Jatropha commonly called ‘physic nut’, is from the Greek word ”jatr’s” meaning doctor and ‘‘trophe’’ meaning food.
Jatropha often ignored due to its inability to produce edible fruits, unknown to many, has lots of unique features most especially the seeds.
Like every other plant, jatropha has leaves, flowers, and fruits that can perform diverse functions such as making of dye with the leave/back, making of basket with the stem, shrub use for erosion control, sap can be used for marking, even the tree itself serves as beautification purpose with it beautiful and colourful flower.
According to the study conducted by European Geosciences union (2013), ”the jatropha tree have applications in the absorption of carbon dioxide, whose sequestration is important in combating climate change.”
The seeds contains 27-40% oil that can be processed to produce high quality biodiesel fuel, usable in a standard diesel engine. The seeds also contains highly poisonous toxalbumin curcin.
At the early stage the seeds is usually green but turns yellow when mature. It contains 20% saturated fatty acids and 80% unsaturated acids, which produces 25-40% oil by weight. It also contains chemical compounds such as ‘saccharose’,’ raffinose’, ‘stachyose’, glucose, ‘fructose’, ‘salactose’ and ‘protein’.
The oil is largely made up of oleic and linoleic acids. The oil produced by jatropha is not for human consumption as it can cause diarrhoea and vomiting, rather it can be used for cars and jet use. The oil content varies from 28, 30 and 80% extraction and one hectare of plantation can produce 400-600 litres of oil if the soil is average.
No wonder Goldman Sachs sees jatropha as ”one of the best candidates for future biodiesel production.”
Currently, countries like Philippines, Pakistan, and Brazil are making use of biodiesel fuel which is a product of jatropha seed. Also, airlines such as Air New Zealand, Continental Airline, and Air China have successfully completed flights with jatropha oil.
Apart from the ability of the jatropha seed to produce crude oil, the versatile plant has been proven to contain lots of medicinal benefit that will be of great help to mankind that many are not aware of.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) 1996, “The use of traditional medicine and medicinal plants as a normative basis for the maintenance of good health has been widely observed’.
Here are some of the medicinal benefits of jatropha
- The leaves according to researchers, can be used to heal wounds, hymphocylic leukaemia, vaginal bleeding, malaria, mouth infections, Guinea worm sores and anti-parasitic activity.
- The stem, bark, branches which Phyto-chemical screening has revealed, contains secondary metabolites such as saponins, steroids, tannins recognised to be biologically active are effective in aiding antimicrobial activities, strong antimicrobial agent, inhabits HIV induced cytopathic effect with low cytoxicity, and strengthen the gums.
- The latex which contains resin, wax, spoon and tannin, treat gum bleeding, sooth inflamed tongue, toothache, heal wounds, exhibits antibacterial against staphylococcus aureus, fight against fungal infections in the mouth.
- The fruit/seed heals burn, convulsions, fever, inflammation, skin disease, rheumatism pain and also serves as contraceptives.
- The Root is also effective in the treatment of Eczema, scabies, ringworm, gonorrhoea, inflammation, dysentery and diarrhoea, bleeding gum, toothache and sexual transmitted diseases, etc. So no part of this versatile plant is a waste.
Serves as a raw material for dye
- The bark of jatropha plant produces a dark blue dye which can be use for colouring cloths, fishing nets and lines. The dye can be extracted from tender leaves and stems and the dye shades are fairly fast.
- Serves as a source for biodiesel.
- The seed of jatropha as early explained produces biodiesel that can be use as alternative diesel for cars, jets etc.
- Serves as a source of manure.
- Serves as animal feed.
- The oil is also used to make soap, cosmetics, and candles and even use to soften leather and lubricate machinery etc.
- Another unique feature of this plant is that the cultivation is not complicated. It is grown in tropical and subtropical regions, and it can be grown in almost any terrain.
Jatropa contains pesticidal and fungicidal properties which makes the use of pesticides unnecessary. Although this plant may not be edible like every other plant, it definitely has a lot to offer, not just economically but also health wise. Health they say is wealth but in the case of jatropha, health and wealth are just one package.