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Croton (Pavana)


The genus Croton belongs to the Euphorbiaceae family, which comprises approximately
1300 species. Many Croton species have been used as folk medicines.

Scientific name: Croton pavana (syn. Croton tiglium)

Related species: Croton lechleri, Croton megalocarpus, Croton palanostigma, Croton salutaris

Other names: Croton Seeds, Tiglium, Tiglium Seeds, Jayapala, Jamalgota, Nepala, Nervalam, Purging croton, Sangre De Grado, Dragon’s blood, Croton tree

Habitat: Countries where the plant has been found are Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Europe, India, Indochina, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pacific, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, South East Asia, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam

Description of croton

Flower and Fruit: Croton tiglium is a shrub or tree that grows up to 6 metres. The leaves are alternate, smooth, ovate or acuminate. They are dark green above and paler beneath, with an unpleasant smell. There are inconspicuous flowers in terminal racemes. The seeds have a brown, mottled appearance. The outer layer of the seed is easily removed, leaving a hard, black coat.

Propagation: Seed – Cuttings

Chemical Constituents of Croton

To date, 399 new compounds have been isolated and identified from Croton species. These compounds include diterpenoids, clerodanes, tiglianes, crotofolanes, labdanes, cembranes, abietanes, casbanes, halimanes, pimaranes, cleistanthanes, rayananes, grayananes, atisanes, phytanes, laevinanes and meroditerpenoids; sesquiterpenoids and triterpenoids; glycosides; alkaloids; benzoate derivatives, pyran-2-one derivatives, derivatives and limonoids; cyclicpeptides, tropone derivatives and limonoids; flavonoids, lignans, and other types of 10 compounds.

Croton (Pavana)
Croton (Pavana)

Medicinal Parts

The seeds and seed oil, leaves, bark and root.

The oil is extracted from the seeds and is toxic; 1 ml can be fatal.

Biological Activities

Compounds isolated from Croton species exert a wide range of biological activities,
including cytotoxic, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, acetylcholinesterase inhibitory, and neurite outgrowth-promoting activities.

Cytotoxic Activity
The anti-tumour activity of many plants from the Croton species have been reported. Therefore, the cytotoxicity of the isolated compounds is the most commonly studied bioactivity. Four new tigliane diterpene esters from the leaves of C. tiglium, exhibited most potent cytotoxic activity against K562 cell line.

Antifungal Activity
Two benzoate derivatives were isolated from C. hutchinsonianus, and exhibited antifungal activity against Candida albicans. Ursane triterpenoid from the root of C. bonplandianum, displayed antifungal activity against Calletotricheme camellie, Fussarium equisitae, Alterneria alternata, Curvularia eragrostidies and Colletorichum gloeosporiodes.

Anti-Inflammatory Activity
Anti-flammatory activity was observed in various species of croton – C. tonkinensis exhibited the anti-inflammatory potential for inhibition of superoxide Anion generation and elastase release; Labdane diterpenoids isolated from the aerial parts of C. laui, were found to show anti-inflammatory activities; A tigliane diterpenoid was isolated from the branches and leaves of C. tiglium, and C. tonkinensis, showed anti-inflammatory effect; Two grayanane diterpenoids from the leaves of C. tonkinensis, were reported to decrease the LPS-induced COX-2 promoter activity. Two benzoate derivatives were obtained from C. hutchinsonianus.

Acetylcholinesterase Inhibitory Activity
An indole alkaloid derivative, isolated from the leaves of C. heliotropiifolius, exhibited the acetylcholinesterase inhibitory activity. Compound from C. sylvaticus, also displayed the same activity.

Neurite Outgrowth-Promoting Activity
Two clerodane diterpenoids were isolated from C. yanhuii, which markedly increased the NGF-induced proportion of neurite bearing cells by 59%, and 47%, respectively. Crotoeurins A–C obtained from C. euryphyllus, were also found to display neurite outgrowth-promoting activity.


Uses of Croton

The seed oil and bark were widely used in folk medicine as a strong purgative, catarrh, remedy for cancerous sores and tumours, carbuncles, colds, dysentery, fever, paralysis, scabies, schistosomiasis, snakebite, sore throat, toothache, and poison.

Chinese Medicine: In China, croton seed oil is used for oedema, furuncles, constipation, chest and stomach pain, worm infestation and sore throat.

Indian Medicine: Indian uses include constipation, abdominal disorders, worm infestation, convulsions and attacks of dizziness.

Malaysia: In Malaysia one seed is eaten as a purgative by adults and coconut milk is drunk to stop the effect.

How The Parts are Used

Oil: The oil is a strong vesicant but can be diluted and used as a counter-irritant for various skin affections. Croton Seed oil is yellowish or reddish-brown and viscid, with a strong smell. It is considered toxic and should be handled with extreme care. Croton seed oil is a laxative, skin-irritant, co-carcinogenic, and nephrotoxic.

The seed oil was formerly included in several pharmacopoeias as a purgative, but because the oil is not stable, it has proved unreliable and has therefore been excluded.

Seed – powder: The powdered seeds are mixed with dates and eaten as a purgative.

Root: Used as a purgative and abortifacient.

Leaves: Used as a poultice to treat snakebites.

Precautions and Adverse Reactions

The croton have been and continue to be used in traditional medicine. However, serious caution must be observed in reference to the seed oil of this plant.

The phorbol esters of the oils are severe co-carcinogenics (show paradoxical biological activity, some being strongly co-carcinogenic, others having anti-cancer activity). Therapeutic uses as well as skin or mucous membrane contacts are to be strictly avoided. Croton oil possesses acute toxicity. When applied to the skin, it brings about itching, burning and after a time, blisters. If taken internally, it leads to burning in the mouth, vomiting, dizziness, stupor, painful bowel movements and ultimately to collapse.


Due to the noted side effects, seek assistance from traditional practitioners who have first hand experience in administering this herb.

NOTE: Please check back for additional information on how it is prepared in some cultures.

Overdose: One to 2 drops of croton seed oil are already acutely toxic; the lethal dosage is put at 20 drops.

Croton Antidote

Borax powder is highlighted as a strong antidote for all parts of Croton tiglium plant.

Chemical Constituents from Croton Species and Their Biological Activities

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An Overview of the Biological and Chemical Perspectives of Croton tiglium

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  2. Chemical Constituents from Croton Species and Their Biological Activities – Wen-Hui Xu, Wei-Yi Liu and Qian Liang
  3. PDR for Herbal Medicine BY Joerg Gruenwald, PhD, Thomas Brendler, BA, Christof Jaenicke, MD etal

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