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Also listed as: Euphorbiaceae, Poinsettia
Related terms

Related Terms
  • Amygdaloides latex, asthma spurge, bisabolane sesquiterpenoid, caper spurge, dieterpenoids (segetanes, jatrophanes, paralianes), Euphpekinensin, Euphorbia acaulis, Euphorbia alkaloid, Euphorbia antiquorum, Euphorbia balsamifera, Euphorbia capitata, Euphorbia characias, Euphorbia chrysocoma, Euphorbia dendroides, Euphorbia dracunculoides, Euphorbia ebracteolata, Euphorbia fischeriana, Euphorbia fulgens, Euphorbia genus, Euphorbia helioscopia, Euphorbia hermentiana, Euphorbia heterophylla, Euphorbia hirta, Euphorbia kansui, Euphorbia lancifolia, Euphorbia latex, Euphorbia lathyris, Euphorbia leuconeura, Euphorbia marginata, Euphorbia myrsinites, Euphorbia neriifolia, Euphorbia obtusifolia, Euphorbia paralias, Euphorbia peplus, Euphorbia pekinensis, Euphorbia pilulifera, Euphorbia poisonii, Euphorbia pulcherrima, Euphorbia pubescens, Euphorbia rigida, Euphorbia royleana, Euphorbia serpyllifolia, Euphorbia tinctoria, Euphorbia tirucalli, Euphorbia triangularis, Euphorbia variegate, Euphorbia wallichii, ixbut, gopher spurge, Mediterranean spurge, petty spurge, pillbearing spurge, spotted spurge, snakeweed, thyme-leaves spurge, triterpenes, wolf's milk extract, ZeQi.

  • There are over 2,000 species of Euphorbia in the world, ranging from annual weeds to trees. Most originate in Africa and Madagascar, and a significant percentage of these are succulent. All contain latex and have a unique flower structure.
  • Native Americans used the plant for many medicinal purposes including treatment of skin infections (applied on the skin) and gonorrhea (internally). Traditionally, Euphorbia species have been used internally as laxatives and externally for rheumatism and skin conditions. However, nearly all the Euphorbias are poisonous and exude an acrid milky fluid when broken.
  • Euphorbia is stated to possess antitussive, antifungal and antitumor properties. There is mixed evidence showing euphorbia's effectiveness for chronic bronchitis, eczema, epilepsy and oral inflammation. Small doses tend to be expectorant and diaphoretic. Larger doses produce emesis (vomiting) usually without much pain or spasm, nausea or dizziness. The roots and leaves of euphorbia are a strong laxative. Petty spurge sap has traditionally been used as a wart cure.

Evidence Table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. GRADE *

Euphorbia helioscopia may benefit senior patients with chronic bronchitis. However, additional study is needed in this area to make a strong recommendation.


Early study of Euphorbia acaulis has demonstrated an effect on patients with both wet and dry eczema. More trials are needed to evaluate the effect of Euphorbia acaulis for eczema.


Euphorbia alkaloid, which is the active ingredient in Euphorbia fisheriana, may have anticonvulsant effects. Thus, this alkaloid might be useful in patients with epilepsy. Additional study is needed in this area.


Euphorbia balsamifera has been studied in patients with acute dental pulpitis, and may be comparable to that of pulpal nerve caustics. Additional study is necessary to make a strong recommendation.

* Key to grades

A: Strong scientific evidence for this use
B: Good scientific evidence for this use
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use
D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work)
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)

Tradition / Theory

The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.

  • Analgesic (pain reliever), antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, bloating, cancer, catarrh (inflammation of mucous membrane), diaphoretic (induces sweating), digestive problems, dysentery (severe diarrhea), emetic (induces vomiting), expectorant (encourages coughing up of mucous), gonorrhea, hay fever, immune system regulation, laryngeal spasm, laxative, multi-drug resistance, molluscicidal (kills mollusks), parasites/worms, respiratory disorders, rheumatism, skin conditions, tumors, warts.


Adults (over 18 years old)

  • A 50 milligram tablet of pulverized plant administered three times daily for two to six weeks has been taken by mouth to treat both wet and dry eczema.

Children (under 18 years old)

  • There is no proven safe or effective dose of euphorbia in children.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.


  • Allergy or hypersensitivity to inhalation of pollen from Euphorbia fulgens Karw has been documented, but there is no relation to the toxic substances in the milk-sap of the Euphorbiaceae family.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • In general, the sap from euphorbia can cause contact dermatitis and injury to the eye. Euphorbia should be handled with caution using gloves and eye protection. Euphorbia may also irritate or affect the motility of the gastrointestinal tract and cause nausea and vomiting.
  • Euphorbia may enhance African Burkitt's lymphoma and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Use cautiously in these patients, and consult with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • Euphorbia is not recommended in pregnant and breastfeeding women due to a lack of available scientific evidence.


Interactions with Drugs

  • Euphorbia may interact with anticonvulsant medications or devitalizing agents. Consult with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, before combining any therapies.
  • Euphorbia has potential antitussive (preventing or relieving cough) effects, and may increase the effect or side effects if taken with other antitussive agents. Caution is advised.
  • Theoretically, euphorbia may interact with other hormone-regulating agents. Examples include menopausal agents or birth control pills.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • Euphorbia may interact with herbs or supplements that have anticonvulsant effects or devitalizing effects. Consult with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, before combining any therapies.
  • Euphorbia has potential antitussive (preventing or relieving cough) effects, and may increase the effect or side effects if taken with other antitussive herbs or supplements. Caution is advised.
  • The aqueous leaf extract of Euphorbia hirta may decrease the effect of castor oil-induced diarrhea.
  • Theoretically, euphorbia may interact with other hormone-regulating herbs and supplements, such as black cohosh or St. John's wort.

  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

  1. Aya T, Kinoshita T, Imai S, et al. Chromosome translocation and c-MYC activation by Epstein-Barr virus and Euphorbia tirucalli in B lymphocytes. Lancet 5-18-1991;337(8751):1190.
  2. Betancur-Galvis L, Checa J, Marco JA, et al. Jatrophane diterpenes from the latex of Euphorbia obtusifolia with inhibitory activity on the mammalian mitochondrial respiratory chain. Planta Med. 2003;69(2):177-178.
  3. Corea G, Fattorusso E, Lanzotti V, et al. Discovery and biological evaluation of the novel naturally occurring diterpene pepluanone as antiinflammatory agent. J Med.Chem 11-3-2005;48(22):7055-7062.
  4. Dai C, Yu B, Zhao Y, et al. [Correlation between inhibition activity of endophytic fungus from Euphorbia pekinensis and its host]. Ying.Yong.Sheng Tai Xue.Bao. 2005;16(7):1290-1294.
  5. Feizbakhsh A, Bighdeli M, Tehrani MS, et al. Chemical constituents of the essential oil of Euphorbia teheranica Boiss., a species endemic to Iran. Journal of Essential Oil Research 2004;Jan/Feb
  6. Ferreira MJ, Gyemant N, Madureira AM, et al. The effects of jatrophane derivatives on the reversion of. Anticancer Res 2005;25(6B):4173-4178.
  7. Hsueh KF, Lin PY, Lee SM, et al. Ocular injuries from plant sap of genera Euphorbia and Dieffenbachia. J.Chin Med.Assoc. 2004;67(2):93-98.
  8. Miyata S, Wang LY, Yoshida C, et al. Inhibition of cellular proliferation by diterpenes, topoisomerase II inhibitor. Bioorg.Med.Chem 11-24-2005;
  9. Natarajan D, Britto SJ, Srinivasan K, et al. Anti-bacterial activity of Euphorbia fusiformis-A rare medicinal herb. J Ethnopharmacol. 10-31-2005;102(1):123-126.
  10. Osato T, Mizuno F, Imai S, et al. African Burkitt's lymphoma and an Epstein-Barr virus-enhancing plant Euphorbia tirucalli. Lancet 5-30-1987;1(8544):1257-1258.
  11. Singh A, Singh SK. Molluscicidal evaluation of three common plants from India. Fitoterapia 2005;76(7-8):747-751.
  12. Valadares MC, Carrucha SG, Accorsi W, et al. Euphorbia tirucalli L. modulates myelopoiesis and enhances the resistance of tumour-bearing mice. Int.Immunopharmacol. 2006;6(2):294-299.
  13. Valente C, Pedro M, Ascenso JR, et al. Euphopubescenol and euphopubescene, two new jatrophane polyesters, and lathyrane-type diterpenes from Euphorbia pubescens. Planta Med. 2004;70(3):244-249.
  14. Yin ZQ, Fan CL, Ye WC, et al. Acetophenone derivatives and sesquiterpene from Euphorbia ebracteolata. Planta Med. 2005;71(10):979-982.
  15. Yu FR, Lian XZ, Guo HY, et al. Isolation and characterization of methyl esters and derivatives from Euphorbia kansui (Euphorbiaceae) and their inhibitory effects on the human SGC-7901 cells. J Pharm.Pharm.Sci. 2005;8(3):528-535.

Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)

The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

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