Fabaceae - Jequerity, Rosary Pea
Woody twiner, 10 ft. or more, lightly appressed-hairy; leaflets 8-15 pairs, close together, oblong with broad ends, 0.5 in. or less long, entire, minutely apiculate, easily falling ; flowers red to purple, seldom white, about 0.35 in. long, in peduncled racemes 1-3 in. long; pod flat and broad,1.5 in. or less long, close-pubescent, beaked; seeds ovoid, 0.25 in. or less long, shining brilliant scarlet with lower third black.
Abrus precatorius leaves, Jequirity leaves: Leaves contain 10% glycyrrhizin, therefore they are used as a dangerous substitute for liquorice. Folkloristic medicinal uses: Leave decoctions are used in Africa, Asia and the West Indies to treat cough, nervous diseases, colic, and conjunctivitis. Leaves are chewed for hoarseness.
Abrus precatorius root, Jequerity root: The roots contain a small amount of glycyrrhizin (1.2%). They are topically applied in snakebite (West Africa, Asia) and internally given for colic, cough and cold.
Abrus precatorius seed, Jequirity seed: The beautiful black-red seeds are very poisonous. They are used as beads in rosaries (precatorius is from the Latin 'precor', meaning to pray). Because their attraction they are frequently handled by small children, one chewed seed may be lethal. Toxic principle is abrin (jequiritin), a lectin and hemagglutin, consisting of five glycoproteins - Abrus agglutinin (non-toxic, but haemagglutinator) and the four toxic abrins a-d. Unlike that, folkloristic medicinal uses are known in Asia. The decoction has been used to treat conjunctivitis, skin diseases, nervous diseases, headache and malaria. Said to prevent conception. Constituents: The seeds contain fat, reducing sugar, gallic acid, hepaphorine, abraline, abrin, abrine (N-Methyl-L-tryptophan, not to be confused with the toxalbumin abrin), campestrol, cycloartenol, precatorine, squalene, trigonelline.