The tuba-tuba with scientific name Jatropha curcas linn belonging to the Euphorbiaceae or spurge family is a poisonous shrub that originated in Central America and has spread to other countries having tropical and subtropical climate such as the Philippines and India. The tuba-tuba, also known as tubang bakod because it is being commonly used as a fence in most Philippine houses has medicinal benefits and is in the list of the herbal medicines being recognized by the Philippines’ Department of Health. It was in the news a few years ago as the oil that can be processed from its seedswas discovered as an alternative to fuel and is now being cultivated as a rich source of biodiesel.
A grown tuba-tuba or jatropha plant reaches up to 3 meters and can even grow up to 8 meters in height. It has large green or pale-green leaves that are lobed and are arranged in a spiral pattern. Its flowers are clustered in the axil of a leaf and are formed individually at the tip of the stem. The tuba-tuba or jatropha is a low maintenance plant and can grow almost any kind of soil, whether ordinary, rocky, sandy, or gravely soil and can easily adapt to any kind of weather.
As an herbal medicine, the sap of the jathropaincludes among its components an alkaloid called jatrophine which is believed to have anti-cancer properties. The leaves can also be used as a liniment to treat stomach ache and can also be used as a natural insect repellant. The roots of the jatropha are used as an anti-dote for snake bites. The bark from jatropha roots on the other hand can be used as treatment for sores while the decoction of the roots together with the leaves can be used to treat diarrhea.
Aside from the tuba-tuba's medicinal properties, there are also other benefits that can be derived from this plant. These are:
1) The oil extracted from the plant's seeds, aside from being an alternative to fuel can also be used in the process of soap making.
2) Extract from the plant's roots can be processed as yellow dye while the extract from its barks can be processed to produce blue dye.
3) The seeds can be pounded and used for tanning.
4) The plant itself can be used to prevent soil erosion.
With these benefits and its promise as an alternative energy source, it is no wonder that the cultivation of the tuba-tuba plant is being encouraged in the Philippines.