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Research Article

Effect of Jatropha tanjorensis J.l. Ellis and Soroja Leaves in Rabbits: Biochemistry and Ultrasonography

A.O. Akhigbe, M. Idu, E.S. Orhue, J.E. Ataman and S.O. Ehimwenman
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Toxicological study of Jatropha tanjorensis leaves was conducted by evaluating changes in weight, biochemical and ultrasonographic parameters of rabbits that have been administered varying concentrations (0, 5, 10 and 25%) of the ground leaves mixed with feed-mash for a period of 30 days. There was no significant difference (p<0.05) in weight of rabbits. Renal function tests revealed that there was a significant reduction of serum urea concentration in the male rabbits (p<0.05) from 38.33 in group C to 18.33 in group D. This suggests that the amount of J. tanjorensis plant powder used in this study could interfere positively with the filtration function of the kidney in rabbits. The ultrasound picture of kidney, heart and spleen showed no significant change from the control, where as there was reduction in the size of the liver with increased echogenicity when compared with the control. This may be an indication of hepatic toxicity.

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  How to cite this article:

A.O. Akhigbe, M. Idu, E.S. Orhue, J.E. Ataman and S.O. Ehimwenman, 2009. Effect of Jatropha tanjorensis J.l. Ellis and Soroja Leaves in Rabbits: Biochemistry and Ultrasonography. Research Journal of Medicinal Plants, 3: 29-33.

DOI: 10.3923/rjmp.2009.29.33



An increasing reliance on the use of medicinal plants in the industrialised societies has been traced to the extraction and development of many drugs and chemotherapeutics from these plants as well as from traditionally used herbal remedies (UNESCO, 1998). A large and increasing number of patients use medicinal herbs or seek the advice of their physician regarding their use (O`Hara et al., 1998). With out doubts, the benefits derived from using medicine obtained from plants are that they are relatively safer than synthetic alternative by offering profound therapeutic benefits and more affordable treatment (Iwu et al., 1999).

There has been a number of research carried out in toxicologically studies (Idu et al., 2006; Oyewole et al., 2007; Ozolua et al., 2007). Increasing interest in medicinal herbs has increased scientific scrutiny of their therapeutic potentials and safety thereby providing physicians with data to help patients make wise decisions before using them (O`Hara et al., 1998).

Jatropha tanjorensis belongs to the family Euphorbiaceae and it shows intermediacy in phenotypic characters between J. gossypifolia and J. curcas (Prabakaran and Sujatha, 1999). It is commonly called hospital too far, Catholic vegetable, Iyana-ipaja, lapalapa (Iwalewa et al., 2005).

In Nigeria, the leaf of J. tanjorensis has been used locally, consumed as a vegetable and it is popular as a natural remedy against diabetes in this region (Olayiwola et al., 2004). Recent claims have it that the plant is no longer safe for use and that it could be toxic to organs in the body, although few reports on its pharmacological values and toxicological effects have been documented (Ehimwenma and Osagie, 2007).

Against this backdrop our intention in this study was to quantify some biochemical measured effects- body weights, organ weights, liver function, kidney function and ultrasonographic findings in order to examine the response of animals during administration of safe dosage of the plant`s powder. This study has accessed the toxic effect of J. tanjorensis on biochemical and ultrasonographic analysis in rabbits.


Collection, Harvesting and Preparation of J. tanjorensis
The leaf of J. tanjorensis was identified by Prof. Macdonald Idu of Botany Department, University of Benin. Samples were collected in the month of March, 2007 from a home garden in BDPA, Ugbowo, Benin City, Nigeria. Harvesting was done by using a sharp knife with hands properly protected with gloves to avoid the milky latex that exudes from the plant, which causes irritation and itching on contact with the skin. The harvested leaves were air-dried at room temperature for 2 days then further dried in an oven at 40°C for 24 h. The crispy leaves were ground into powder and preserved in moisture-free, airtight laboratory containers for further use.

Experimental Rabbits
Forty rabbits (male and female) weighing between 1.3 and 1.5 kg were bought from Aduwawa Market in Benin City and acclimatized in the Microbiology Animal House, University of Benin for 2 weeks maintaining 12 h light/12 h dark and room temperature (27 °C). The rabbits were divided by sex into 4 groups of 5 animals per cage. They were provided with commercial feed-mash and water ad libitum. Marker pen was used to distinctly label each animal for easy identification.

Administration of J. tanjorensis Leaf Powder
J. tanjorensis powder was mixed with commercial feed and administered to the rabbit treatment groups viz., 5:95, 10:90 and 25:75% of plant to feed-mash representing groups B, C and D, respectively, while the control (group A) was administered feed-mash only. Physical characteristics such as agility, appetite and eye color were closely observed through out the period. The average weekly weight of rabbits in each group was recorded.

Collection of Blood Samples
After the 5th week period, blood samples were collected through the marginal ear vein of each rabbit with small needles and 5 mL of the blood sample was kept in lithium heparin bottles and taken to the laboratory. The serum biochemical examination was carried out using (Vitros DT 60 Ã? Chemistry System) and the following parameters were measured: creatinine total protein, sodium, potassium, calcium alanine aminotransferase, aspartate aminotransferase, urea, alkaline phosphatase, carbon dioxide, conjugated and total bilirubin.

After the 5th week period, the animals were taken for ultrasonography in diagnostic laboratory in Benin City, Nigeria. The rabbits were scanned with an ultrasound machine after a generous amount of ultrasound gel was applied to the chest and abdominal regions of the rabbits on the ventral surface. The lungs, spleen, kidney (Right and left), heart and liver were identified. Snap shots of the organs were taken and printed out for proper analysis.

The mean, standard deviation and standard error and the level of significance for the differences between means were calculated by students test SPSS 10. The level of significance was at p ≤ 0.05.


Table 1 report on physical observations in experimental rabbits. Only the female groups B, C and D had moderate appetite for the feed preparation when compared with the control and other treatment groups.

Table 2 shows there was no significant difference in average body weight between the treatment groups and the control and between treatments.

Liver function test (Table 3) shows there was no significant difference (p>0.05) in the values of total bilirubin, conjugated bilirubin, total protein, alanine aminotransferase and aspartate aminotranferase between the control and treated groups and between the treated groups.

Table 4 shows there was a significant increase (p<0.05) in urea level from 38.33± 2.20 to 18.33± 9.28 in male groups C and D, respectively in the renal function analysis. Other parameters did not alter significantly (p>0.05).

Table 5 shows radiological observations in the male rabbits. There was no abnormal alteration of heart, kidneys and spleen sizes in treatment groups compared with the control. Bradycardia was however recorded in group D.

The treatments did not interfere markedly with agility and eye colour of the rabbits (Table 1). Although the male treatments groups had equally high appetite throughout the period, female groups B, C and D showed less preference for the feed compared with the control. Intake of the plant had no significant alteration on the weights of the rabbits irrespective of the sex (Table 2).

Beck et al. (1994) reported that bilirubin level reduction indicates improvement in health conditions. In the present study, the liver function test revealed that the bilirubin level of all the rabbits were within normal range, as non of the recorded alterations were of any statistical significance (Table 3). Idu et al. (2006) had a similar result in the study of the effect of Stachytarpheta jamaicensis on Wistar Rat.

Table 1: Effect of J. tanjorensis on physical activities of rabbits
Image for - Effect of Jatropha tanjorensis J.l. Ellis and Soroja Leaves in Rabbits: Biochemistry and Ultrasonography
+++ = High appetite, ++ = Moderate appetite

Table 2: Effect of intake of J. tanjorensis leaves on the average body weights of rabbits
Image for - Effect of Jatropha tanjorensis J.l. Ellis and Soroja Leaves in Rabbits: Biochemistry and Ultrasonography
Mean± SD with similar superscript within a row are not significantly different, p>0.05

Table 3: Effect of intake of J. tanjorensis leaves on liver function in rabbits
Image for - Effect of Jatropha tanjorensis J.l. Ellis and Soroja Leaves in Rabbits: Biochemistry and Ultrasonography
Mean± SE with similar superscript within a row are not significantly different, p>0.05: Mean± standard error with different superscripts within a row are significantly different, p<0.05, Tp-total protein: Alt-alanine aminotransferase: Ast-aspartate aminotransferase, Cb and Tbil-conjugated and total bilirubin

Table 4: Effect of intake of J. tanjorensis leaves on renal function of rabbit
Image for - Effect of Jatropha tanjorensis J.l. Ellis and Soroja Leaves in Rabbits: Biochemistry and Ultrasonography
Mean± Standard error with similar superscript within a row are not significantly different at p>0.05: Mean± Standard error with different Superscript within a row are significantly different at p<0.05: Cr-Creatinie, Na-sodium, K-Potassium, Urea, Akpo4-alkaline phosphatase

Table 5: Radiological observations of male rabbits
Image for - Effect of Jatropha tanjorensis J.l. Ellis and Soroja Leaves in Rabbits: Biochemistry and Ultrasonography

It has been revealed that Plasma Alt and Ast activities are markers of hepatocellular damage (Oduola et al., 2007; Price and Stevens, 1993). In this study the plant had no such deleterious effect as Alt and Ast levels in treatment groups were not significantly different compared with the controls (Table 3).

Electrolytes, creatinine and urea are markers of kidney function (Oduola et al., 2007), while increase in alkaline phosphatase has been reported to be an indication of bone or liver disease (Price and Stevens, 1993). At the end of this study, it was observed that the plasma level of Na+, K+, AKpO4 and creatinine were not affected significantly by the intake of the plant in both sexes (Table 4).

It has earlier been said that the elevation of serum urea could interfere with the filtration function of the kidney (Ijeh and Ukweni, 2007). It is of interest to note that higher concentration of J. tanjorensis significantly decreased the serum urea level in the male group from 38.33± 2.20 in group C to 18.33± 9.28 in group D, an indication that the plant is not nephrotoxic (Oduola et al., 2007).

Radiological investigation showed that the highest dosage lowered the heart rate of the rabbits significantly resulting in bradycardia (Table 5). Lower concentrations generally had no significant radiological relevance.

In conclusion, the intake of this plant (J. tanjorensis) cannot be said to have marked adverse effect on most of the vital organs investigated in this study. However, further research is recommended to determine the effects of higher concentrations on the activity of the heart probably through isolated organ test.

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