Abrus precatorius L

[From Arabic, Abrus = Abrus precatorius L. and from Latin, precatorius = pray]

Physical description: It is a perennial tropical climbing shrub. The stems are slender. Leaves: pinnate and 5 cm-8 cm long. The folioles are 20-40 in number, silky below, deciduous, membranaceous, rhomboid, and 2 cm-3 cm long. The flowers are small and arranged in dense axillary racemes. The calyx is campanulate and 5-lobed.

Uses: In Burma, the roots of Abrus precatorius L. are used to relieve cough and to adulterate liquorice. In China, the seeds are used to induce vomiting, relieve the bowels of costiveness, expel intestinal worms, stimulate the secretion of sweat, and promote expectoration. In Malaysia, a decoction of the leaves and roots is drunk to relieve cough. In Vietnam, a decoction of about 10 g of the roots, stems and leaves is drunk to treat fever, coryza and jaundice, relieve cough, and counteract poisoning. The seeds are used to treat infected skin, mastitis and galactophoritis, heal boils and soothe inflammation. A number of Asian women living in UK use the seeds to abort a pregnancy, even though these seeds are poisonous. Note that the seeds of Abrus precatorius L. were officially used in Western medicine (Abrus, British Pharmaceutica/ Codex, 1934).

Common names: Wild liquorice, Jamaica wild liquorice, Indian liquorice, jequirity bean, jumble beads, crab-eyes vine, coral pea, prayer beads, rosary pea; arbre a chape/et (French); pokokmemanjat, akar saga betina, akar be/imbing (Malay); cam thao day, day chichi (Vietnamese).

Jequirity Bean
Fig. 163. Abrus precatorius L. From: KLU Herbarium 8633. Flora of the Caroline Islands. College of Guam Herbarium. Geographical localization: off road near teacher housing, Dinay, Southeast Yap. Climbing in trees of forest, 27 July 1966, ca 20 m. Field collectors: MW Cushing & FR Fosbery.

The corolla is reddish or whitish, and much exerted. The standard is ovate, acute and adheres below the staminal tube. The wings are narrow and the keel arcuate. The andrecium consists of 9 stamens which are united into a tube. The style is short and the stigma capitate. The pods are ellipsoid, 2.5 cm-4 cm long and contain 4-6 seeds. The seeds are round, glossy, woody, black and red and dreadfully toxic (Fig. 163).

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