structure and the rather showy leaves and striking flowers. It is also used in traditional medicine by people of the tropical belt i.e. Central America, Tropical Africa and Asia. Amongst its notable use include as an antipyretic, diuretic, choleretic and purgative. The stems and roots are used as chewing sticks in Ghana and Nigeria. [4]

Toxic Parts

The whole plants and in particular the seeds. [1] [3] [5]


The plant contains jatrophin (curcin) a toxalbumin which inhibits protein synthesis in cells of the intestinal wall and can cause serious if not fatal poisoning. It has been said that even ingestion of one seed can cause serious poisoning. Once absorbed into the blood stream it can cause serious damage to the liver, kidney, adrenals and nerves leading to death. Toxalbumin can cause bleeding lesions which appears like alkaline burns, in the mouth, oesophagus, stomach and intestines. [1] [3] [5]

Risk Management

Due to the high toxicity of the plant, it is advisable that people with young children should not plant this in their gardens. Eventhough reported cases of poisoning is very rare however, the possible fatality should render this plant unsuitable to be grown in public areas. [5]

Clinical Findings

The sap if enters the eye can cause redness, tearing and swelling. Consumption of the seeds can cause either dilated or constricted pupils. The sap can cause rashes on the skin of people sensitive to them.

Upon ingestion of the seeds symptoms are said to develop from 6 hours to 3 days. There would be burning sensation in the mouth and throat followed by nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea often with bleeding. In severe cases ulcers occurs in the mouth, oesophagus and throughout the gastrointestinal tract, resembling chemical burns. Haematuria is common. This is followed by dehydration and death is due to fluid loss and or organ failure. [1] [3] [5]


There are not specific antidote or tests specific for toxalbumin is available. Diagnosis is pure based on history and physical examination.

Decontaminate the exposed skin and eyes. Examine the eye for pulillary dilation and constriction and perform fundoscopy to check for retinal haemorrhage and optic neuritis.

Patients with gastrointestinal symptoms should be assessed for signs of dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Administer activated charcoal and provide intravenous rehydration and electrolyte replacement together with an antiemetic.

Patients should be observe for at least 8 hours if they are symptom free and kept in the hospital for observation and aggressive management should complications arise. [3] [5]

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  1)  Safety


1.     Turkington C., Mitchell D., The Encyclopedia of Poisons and Antidotes, Facts on File, New York, 2010  pg. 114

2.     Hooker WJ Curtis’s Botanical Magazine Volume 74 Reeve, Benham and Reeve, Strand, 1848 Tab. 4376

3.     Nelson LS., Shih RD., Ballick M., Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants, New York Botanical Garden, New York 2007 pg. 191 – 192

4.     Oliver-Bever B., Medicinal Plants of Tropical West Africa, Cambridge University Press, 1986 pg. 94

5.     Scott S., Thomas C., Poisonous Plants of Paradise: First Aid and Medical Treatment of Injuries University of Hawaii Press, 2000 pg. 86 – 90

6.     Dalimartha S., Atlas Tumbuhan Obat 5 Niaga Swadaya Jakarta 2008 pg. 54 – 55