CROTON – The Wonder Plant
-by PRANITA DEVI
Out of many shrubs, croton is a kind of small shrub with various shapes and colours. The Codiaeum nariegatum of family Euphorbiaceae, commonly known as Croton, is grown as an ornamental plant for its striking foliage. A wide range of variations are seen in croton with regard to its colour, shape, margins and twists and waves. The name “Croton” comes from a Greek word for tick, as the croton seed resembles a tick in shape. Generally it comes in more than 100 varieties. Its leaves may vary in shapes, comes in all colours of autumn: red, yellow, green, copper, orange, brown, pink and ivory. One of the most popular varieties is the Gold dust.
AS AN ORNAMENTAL PLANT
Croton is usually kept indoors as houseplant or ornamental plant but it can also be used as an outdoor seasonal accent plant.
Not only croton beautifies the place where it is planted or kept as a potted plant but also it has a basic significance also for the farmers in the cultivating lands. Crotons can be propagated through leaves, stem cuttings etc. Branches can be taken and rooted at anytime during the growing season.
Also some of these crotons have important medicinal properties. Croton plants are used primarily for their aesthetic value. Other than these, crotons have got a wide variety of uses.
As water (irrigation) is the most essential need of farmers for cultivating lands, so farmers need to arrange for various irrigation systems in order to irrigate their crops, so as to help them to grow. In this process, sometimes crops may get irrigated with excess of water or sometimes may get less water as farmers may not have proper indication from crops about how much water is needed by a particular crop in the field. But if croton plants are planted in between the crops in the cultivating lands, then it can help in knowing the need of amount of water by the crops. The leaves of the croton plants act as the best indicators. When the soil becomes dry, the croton leaves bend and become limp and start withering. This signal indicates the farmer that in whichever part the leaves of croton plant are withering, that part is needed to be watered. Thus, it reduces the wastage of water. Also the growing crops get just the right amount of water for their growth. Actually it happens because the roots of the crotons do not go very deep under the ground. So, whenever the top layer of the soil is dried up, the croton leaves start to wither and curl up. Hence croton has its significance in farmland if planted in between the crops to know the need of water.
The leaves of croton hold many benefits from medicinal point of view as its leaves are antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant and anticanceral. The ancient Chinese were the first to use croton oil as a medicine. Its root, bark, and leaves are also being used medicinally. The soup of crushed leaves of croton helps to cure diarrhea. It is also used as a cure against flu, cold and toothache.
It is also known to treat a snake bite. Almost all the parts of this plant are medicinally useful in some way or other. Even the root is used in the treatment of gastric ulcer.
However, this species of croton may be poisonous if it is consumed in large quantities and without proper knowledge of its use. Its seeds are known to cure Malaria also and are used as antimalarial medicine throughout endemic malarial areas. In Peruvian herbal medicine, it is recommended for hemorrhage, as an antiseptic vaginal douche and for healing wounds.
As croton tiglium oil is cocarcinogenic, it has been used in tumour research. Croton oil is the source of chemical compound phorbol. Croton Tiglium, commonly known as Jamalgota is the most powerful laxative which has stimulant action on bowel movement. Genus croton of the spurge family, several species of which as C. tiglium, have important medicinal properties.
Croton seeds are sometimes applied directly to the skin for muscle and joint pain, gout and nerve pain etc.
AS AIR PURIFIER
Besides medicinal benefits, it also boasts a powerful air purifying capacity and effectively cleanses the air of formaldehyde. It makes our houses look lively. Croton sucks nasty VOCs from air like a champ.
AN ALTERNATIVE TO DIESEL
A specific species of croton, Croton megalocarpus has been promoted as a local, more sustainable avenue to bio-fuel production. The nut itself has its multiple uses but most well known is the oil used to make bio-fuel or biodiesel. Croton oil generates 78% less carbon dioxide emissions than diesel and has many advantages over other common bio-fuel. Croton nuts are inedible; they can replace the need to make fuel from ingredients. Croton is a better bio-fuel source when compared to other bio-fuel sources. Bio-fuel from croton plants can be used to replace diesel fuel in slow spinning engines. It has no chemical additives; it burns cleaner than traditional diesel fuels with lower exhaust emissions.
In short, croton plants offer some hope for our environment by producing low cost bio-fuel with lesser emissions.
Thus, the croton plant holds a number of magnificent benefits besides being a beautiful decorative plant with its vast range of leaf varieties and that is why we can say croton to be a wonder plant since time immemorial.