In producing oil from physic nuts (an alternate name for jatropha nuts), it is important to keep in mind that seed yields and oil yields vary widely according to the origin and cultivation region of the Jatropha curcas plants. An especially high oil content is contained in seeds grown in regions with a tropical climate.
The oil from the seeds is obtained through a mechanical pressing / oil press of the seeds.
Depending upon the intended use, the jatropha / physic nut is pressed with or without the shell.
Characteristics and shelf life
Jatropha oil is a light yellow, nearly colorless, semi-dry oil.
It is nevertheless virtually odorless.
Since the toxins contained in the physic nuts end up in the oil through the pressing process, this oil is not intended for consumption. Jatropha curcas oil has a bitter, burning taste and causes severe diarrhea and vomiting.
The fat composition of this oil consists approximately 15-17% of palmitic acid, around 6-8% of stearic acid, about 30-44% of oleic acid, around 0.3% of linoleic acid, and also about 0.3% of arachidic acid. The remaining 30-52% is made of linoleic acid. Thus, the portion of unsaturated fatty acids in the oil is considerably larger than that of the saturated.
In the pharmaceutical and medical industries
Jatropha oil finds application in the areas of medicine and pharmacy. It shows, for example, activity against the bilharzias-carrying (schistosomiasis-carrying) snail, which is of particular interest since schistosoma is endemic to many tropical and subtropical countries, infecting more than 200 million people annually.
In folk medicine
In natural medicine, it used as a laxative, and is used to help treat skin diseases such as scabies, eczema and herpes. In addition, it is used as a liniment for rheumatism.
Usage as a fuel
The seeds of the physic nut contains, in addition to an oil content of at least 30%, a cetane number of around 60 (biodiesel fuel made of rapeseed oil contains only around 54%), which is why it is a highly effective, technically useable plant oil. An attempt is being made specifically in the financially weak tropical countries to process jatropha oil further into biodiesel and to cold-pressed plant oil, for direct use in specially adapted motors, which would spare these countries from having to import expensive crude oil. There have also already been attempts to develop a biological airplane fuel composed half of physic nut oil and half of kerosene.
Jatropha oil finds further application in industry and technology as lamp oil; in the production of soaps, candles, and paints; and in the manufacturing of lubricants. Beyond this, it may also be used as a biological pesticide, due to its insecticidal effect; and in the agrarian areas of Nigeria, it is used in mixing poisons for arrows and as bait for guinea hens.
The press cake that forms as a by-product from the oil pressing constitutes a highly effective, organic fertilizer.
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In addition to their own knowledge acquired through press trials, the following sources were used to create the article:
- Öle, natürlich kaltgepresst, Basiswissen & Rezepte, Marcus Hartmann, Hädecke, 2008
- Heilende Öle, Pflanzenöle als Nahrungs- und Heilmittel, Neue Erkenntnisse, Günter Albert Ulmer Verlag Tuningen
- Lexikon der pflanzlichen Fette und Öle, Krist, Buchbauer, Klausberger, SpringerWienNewYork, 2008