Discovering Poisonous Plants by Tasting: The Case of Children in Mumias Sub-County, Kenya

Wycliffe W Wanzala


Plants are like a two-edged sword, which cuts on either pointing side. All living organisms exclusively depend on plants for their survival while, on the other hand, the same plants, just like the two-edged sword, are capable of killing any living organisms engaged with it. Identifying the fulcrum point of balancing the engagement level to avoid any harm, is a critical challenge to humanity! Jatropha curcas is an example of such a two-edged sword plant. All parts of J. curcas have been used in a folk remedy as human and veterinary medicines for a long time without any harm while its products such as oil have been conventionally applied in many industrial processes. Surprisingly, the seeds of J. curcas contain highly poisonous jatrophin, toxalbumin curcin and carcinogenic phorbol. Ingesting as few as three untreated seeds can be fatal to humans. The discussion in this case report is based on children who ate raw seeds of J. curcas. This is a testimony that children’s knowledge about plants is limited and more effort should therefore be dedicated to teaching about poisonous plants. Lessons from this report are, before exploiting any plant for whatever application in the society, it is critical to have an in-depth scientific study of each part of the plant and generate information and henceforth knowledge to advise accordingly. More efforts should be concentrated on the identification and scientific evaluation of the unknown plants in our respective environments and any information generated should be put in the public domain to avoid any future calamity.



Euphorbiaceae; Jatropha curcas; Jatrophin Toxalbumin curcin; Mumias; Poisonous; Seeds

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ISSN: 2458-5920