from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A twining eastern Mexican vine (Ipomoea purga syn. I. jalapa) having tuberous roots that are dried, powdered, and used medicinally as a cathartic.
  • n. Any of several similar or related plants.
  • n. The dried tuberous roots of these plants.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A cathartic drug consisting of the tuberous roots of Ipomoea purga, a convolvulaceous plant found in Mexico.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The tubers of the Mexican plant Ipomœa purga (or Exogonium purga) of the family Convolvulaceae, a climber much like the morning-glory. The abstract, extract, and powder, prepared from the tubers, are well known purgative (cathartic) medicines, and are also called jalap. Other species of Ipomœa yield several inferior kinds of jalap, as the Ipomœa Orizabensis, and Ipomœa tuberosa.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A drug consisting of the tuberous roots of several plants of the natural order Convolvulaceæ, that of Ipomæapurga being the most important.
  • n. b) Ipomœa Jalapa, of the southern United States and tropical-America. See Mechoacan root, under root.


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

French, from American Spanish jalapa, short for (purga de) Jalapa, (purgative of) Jalapa, after Jalapa .

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From the city of Xalapa in Mexico.



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  • "Though intended as a cloak for his true purpose, these investigations nevertheless led to a fortuitous discovery. For years, Veracruzanos had been importing the roots of the jalap plant--a strong purgative related to the morning glory--at great expense from the city of Jalapa, over fifty miles distant. To the great relief of both their bowels and their purses, Thiery was able to show them that the plant grew locally. 'A discovery like this rendered me famous throughout the city,' Thiery wrote. 'I was looked upon as a most extraordinary character.'"

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 175.

    October 6, 2017

  • "Most jockeys ingested every manner of laxative to purge their systems of food and water.... Such results could be had from a variety of products, including a stomach-turning mix of Epsom salts and water—chased by two fingers of rye to stop the gagging reflex—a plant-derived purgative called jalap, or bottles of a wretched-tasting formula known as Pluto Water."

    —Laura Hillenbrand, Seabiscuit: An American Legend (New York: Ballantine Books, 2001), 82

    October 20, 2008

  • "A mild cathartic." Usage note on antimonial.

    March 16, 2008

  • Merriam-Webster Dictionary:


    Etymology: French & Spanish; French jalap, from Spanish jalapa, from Jalapa, Mexico

    Date: 1644

    1 a: the dried tuberous root of a Mexican plant (Ipomoea purga syn. Exogonium purga) of the morning-glory family; also : a powdered purgative drug prepared from it that contains resinous glycosides b: the root or derived drug of plants related to the one supplying jalap

    2: a plant yielding jalap

    January 30, 2008