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Botancal Name:Jatropha Curcas L.
This genus is also known as:
*Aamanakku / Kaattaamanakku Tamil, India
*Castiglionia Ruiz & Pav.
*Jatropa Scop., orth. var.
*Zimapania Engl. & Pax
*Pourghère French term
Common Names:Jatropha is a genus of approximately 175 succulent plants, shrubs and trees (some are deciduous, like Jatropha curcas L.), from the family Euphorbiaceae. The name is derived from (Greek iatros = physician and trophe = nutrition), hence the common name physic nut.
Approximately 175, see Section Species.
Habitat : Jatropha is native to Central America and has become naturalized in many tropical and subtropical areas, including India, Africa, and North America. Originating in the Caribbean, Jatropha was spread as a valuable hedge plant to Africa and Asia by Portuguese traders. The mature small trees bear separate male and female flowers, and do not grow very tall. As with many members of the family Euphorbiaceae, Jatropha contains compounds that are highly toxic.
It is a small tree or shrub with smooth gray bark, which exudes a whitish colored, watery, latex when cut. Normally, it grows between three and five meters in height, but can attain a height of up to eight or ten meters under favourable conditions.
It has large green to pale-green leaves, alternate to sub-opposite, three-to five-lobed with a spiral phyllotaxis.
The petiole length ranges between 6-23 mm. The inflorescence is formed in the leaf axil. Flowers are formed terminally, individually, with female flowers usually slightly larger and occurs in the hot seasons. In conditions where continuous growth occurs, an unbalance of pistillate or staminate flower production results in a higher number of female flowers.
Fruits are produced in winter when the shrub is leafless, or it may produce several crops during the year if soil moisture is good and temperatures are sufficiently high. Each inflorescence yields a bunch of approximately 10 or more ovoid fruits. A three, bi-valved cocci is formed after the seeds mature and the fleshy exocarp dries.
The seeds become mature when the capsule changes from green to yellow, after two to four months from fertilization. The blackish, thin shelled seeds are oblong and resemble small castor seeds.
The hardy Jatropha is resistant to drought and pests, and produces seeds containing 27-40% oil (average: 34.4% ). The remaining press cake of jatropha seeds after oil extraction could also be considered for energy production.
Goldman Sachs recently cited Jatropha curcas as one of the best candidates for future biodiesel production. However, despite its abundance and use as an oil and reclamation plant, none of the Jatropha species have been properly domesticated and, as a result, its productivity is variable, and the long-term impact of its large-scale use on soil quality and the environment is unknown.
Jatropha curcas grows almost anywhere – even on gravelly, sandy and saline soils. It can thrive on the poorest stony soil. It can grow even in the crevices of rocks. The leaves shed during the winter months form mulch around the base of the plant. The organic matter from shed leaves enhance earth-worm activity in the soil around the root-zone of the plants, which improves the fertility of the soil.
Regarding climate, Jatropha curcas is found in the tropics and subtropics and likes heat, although it does well even in lower temperatures and can withstand a light frost. Its water requirement is extremely low and it can stand long periods of drought by shedding most of its leaves to reduce transpiration loss. Jatropha is also suitable for preventing soil erosion and shifting of sand dunes.
Analysis of the Jatropha seed shows the following chemical composition:
– Moisture 6.20 %
– Protein 18.00 %
– Fat 38.00 %
– Carbohydrates 17.00 %
– Fiber 15.50 %
– Ash 5.30 %
The oil content is 35 – 40% in the seeds and 50 – 60% in the kernel. The oil contains 21% saturated fatty acids and 79% unsaturated fatty acids.There are some chemical elements in the seed which are poisonous and render the oil not appropriate for human consumption.
Oil has a very high saponification value and is being extensively used for making soap in some countries. Also, the oil is used as an illuminant as it burns without emitting smoke.
Raw material for dye
The bark of Jatropha curcas yields a dark blue dye which is used for colouring cloth, fishing nets and lines.
Jatropha oil cake is rich in nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium and can be used as organic manure.
Jatropha leaves are used as food for the tusser silkworm.
The seeds are considered anthelimintic in Brazil, and the leaves are used for fumigating houses against bed-bugs. Also, the ether extract shows antibiotic activity against Styphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli.
Alternative to Diesel
It is significant to point out that, the non-edible vegetable oil of Jatropha curcas has the requisite potential of providing a promising and commercially viable alternative to diesel oil since it has desirable physicochemical and performance characteristics comparable to diesel. Cars could be run with Jatropha curcas without requiring much change in design.
The latex of Jatropha contains an alkaloid known as “jatrophine” which is believed to have anti-cancerous properties. It is also used as an external application for skin diseases and rheumatism and for sores on domestic livestock. In additon, the tender twigs of the plant are used for cleaning teeth, while the juice of the leaf is used as an external application for piles. Finally, the roots are reported to be used as an antidote for snake-bites.
Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider .