Pill-Bearing Spurge

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Euphorbia pilulifera (Jaquin)

Synonyms: Euphorbia hirta (L.), E. capitata (Lam.), Asthma weed, Queensland asthma weed, catshair

Order: Euphorbiaceae

Description: Euphorbia is an annual herb with a slender hairy stem and lanceolate opposite-toothed leaves. Small yellow flowers occur in dense clusters in the leaf axils and produce small reddish wrinkled seeds. The plant produces a milky latex which is irritating to the mucous membranes. Euphorbia is indigenous to India and most tropical countries.

Parts used: entire aerial parts

Collection: collected during flowering

Constituents: flavonoids (including quercetin), triterpenoids, glycosidal substance (0.4%), choline, tannin, fatty acids, phorbic acid, sterols, euphosterol, jambulol, melissic acid, sugars, possible alkaloid in some samples (0.1%)

Actions: anti-asthmatic, pectoral, expectorant, spasmolytic, anticatarrhal, vermifuge, kills amoebae

Indications: asthma, bronchitis, upper respiratory catarrh, laryngeal spasm, intestinal amoebiasis. Specifically indicated in bronchitic asthma.

Therapeutics and Pharmacology: Euphorbia has a relaxing action upon the smooth muscle of the lungs and is of great value in the treatment of asthma and bronchitis. It will also relieve spasms in the larynx, helping nervous coughs, and will help to relieve upper respiratory catarrh. It is a useful remedy in hayfever. It also has a specific action in destroying the organisms that cause amoebic infections in the intestines.

Combinations: Euphorbia may be combined with Grindelia and Lobelia in asthma and bronchitis.

Caution: Although this is one of the few members of the spurge family not poisonous to humans, large doses may cause nausea and vomiting. Euphorbia should not be combined with Glycyrrhiza.

Preparation and Dosage: (thrice daily)

Regulatory status GSL

Dried plant: 120-300mg or by infusion

Liquid Extract (BPC 1949): 1:1 in 45% alcohol, 0.12-0.3ml

Tincture (BPC 1923): 1:5 in 60% alcohol, 0.6-2ml.

Additional Comments: Chinese physicians use this herb for athlete's foot and other skin conditions, as well as in the treatment of dysentery.



BHMA 1983 British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, BHMA, Bournemouth.

Grieve, M. 1931 A Modern Herbal, (ed. C.F. Leyel 1985), London.

Hoffmann, D. 1990 The New Holistic Herbal, Second Edition, Element, Shaftesbury.

Mabey, R. (ed.) 1991 The Complete New Herbal, Penguin, London.

Mills, S.Y. 1993 The A-Z of Modern Herbalism, Diamond Books, London.

Ody, P. 1993 The Herb Society's Complete Medicinal Herbal, Dorling Kindersley, London.

Polunin, M. and Robbins, C. 1992 The Natural Pharmacy, Dorling Kindersley, London.

Wren, R.C. 1988 Potter's New Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations, C.W.Daniel, Saffron Walden.


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Last updated 27th November 2014     ęPurple Sage Botanicals