A few days ago, I read an article in this community about the medicinal benefits of Jatropha curcas published by @moex. While the writer postured that a large percentage of medicinal benefits claimed in his article was largely anecdotal and scientifically yet to be proven, it is a known fact that science does exist long before the establishment of the scientific methods. Back then, what was referred to as scientific evidence was actually anecdotal evidence. Funny enough, it worked for them to an extent. In actual fact, anecdotal evidence paves way for scientific investigations to be conducted on phenomena.
Today, I will be talking about another interesting species in the same genus as in the article I mentioned earlier. The plant is scientifically known as Jatropha tanjorensis, but here in my locality which is a Yoruba-speaking region of Nigeria, it is popularly referred to 'lapalapa pupa'. The Yoruba term 'lapalapa' is a nomenclature for a skin-based fungal infection known as the ringworm while 'pupa' is a term referring to the red colour of some of the leaves of the plant.
The plant has been known to me since my childhood days and the knowledge is 100% synonymous with ringworm. Back then, even though I hardly suffered the plague of ringworm myself, virtually all my peers were not as lucky. I remember sitting down a couple of times and watch how the ringworm patches get scrapped with blade and exudate from the stalk of the leaves of the plant applied to the area. It was quite effective back then and the effectiveness forms the basis for the local name of the plant.
Jatrophas tanjorensis belongs to the Euphorbiaceae family and grows as a medium perennial shrub. The leaves vary in colour from red to green and the flowers usually appear red in colour. The leaves are tri-lobed with mucronate apex. The plant was thought to have originated from Mexico but can now be found in many regions of the world including the tropical regions. This is in no thanks to the wide adaptive ability of the plant to different climatic conditions.
The plant produces multi-carpelous fruits with elliptic seeds inside them. The fruits are initially green in colour but turns yellow at maturity and then brown when dry. The seeds are similar to that of castor oil seeds and not just that, J. tanjorensis is one of the plants whose cultivation is being encouraged for the production of biodiesel.
Small in statue but big in usage
J. tanjorensis, even though small in status, has a wide variety of usage both ethnobotanically and ethnomedicinally. Some of the medicinal potentials have been corroborated and well documented by several scientific research.
Locally, every part of the plant has found one or two usages. Extracts of its leaves are usually drunk as laxatives. The leaf actually serves as a source of food (vegetable) in some quarters. The leaf and its constituents have also been anecdotally reported for its anti-hyperglycemic, antimalarial, as well as anti-hypertensive properties. This is in addition to the antifungal property that I reported earlier.
Scientific investigation into the extract of the leaves of J. tanjorensis reveals the presence of bioactive compounds that are capable of lowering the level of harmful cholesterol in the blood. Thus, it is touted to have the potential to be utilized in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases. source
In another investigation, the leaves of the plant were nutritionally analyzed and found to contain important nutrients that could benefit the body. However, the report of high phytate contents calls for caution in the consumption of the leaves as vegetables.
Extract of the leaves has also been found to have the potential to be utilized in the treatment of renal dysfunction and liver-related problems. An investigation also confirmed the anti-hyperglycemic properties of the extract of the leaves of the plant and, thus, its anti-diabetic property.
A study carried out in 2008 to check any possible hematological issue and toxicity that can be related to the consumption of the leaves of J. tanjorensis revealed no significant threat of toxicity. However, the hematological components of the treatment group were found to be significantly higher than the control group, suggesting that the consumption of the leaves of the plant can improve the functioning of the bone marrow.
J. tanjorensis is a popular plant in the regions where it grows as it is widely utilized for medicinal and non-medicinal purposes. The leaf of the plant has been reported both anecdotally and scientifically to have antidiabetic, anti-hypertensive, and anti-parasitic properties in addition to several other medicinal potentials. While some investigations called for caution in the consumption of the leaves as vegetables due to the presence of toxic metabolites, a few others reported non-toxicity in the consumption of the leaves.
- Oyewole IO, Akingbala PF. Phytochemical analysis and Hypolipidemic properties of Jatropha tanjorensis leaf extract.
- https://clinphytoscience.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s40816-020-00160-5 Eur J Med Plants. 2011;1(4):180–5.