Cape Town: An extract of the poisonous shrub Jatropha curcas acts as a strong painkiller and may function in a different way than morphine and other pharmaceuticals.
Jatropha curcas, also known as the "physic nut", is a perennial shrub that grows to five meters in height. It is native to Central America but grows widely in Africa and Asia.
The plant fruit is combined with the stem bark of Cochlospermum planchonii for treating diabetes and is also used traditionally as a painkiller, says Omeh Yusuf and Ezeja Maxwell of University of Agriculture in Umudike, Nigeria.
The plant`s seeds have been used for making soap, candles, detergents, lubricants and dyes and the seed oil is used in biodiesel, the International Journal of Biomedical Engineering and Technology reports.
The researchers extracted what they believed to be the physiologically active components of the leaves of Jatropha curcas using methanol as solvent, according to Umudike statement.
They compared the effects of this extract at 100, 200 and 400 milligrams per kg (mg/kg) of body mass, against 400 mg/kg of acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) in standard lab animal tests for assessing the strength of painkillers.
They found that 100 mg/kg was an inadequate dose, however, 200 and 400 mg/kg doses produced analgesia (relief from pain)comparable to aspirin, affirming the use of the plant for pain relief.
Yusuf and Maxwell are now carrying out more work on isolating and characterizing the active ingredient in the extract and in determining the precise mode of action.