Herbs & Plants

Croton tiglium

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Botanical Name :Croton tiglium
Family: Euphorbiaceae
Subfamily: Crotonoideae
Genus: Croton
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Malpighiales
Tribe: Crotoneae
Species: C. tiglium

Other Names :Purging croton, Physic-nut, Croton-oil plant

Habitat : Native to tropical Asia from India to New Guinea and Java, north into Indonesia and China. Wild throughout the Philippine Islands, where it is also cultivated to a limited extent; often becoming naturalized after cultivation. Grown in southern California and elsewhere as an ornamental and curious plant.

Ranging from Subtropical Moist to Tropical Very Dry throught Wet Forest Life Zones, purging croton is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 7.0 to 42.9 dm (mean of 8 cases = 20.6), annual temperature of 21.0 to 27.5°C (mean of 8 cases = 25.3), and pH of 4 5 to 7.5 (mean of 6 cases = 6.1). (Duke, 1978, 1979) A dry land plant, adaptable to most tropical climates, up to 1,500 m elevations, not particular as to soil type or texture. Often grown in mixed forests, and commonly planted in and about towns.


Small shrub or tree up to 12 m tall evergreen; bark smooth, the younger stems stellate puberulent. Leaves alternate, simple; stipulate; petioles long; laminae ovate or elliptic-lanceolate, the bases obtuse to rounded, the margins serrate, the tips acute to acuminate, 3-costate, reticulate, the surfaces glabrous. Inflorescences in terminal racemes, bearing unisexual flowers; monoecious; bracts subulate. Flowers ebracteolate, pedicellate, unisexual, actinomorphic, pentamerous, hypogynous. Staminate flower: Calyx synsepalous, 5-partite, the tips bearded, glabrescent, persistent. Corolla apopetalous, the petals 5, linear, as long as the calyx., the margins pubescent, white. Androecium polyandrous, stamens 15, inserted on a villous receptacle, disc glands 5, small, opposite the calyx lobes, the anthers dithecous, adnate, introrse, dehiscence longitudinal. Pistillode absent. Pistillate flower: Calyx synsepalous, 5-partite, the tips bearded, stellate puberulent, villous at the base within, persistent. Corolla absent; disc obscure, annular. Pistil 1, ovary ellipsoid, stellately hispid, 3-lobed, 3-carpelled, syncarpous, 3-loculed, the placentation axile, the ovule one in each locule, the styles 3, the stigmas 2-fid. Fruit a schizocarp capsule of three 1 – seeded cocci, elliptic-oblongoid, 3-lobed, hispid; seeds oblongoid, 3-lobed, hispid; seeds oblongoid, obtusely trigonous, carunculate ,endosperm copious, fleshy. Flowering period: July – September. Fruiting period: August – November.

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Propagated from seed, the seed sown directly in the forest, or in seedbeds and the young plants planted in desired places. It may be cultivated as a pure crop or as an intercrop with cacao or coffee, providing some shade (Reed, 1976).

Plants begin bearing seed in 3 years after planting, and are full-bearing in 6 years. Seeds ripen in November and December, and should be collected before capsules open.

Constituents :C.S.I.R. reports that the oil contains 3.4% toxic resin. Of the acids, 37.0% is oleic, 19.0% linoleic, 1.5% arachidic, 0.3% stearic, 0.9% palmitic, 7.5% myristic, 0.6% acetic, 0.8% formic, with traces of lauric, tiglic, valeric, and butyric, plus some unidentified.

Medicinal uses
It is one of the 50 fundamental herbs of used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Major known ingredients are: glyceryl crotonate, crotonic acid, crotonic resin, and the tumor-promoting phorbol esters phorbol formate, phorbol butyrate, and phorbol crotonate.

Folk Medicine
According to Hartwell (1967-1971), the seed oil and bark are used in folk remedies for cancerous sores and tumors. Reported to be cathartic, diaphoretic, ecbolic, emetic, emmenagogue, purgative, rubefacient, and vesicant, purging croton is a folk remedy for apoplexy, cancer, carbuncles, colds, dysentery, fever, flux, paralysis, ranula, scabies, schistosomiasis, skin, snakebite, sore, throat, and toothache (Duke and Wain, 1981). Leaf poulticed onto snakebite in Sumatra. Seed, POISONOUS, employed as purgative in lead colic and cancer; recommended as a revulsive in colds and fever for obstinate diarrhea and dysentery, delayed menstruation, edema, ranula, apoplexy, paralysis, scabies, throat afflictions, toothache. Seed oil recently used in schistosomiasis. Bruised root applied to cancerous sores and carbuncles. Seeds contain one of the most purgative substances known; also quite vesicant; once used as emmenagogue. Homeopathically used for gastroenteritis, pustulose eczema, conjunctivitis, and mastitis. Here the reader should be warned that homeopathic practitioners use some very poisonous plants in very dilute concentrations. Like so many plants, this contains both cancer-causing and cancer correcting compounds. According to Pettit (1977), phorbol is the cocarcinogenic substance of Croton tiglium. For a man, about four seeds, for a horse, about 15 seeds represent a lethal dose. On the other hand, Pettit and Cragg (1978) list Phorbol 12-tiglate 13-decanoate as active at doses of 60-250 ug/kg against the PS-tumor system (Duke and Ayensu, 1984). In Malaya a single kernel is eaten as a purgative; when purging has gone far enough, coconut milk is drunk to stop it.

Other Uses
Studying insecticidal activity of 20 plants to adult females of Uroleuron cathami, Deshmukn and Borle (1975) reported the petroleum ether extracts of purging croton seeds to be most effective (0.125% as toxic as nicotine sulfate). Hager’s Handbuch (List and Horhammer, 1969-1979) says it is more effective than Derris extract. Himalaya tribes use the bark in arrow poisons. Bark has been used as a tannin source. Mashiguchi et al. (1977) report on the molluscididal activity of the seed against Oncomelania quadrasi. It is also used to poison fish. When Croton oil was evaluated for possible effects on the P-388 lymphocytic leukemia in mice, significant inhibitory activity was noted. Fractionation of the oil led to characterization of the major component, the phorbol diester, phorbol 12-tiglate 13-decanoate which exhibits significant inhibitory activity at dosages of 60-250 ug per kg body weight against P-388. There is a paradoxical similarity in structure between the cocarcinogenic and antileukemic principles of the Euphorbiaceae and the Thymelaeaceae (Kupchan et al., 1976). Croton oil, a fixed oil expressed from seeds by methods similar to those used to obtain castor oil, is used in human and veterinary medicine as a cathartic, irritant, and rubefacient. Internally, it is a drastic, very rapid purgative or cathartic; applied externally to the skin, it is a powerful local irritant, causing pustular eruptions. When diluted, oil is used as a counter-irritant, and is usually administered with sugar and bread crumbs. In Malaysia, the oil is used more for illumination and soapmaking than for medicine. According to the Wealth of India (C.S.I.R. 1948-1976), “Croton oil appears no longer any place in medical practice.” Crushed seeds and leaves, pulverized and put in sacks, are placed in ponds and rivers to stupefy fish.

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.


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