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Jatropha curcas is a flowering plant that is native to Central America, Mexico, South America, and other tropical locales. It is also known by its common names, such as physic nut, purging nut, and Barbados nut. Although it is primarily used as a form of biodiesel fuel, it has also been used medicinally for centuries to treat such conditions as arthritis, heartburn, colic and eczema, among many other ailments.
Considered a mid-sized tree, Jatropha curcas grows to approximately 20 feet (6.1 m) tall. It has deciduous leaves and yellow, bell-like flowers. The oils that are used in homeopathic medicine are extracted from the oval-shaped black nuts and seeds. Some properties are extracted from the leaves and roots as well.
Many groups of people in South and Central America use Jatropha curcas to treat a wide variety of ailments. For example, tribes in Cameroon use the oil from the leaves to treat arthritis, and people in the Bahamas drink concoctions made from the extract to cure the symptoms of heartburn. Some natives use the leaves as an anti-parasitic to treat scabies, and other groups treat a variety of sexually transmitted diseases, such as syphilis and gonorrhea, with the extract. The root is also used to treat bleeding gums, ringworm, and eczema.
The extract of the Jatropha curcas tree is used in a wide variety of homeopathic remedies as well. For example, some homeopathic medicine practitioners recommend the extract for diarrhea, cramps, colic, and cold sweats. It is also believed to treat leg cramps, constipation, and backaches. In addition, many practitioners claim that it will help women affected by inflamed ovaries.
In homeopathic medicine, the leaves of Jatropha curcas are often used as a purgative and a diuretic. Consequently, it is often used to purge and eliminate illnesses from the body. In addition, many practitioners claim that the nuts may work as a contraceptive.
Much of the acclaimed healing power of the Jatropha curcas comes from the seeds. However, the seeds are believed to be toxic and should be used with extreme caution. Generally, the seeds contain the oil that works as the purgative, but they also may be poisonous to people — in many people, diarrhea and vomiting may occur if they ingest a seed or two. If four or more seeds are consumed, however, death may result. The seeds are believed to be particularly toxic to some children as well. Consequently, Jatropha curcas should only be used under the supervision of a knowledgeable homeopathic practitioner. Typically, any concerns should be met addressed by a medical provider.