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Family Euphorbiaceae
Buddha belly plant
Jatropha podagrica Hook.
Fo du shu

Scientific names Common names
Jatropha podagrica Hook. Ginseng (Subanen, Tag.)
  Bottleplant shrub (Engl.)
  Buddha belly plant (Engl.)
  Coral nut (Engl.)
  Gout plant (Engl.)
  Gout stalk (Engl.)
  Gout stick (Engl.)
  Gouty-stalked jatropha (Engl.)
  Guatemala rhubarb (Engl.)
  Nettlespurge (Engl.)
  Physic nut (Engl.)
Jatropha podagrica Hook. is an accepted name The Plant List
In the Philippines, various areas have adopted "ginseng" as local name. (Subanens in Mindanao and Tiaong, Quezon)

Other vernacular names
CHINESE: Fo du shu.
FINNISH: Pullukkajatropa, Pullukka.
FRENCH: Medicinier, Pignon d inde, Plante bouteille.
INDONESIAN: Jarak bali, Jarak batang gajah.
LITHUANIAN: Vaistinis braivelis.
MALAY: Jatrofa buncit, Jarak buncit, Jarak gajah.
MYANMAR: Da bin shwe-htee.
NIGERIAN: Lapalapa funfun.
SPANISH: Tinaja, Pansona, Tartogo, Ruibarbo.
VIETNAMESE: Dau lai la sen, Ngo dong canh, Sen luc binh, Dau lai co cu.

- Jatropha podagrica derives from the Greek 'iatros' meaning healer and trophe, food. Podagrica derives from podagra meaning 'foot gout,' especially of the big toe, or podagrikos, liable to gout.

Buddha belly is a tropical, succulent or sub-woody shrub, growing to a height of 0.5 to 1 meter. Stem is swollen, knobby, grey-skinned, with a large bottle-like caudex. Petioles are 8 to 10 centimeters. Leaves are peltate, glossy green adaxially, gray-green abaxially, margins entire, wavy, or shallowly 3- to 5-lobed, 6 to 8 palmate veins, up to 12 inches in diameter, with a stout stalk attached on the underside of the leaf. Flowers are small, bright red or orange-red, and coral-like clusters at the tip of a long red stalk. Fruits are capsules, ellipsoidal, about 1.5 centimeters , with 3 longitudinal grooves, initially green and fleshy, maturing to dark brown and explosively dehiscent to yield 2 to 3 black seeds, scattering them 3 to 4 meters away. Seeds are smooth and glossy brown, about 1.5 to 2 centimeters long.

J. podagrica is similar to J. curcas and has a thick gouty stem, a thin, often greenish bark which exudes copious amounts of watery sap when cut. (1)

- Introduced.
- Cultivated for ornamental purposes.
- Native of tropical America.

- Contains a purgative oil and a phytotoxin or toxalbumin (curcin) similar to ricin in Ricinis.
- Seed yields a purgative oil (40%), known as hell oil, pinheon oil, oleum infernale or oleum ricini majoris, which contains a small amounts of the irritant curcanoleic acid—related to ricinoleic acid and crotonoleic acid, the principle active ingredients of castor oil and croton oil. (Joubert et al., 1984) (1)
- The genera may also contain (1) hydrocyanic acid (Critical Reviews in Toxicology, 1977) (2) a dermatitis producing resin (Lampe & Fagerstrom, 1968) (3) an alkaloid and a glycoside which produce cardiovascular and respiratory depression. (1)
- Latex yields an alkaloid, jatrophine.
- Crude methanol extract of stem bark yielded six compounds: fraxidin (1), fraxetin (2), scoparone (3), 3-acetylaleuritolic acid (4), β- sitosterol (5) and sitosterone (6). (3)
- Phytochemical screening of stem bark yielded steroid and triterpenes. (see study below) (4)
- Study of roots yielded a new alipathic acid named japodic acid and two other known compounds, erythrinasinate and fraxidin, isolated from the plant for the first time. (see study below) (6)
- Study of root bark isolated one new lathyrane diterpenoid, Jatropodagrene, along with three known compounds. (see study below) (9)
- In a phytochemical study, screening for secondary metabolites yielded alkaloids, tannins, flavonoids, saponins, and phenols in the leaves, roots, seed and stems. Percentage of tannins was 6.79% (leaves), saponin 3.15% in leaf and 2.44% in seed. Alkaloids in leaf was 0.33%, stem 0.15%, seed 0.18%, and root 0.26%.

- All plant parts are poisonous, especially the seeds.
- Roots considered antibacterial, antifungal, aphrodisiac.

Toxicity / Poison Concerns
- All plant parts are considered toxic, but in particular the seeds. In children, as few as 1 to 3 seeds can cause symptoms.
- The plants are particularly attractive to children. Seeds are white and oily in texture, and reported to have an agreeable taste. (1)
- Symptoms occur about half an hour after ingestion of seeds, with acute abdominal pain and burning sensation in the throat, followed by nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, sometimes with blood in the vomitus and feces. There may be CNS depression.
- Main risks are dehydration and cardiovascular collapse as a result of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis.
- Children are more susceptible.
- Treatment: (1) Give fluids by mouth to dilute the poison and seek medical advice. (2) Inducing vomiting or catharsis may hasten elimination. (3) Sap can cause contact dermatitis. Wash affected skin areas with plenty of water. (5) If sap gets in contact with the eyes, flush eyes with plenty of water for at least 15 minutes. (1)
- In some instances as few as three seeds produce toxic symptoms. In others, consumption of as many as 50 seeds results in only mild symptoms. It has been suggested there may be variants without seed toxicity.
- Symptoms of poisoning are likely to be similar for species of Jatropha. (see: Tubang-bakod/ Jatropha curcas)

Parts used
Roots, seeds, fruit, flower.


- In the Quezon province, where some refer to it as "ginseng," roots are pounded and steeped in lambanog for its imagined male tonic, aphrodisiac, and erectile-assistive (viagra) effect.
- The Subanens in Dumingag, Zamboanga del Sur, who call it ginseng, apply crushed roots to wounds. (10)
- In China, plant used for pain relief, reduction of swelling, and detoxifying snake bites.
- Roots used for treating infections.
- Used to treat jaundice, gonorrhea.

- In traditional folk medicine in many parts of Africa. Seeds have been used as purgative, anthelmintic, and abortifacient; also for the treatment of gout, paralysis, and skin diseases. Seed oil used as ingredient in treatment of rheumatic conditions, pruritus, and parasitic skin diseases. Leaves have been used as hemostatic agent. (1)
- In Africa, some chew seeds when in need of a laxative. (1)
- In Ghana and Nigeria, used as antipyretic, diuretic, choleretic and purgative. (3) In Nigeria, used for parasitic skin infections and hepatitis. (9)
- Despite the poisonous nature of the plant and its more toxic relative J. curcas, small quantities are used in natural remedies and homeopathic medicine. It is externally applied to skin disease and rheumatism. Leaf juice applied to hemorrhoids. (2)
- In Brazil, used to expel intestinal worms.
- In Myanmar, used for toothache, menstrual disorders, glossitis, postpartum disorders. Decoction of fruit, leaf, and flower used as mouthwash for dental and oral diseases. Resin used for healing various ulcers. (5)
- Fish poison: Bark used as fish poison. (1)
- Seed oil: Oil extracted from seeds used as ingredient in soap making. Also, use as lamp illuminant. (2)
- Biofuel: Seed oil potential source of biofuel.
- Fumigant: Leaves burned to fumigate houses against bed-bugs. (2)
- Ritual: Plant used by voodoo practitioners to drive away evil spirits.
- Tanning: In Mexico, use for tanning leather and producing red dye.

Secondary Metabolites / Stem Bark:
Study of crude methanolic extract of stem bark yielded six compounds. (see constituents above) (3)
Antimicrobial: Study investigated the antimicrobial potential of hexane extracts of stem and stem bark against ten clinical isolates. Stem bark extract showed remarkable antibacterial activity compared to the stem extract, with greater zones of inhibition against E. coli and S. aureus compared to that of ampicillin and streptomycin. Stem bark also showed inhibition of Candida albicans, moderate compared to fluconazole. (see constituents above) (3)
Japodic Acid, Fraxidin and Erythrinasinate / Antibacterial / Insecticidal / Roots: Study of roots yielded a new alipathic acid named japodic acid and two other known compounds, erythrinasinate and fraxidin. Japodic acid showed mild insect growth inhibition against Helicoverpa zea (37% at 100 ppm). Fraxidin and erythrinasinate showed antibacterial activity against Bacillus subtilis. (6)
Cytoprotetive / Anti-Tumor / Antioxidant: Study evaluated a hydroalcoholic extract of J. podagrica for antiproliferative, antioxidant and cytoprotective effects. Results showed JP has antioxidant effect even in the presence of free metal ions, although with less efficiency. The extract also showed antitumor activity against A549 and PC12 cells. (7)
Antiproliferative / Anti-Tumor / Antioxidant: Study evaluated the antioxidant, protective properties, and antiproliferative capacity of Lycium europeaum and Jatropha podagrica extracts on proliferation and evolution of A547 (ovarian cancer cell line), OVCAR-3 (human ovary adenocarcinoma cell line), A548 (human lung adenocarcinoma cell line) and PC12 (rat adrenal medulla pheochromocytoma cells). Results showed LE and JP may inhibit proliferation of cancer cells and induce apoptosis and could provide protection from oxidative stress diseases through its high antioxidant molecules content. (8)
Anti-Hepatitis C Virus Activity / Stem Bark: Study of stem bark yielded a new lathyrane diterpenoid, Jatropodagrene (1), along with three known compounds. Compound 1 was highly cytotoxic (98.86% inhibition) to the HC virus, while compounds 2 and 3 displayed significant anti HCV activity. (9)

- Cultivated.
- Seeds in the cybermarket.

© Godofredo U. Stuart Jr., M.D.

Updated June 2017
September 2016

Photos © Godofredo Stuart / StuartXchange

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Jatropha podagrica / IPCS-INCHEM

Jatropha podagrica Hook. / Donald Simpson / Some Magnetic Island Plants
Secondary Metabolites from Jatropha Podagrica Hook / Nowshin N. Rumzhum, Md. Hossain Sohrab, Muhammad Abdullah Al-Mansur, Mohammad S. Rahman, Choudhury M. Hasan and Mohammad A. Rashid* / Journal of Physical Science, Vol. 23(1), 29–37, 2012
Evaluation of antimicrobial activity of medicinal plant Jatropha podagrica (Hook) / BHUSHAN BHASKARWAR, PRAKASH ITANKAR and ABHAY FULKE / Roumanian Biotechnological Letters, Vol 13, No 5 (2008): pp 3873-3877.
Medicinal Plants of Myanmar / Compiled by Ministry of Health Deprtment of Traditional Medicine
Japodic acid, A Novel Aliphatic Acid from Jatropha podagrica Hook / Olapeju O. Aiyelaagbe* and James B. Gloer / Rec. Nat. Prod. 2:4 (2008) 100-106
Assessment of cyto-protective, antiproliferative and antioxidant potential of a medicinal plant Jatropha podagrica / Wafa Ghali, David Vaudry, Thierry Jouenne, Mohamed Néjib Marzouki / Industrial Crops & Products, 2013, 44, pp 111-118
Extracts from medicinal plants inhibit cancer cell proliferation, induce apoptosis in ovary, lung and neuronal cancer cell lines / Wafa Ghali, David Vaudry, Thierry Jouenne and Mohamed Nejib Marzouki / Cancer & Metabolism (2014) 2 (Suppl 1): P21 / DOI: 10.1186/2049-3002-2-S1-P21
Isolation of Diterpenoids from Jatropha podagrica against Hepatitis C virus / A Falodun, V Imieje, O Erharuyi, J Joy Ahomafora, C Akunyuli, AA Udu-Cosi, O Theophilus, I Ali, M Albadry, P Fasinu, MT Hamann / Journal of African Association of Physiological Sciences, Vol 2, No 1 (2014)
Medicinal Plants of the Subanens in Dumingag, Zamboanga del Sur, Philippines / Lady Jane G. Morilla, Nanette Hope N. Sumaya, Henry I. Rivero and Ma. Reina Suzette B. Madamba / International Conference on Food, Biological and Medical Sciences (FBMS-2014) Jan. 28-29, 2014 Bangkok (Thailand)
Comparative Phytochemical Screening of Jatropha L. Species in the Niger Delta / Nwokocha, A Blessing, IO Agbagwa, and BE Okoli / Research Journal of Phytochemistry (2011) / DOI: 10.3923/rjphyto.2011

It is not uncommon for links on studies/sources to change. Copying and pasting the information on the search window or using the DOI (if available) will often redirect to the new link page.

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