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Chapter: Modern Medical Toxicology: Organic Poisons (Toxins): Plants of Special Importance

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Physic Nut - Organic Poisons (Toxins)

Other Common Names · Purging nut. Botanical Name · Jatropha curcas.

Physic Nut

Other Common Names

·              Purging nut.

Botanical Name

·              Jatropha curcas.

Physical Appearance

·      This is a large, glabrous shrub belonging to family Euphorbiaceae, with greenish white, smooth bark that peels off in thin flakes.

·      Leaves measure up to 15 mm in diameter, and are entirely or palmately lobed.

·      Flowers are yellowish green in colour.

·      The black seed of Jatropha curcas is known as “physic nut” or “purging nut”, since it is a strong purgative. It contains a pale acrid oil, just like croton oil, and has the active principle curcanoleic acid. Apart from being used as a laxative, the oil is also applied to painful joints, and is said to have beneficial effects. However, the crude oil when applied externally causes irritation, and when ingested causes severe diarrhoea. The seeds possess a toxalbumin named curcin.

Clinical Features

·              Ingestion of the seeds results in salivation, sweating, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, weakness, and muscle twitching. Jatropha poisoning is generally non-fatal, even though some deaths in lower animals have been reported.

Treatment

·      Supportive and symptomatic measures.


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