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Aim: This study sought to investigate the abortifacient properties of Jatropha curcas leaf extract in female Wistar rats.
Methods: Healthy leaves of J. curcas were harvested, dried and extracted using soxhlet apparatus and ethanol as the solvent. Thirty fertile male and thirty female Wistar rats were acclimatized for seven days. The females were separated into individual cages and had estrus synchronization using Diethylstilbestrol dissolved in paraffin oil and administered at the dose of 1 mg/kg body weight. A male rat was then introduced into each cage for mating. After confirmation of pregnancy, the pregnant rats were grouped into four. Group A was treated with normal saline, groups B, C and D were treated with 1 g/kg body weight of J. curcas leaf extract for 24, 48 and 72 hours respectively. The animals were then observed daily if they littered. In vitro effect of the fruit on isolated rats’ uteri was determined using standard method.
Results: J. curcas leaf extract was safe in rats at the tested oral doses (500–2000 mg/kg). There was no mortality within the study period. In the in vitro experiment, J. curcas leaf extract elicited a dose dependent multiple contractions on the pregnant rats’ uteri. 60% of animals treated with J. curcas leaf extract for 24 hours were observed to heave littered which is suggestive that miscarriage had occurred in 40%. In the animals treated for 48 hours, only 20% littered which is also suggestive that miscarriage had occurred in the remaining 80%. In the group treated with J. curcas leaf extract for 72 hours, no animal littered.
Conclusion: The results from this study revealed that J. curcas leaf extract induced multiple contractions on pregnant rats’ uteri following in vitro and in vivo administrations. This is an indication that it contains active agents which could be isolated and processed into pure utero-tonic agents. Therefore, care should be taken in the use of J. curcas leaves during pregnancy and its use in folklore medicine during pregnancy should be discouraged. However, it might serve as an effective abortifacient.
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