By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: The United States of America may boast of the most
advanced medical and health technologies, but it is now looking at the
roots of the Indian tribal medicine to fight the ever-increasing
US agricultural scientists have turned their attention to Jatropha
curcas, a plant widely used in the Indian folk or ethno-medicine to
repel mosquitoes, bees, ticks and other disease-causing insects.
Incidentally, the world is now looking at Jatropha to derive
bio-diesel to reduce the pressure on hydrocarbons.
The US team, which is faced with the major challenge of protecting US
soldiers from mosquito bites, while reviewing the folk medicine
practiced around the world noticed that people living in interior
villages in India burn Jatropha leaves and wood to successfully repel
mosquitoes. Ironically, mosquitoes have been responsible for a quarter
of all human deaths since the advent of man.
Delving further into the Indian ethno-medical literature, they found
that Jatropha contains certain chemical compounds that could be
extracted for use in commercial mosquito repellants. Researchers at
the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Natural Products Utilization
Research Unit (NPURU), USA, collected Jatropha samples and analysed
According to an official press release by ARS, free fatty acids,
triglycerides and other active compounds in Jatropha are effective at
preventing mosquitoes from biting.
“Researchers have known for some time that fatty acids repel insects,
but this was the first known report that identified triglycerides as
having mosquito repellent activity,” the official release said quoting
lead researcher Charles Cantrell.
Jatropha grows wildly in India and till recently, it was treated as a
weed. A native of the Americas, Jatropha was introduced to different
parts of the world including India. Indian folk medicine is a rich
repository of medical knowledge that includes treatment ranging from
snakebite to skin rashes, and dental care to deadly fevers like
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