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Natural Pain Relief from Physic Nut Similar to Aspirin


An extract from the leaves of Jatropha curcas, also known as physic nut, offers pain relief similar to that of aspirin, according to tests conducted on the shrub. Physic nut is used as a traditional medicine in Nigeria and other parts of the world.

Physic nut also has other uses

Jatropha curcas, also known as Barbados nut and purging nut, is a semi-evergreen shrub native to Central America and Mexico, and is cultivated in subtropical and tropical areas of the world. Its pain-relieving qualities are in sharp contrast to one of its other uses—its seeds contain an oil that can be made into a high-quality biodiesel fuel.

At the University of Agriculture in Umudike, Nigeria, a country where J. curcas is used traditionally as a painkiller, researchers extracted components of the plant’s leaves and compared three different doses in animal models for its analgesic abilities. Doses of 100, 200, and 400 milligrams per kilogram of body mass were evaluated against 400 mg/kg of aspirin.

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At 200 and 400 mg/kg, physic nut extract produced pain relief comparable to aspirin. Further tests are needed to determine the exact mode of action. For now, the researchers believe the extract works through both central and peripheral pain mechanisms. Morphine and similar drugs act on the central nervous system; aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen have an impact on both the peripheral and central nervous systems.

The seeds of the physic nut plant also have many other uses, including the making of candles, detergents, lubricants, and dyes. Like other members of the Euphorbiaceae family, Jatropha curcas contains toxic compounds, including toxalbumin curcin, which is found in the seeds.

The findings of the study are important because new, more effective pain-relieving drugs without addiction and side effect issues are needed. Given that two widely used pain killers—aspirin and morphine—were originally derived from natural sources, turning to herbal and traditional medicine for new products is a logical approach.

Yusuf O, Maxwell E. International Journal of Biomedical Engineering and Technology 2011; 6: 200-7