A multi purpose plant

purging nut or physic nut ( Jatropha Curcas) is a native to tropical America. It is also found in many parts of Asia and Africa. In Cape Verde Islands, it is cultivated as an oil-yielding seed crop. In Madagascar, where the plant is grown as a support for the vanilla plant, the seeds are collected and exported to France for the extraction of oil.

The plant flowers in hot and rainy seasons and normally sets fruit in winter when it is leafless. The mature yellow fruits are plucked and collected in gunny bags. Fruits dried in direct sunlight are ready for extraction within four to five days. Each fruit contains two to three seeds, each weighing 600-750 milligramme. The expected seed production per hectare is estimated to be around 0.5-0.6 kilogramme (kg) in the first year and then increases to 12,000 kg from the sixth year onwards under irrigated conditions. Under rainfed conditions, it grows by 0.24-0.4 kg in the first year and 6,000 kg from the sixth year onwards.

The plant has different uses in different places. Its seeds are used for medicinal purposes in Brazil. They are ground with palm oil and used as rat poison in Gabon. In the state of Kerala in India, the seeds are fried, powdered and taken with molasses for stomach ailments and as an antidote for poisoning. In China, a varnish is prepared by boiling the oil with iron oxide. It can also be used as lubricants for manufacturing soap and candle.

The seed cake contains a rich amount of nitrogen and phosphorous and can be used as manure. But being toxic, it is unfit for cattle feed. It is also used as a dye in the Philippines for colouring cloth, fishing nets and lines. In some countries, the plants' tender twigs are used for cleaning teeth. The young branches and leaves are used as manure for coconut trees.

In Ghana, the leaves are used for fumigating house against bed-bugs. A decoration of the bark is given for rheumatism and leprosy. Its varied qualities makes the physic nut priceless in many parts of the world.

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