from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A twining eastern Mexican vine (Ipomoea purga) having tuberous roots that are dried, powdered, and used medicinally as a purgative.
  • noun The purgative drug obtained from the roots of this plant or related plants.

from The Century Dictionary.

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

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (Med.) 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.
  • noun the root of Mirabilis Jalapa, four-o'clock, or marvel of Peru.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

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


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.


  • A great quantity of jalap, which is so much used in medicine, is obtained from this place.

    Pattie's Personal Narrative, 1824--1830

  • I had also written pticularly to Dr. Goddard, Dr. Merret, & Dr. Whisler, Dr. Beniamin Worsley, & Dr. Keffler, concerning some vegetables of this country, & one especially w* "?" might be accounted a kind of jalap, but that it causeth to vomit as well as purge.

    Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society

  • There's a helpful recipe for purgative biscuits but first go pick your jalap.

    Dartmoor Book Fair

  • There's a helpful recipe for purgative biscuits but first go pick your jalap.

    Dartmoor Book Fair

  • There's a helpful recipe for purgative biscuits but first go pick your jalap.

    54 entries from April 2007

  • For inflammatory diseases of the heart, the bowels, if constipated may be moved with compound tincture of jalap.

    Dr. Jon LaPook: Steve Martin and the Latest Mammography Recommendations

  • And first she pulled all their teeth out; and then she bled them all round: and then she dosed them with calomel, and jalap, and salts and senna, and brimstone and treacle; and horrible faces they made; and then she gave them a great emetic of mustard and water, and no basons; and began all over again; and that was the way she spent the morning.

    The Water Babies

  • They found an opportunity to infuse jalap in one of her case-bottles; and she took so largely of this medicine, that her constitution had well nigh sunk under the violence of its effect.

    The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle

  • His old fellow made his tin by selling jalap to Zulus or some bloody swindle or other.


  • Between his babble and having to totter into the bushes every half-mile while the troop tactfully looked the other way, I was in poor trim by the time we reached Nuggur Ford, where they slung me a hammock in a makeshift hospital basha, and a native medical orderly filled me with jalap.

    Flashman And The Mountain Of Light


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  • 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

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

    March 16, 2008

  • "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

  • "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