Tung Seed

Scientific Name(s): Aleurites moluccana (L.) Willd or A. cordata Steud. Family: Euphorbiaceae (spurges)

Common Name(s): Tung , candlenut , candleberry , varnish tree , balucanat , otaheite walnut , China-wood oil

Uses

Tung seed is commonly used as a wood finish and a component of paints and varnishes. No studies assess the human pharmacology of tung seed.

Dosing

There is no recent clinical evidence to support specific dosage of tung seed. Due to the demonstrated content of tumor promoting and irritant phorbol esters, caution is indicated in its use.

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been determined.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Avoid use.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

The tung seed is considered to be toxic, resulting in stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, slowed reflexes, and possibly death.

Toxicology

The seeds are thrown into fishing areas to stupefy fish in some remote regions, which reflects the potential human toxicity of this plant. 1

Botany

The tung is indigenous to China and Japan but now grows in many warm regions, including Florida.

History

The seed is the source of an oil that has been widely used as a wood preservative. It dries faster than linseed oil, making it a near perfect drying oil. The oil is incorporated into paints and varnishes, soaps, rubber substitutes, linoleum, and insulation. 1 The seed cake is used as a fertilizer, but the seeds can be poisonous. The roasted kernels, however, are said to be edible. 1 An extract of the bark is used to treat tumors in Japanese traditional medicine. The oil is a purgative. Tung seed is used in Hawaiian traditional medicine for the treatment of asthma. 2

Chemistry

The seed is the source of an inedible, semi-drying oil. The pale yellow oil contains eleostearic acid, linolenic, linoleic, and oleic acids. It is high in protein. The presence of a toxalbumin and HCN have been suggested. 1

Uses and Pharmacology

There are no good studies to assess the human pharmacology of tung seed.

Animal/Clinical data

Research reveals no animal or clinical data regarding the use of tung seed for any condition.

Dosage

There is no recent clinical evidence to support specific dosage of tung seed. Due to the demonstrated content of tumor promoting and irritant phorbol esters, caution is indicated in its use.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Avoid use.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

The tung seed is considered to be toxic, resulting in stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, slowed reflexes, and possibly death.

Toxicology

The various species of Aleurites vary in their potential toxicity. A. fordii is said to be about twice as toxic as A. trisperma , with A. montana and A. moluccana demonstrating intermediate toxicity. Ingesting the seeds can result in severe stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, slowed reflexes, and possibly death. The seeds are thrown into fishing areas to stupefy fish in some remote regions, which reflects the potential human toxicity of this plant. 1 Contact with the latex can result in dermatitis.

Bibliography

1. Duke JA. Handbook of Medicinal Herbs . Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1985.
2. Hope BE, et al. Hawaiian materia medica for asthma. Hawaii Med J 1993;52:160.

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