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   Index



 

EUPHORBIACEAE — 8
Euphorbia lactea – Euphorbia orientalis

(Spurge family)

 



Euphorbia lactea Haw.
Candelabra Cactus, Cardon, Hatrack Cactus, Dragon Bones

The plant forms a spiny shrub which is widely planted in tropical America and, as an adventive to India, is now completely naturalised and found all over that country especially near habitation. The cristate form of the plant is widely grown in India as an ornamental succulent (Bailey 1949, Behl et al. 1966). This species, and also Euphorbia tirucalli L. are often planted in foundation boxes in Florida. Since they outgrow such locations and have to be cut back, the trimmer is exposed to the free-flowing sap which can cause a rash and blisters, intense burning and temporary blindness (Morton 1958). Contact with the plant can produce severe oedematous and oozing dermatitis and also conjunctivitis; the face, scrotum, and hands are most commonly affected as is the case from exposure to Hura crepitans L. and Hippomane mancinella L. (Pardo-Castello 1923, 1962). The sap forms a rubbery clot about one minute after collection.

The sap is irritating to the human eye (Lampe & Fagerström 1968, Grant 1974). Crowder & Sexton (1964) observed kerato-conjunctivitis and uveitis from the sap of this plant. They exposed the eyes of dogs to the sap and to that of Euphorbia tirucalli, and observed corneal opacities which appeared after 24-36 hours and cleared in one to three weeks.

Kinghorn & Evans (1975a) demonstrated the irritancy of the latex in a mouse ear irritancy assay. The irritants of this species are ingenol esters (Upadhyay & Hecker 1975, Evans & Kinghorn 1977).



Euphorbia lancifolia Schldl.
Ixbut

It seems that the plant is not strongly irritant since, in Guatemala, the leaves or stems are drunk in a herbal tea as a galactagogue in a dose of five leaves per cup, five cups per day (Morton 1981). Blohm (1962) refers to the purgative effects of an overdose.



Euphorbia lateriflora Schum. & Thonn.

The juice is corrosive to flesh, acting as an escharotic, and has been used to produce white patches on the skin in order to simulate leprosy (Irvine 1961).

Kinghorn & Evans (1975a) demonstrated the irritancy of the latex in a mouse ear irritancy assay.



Euphorbia lathyris L.
(syn. Tithymalus lathyris Hill)
Caper Spurge, Mole Plant, Myrtle Spurge

This European species which is grown as an annual, and is naturalised in the eastern United States and California, is sometimes planted to drive away moles or gophers. The first common name refers to a resemblance of the fruits to capers (Capparis spinosa L., fam. Capparaceae) with which they should not be confused. Persons who eat the fruits develop a severe burning sensation in the mouth and throat followed by purgation (Anon 1893).

The plant does not lose its toxicity on drying or storage (North 1967). The juice is irritant and, when applied to the skin, causes redness, itching, pimples, and sometimes gangrene (White 1887, Chesnut 1898, Pammel 1911, Lander 1926, Atkinson 1926). Cortelezzi (1937) reported a case of dermatitis from the plant.

The milky sap is irritant to the human eye (Lampe & Fagerström 1968, Grant 1974) producing kerato-conjunctivitis. Experimentally, guinea pigs but not rabbits were susceptible (Geidel 1962).

A proteolytic enzyme named euphorbain has been reported to occur in the latex of this species (Lennox & Ellis 1945, Lynn & Clevette-Radford 1983).

The plant contains irritant ingenol esters (Adolf & Hecker 1971, Fürstenberger & Hecker 1972) and 16-hydroxyingenol (Adolf & Hecker 1975a). Kinghorn & Evans (1975a) demonstrated the irritancy of the latex in a mouse ear irritancy assay, and subsequently also reported the presence of ingenol esters in the plant (Evans & Kinghorn 1977).



Euphorbia ledienii A. Berger

This thorny succulent species is described by Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk (1962) as being virulently poisonous.

Kinghorn & Evans (1975a) demonstrated the irritancy of the latex in a mouse ear irritancy assay, and subsequently reported the presence of 12-deoxyphorbol and 12-deoxy-16-hydroxyphorbol esters in the plant (Evans & Kinghorn 1977).



Euphorbia leonensis N.E. Br.
(syn. Elaeophorbia leonensis Jacobsen)

The latex is an acrid poison causing blistering of the mouth. It is used by malingerers to cause sickness (Dalziel 1937).



Euphorbia linearis Retz

Pammel (1911) lists this species as being irritant.



Euphorbia marginata Pursh
(syn. Euphorbia variegata Sims)
Snow-on-the-Mountain, Ghostweed, Japanese Edelweiss

The plant was grown for its ornamental foliage in Australia but has been declared a noxious weed. The latex is irritant to the skin and eyes (Pammel 1911, Aplin 1966, Francis & Southcott 1967, Mair 1968, Everist 1972, Bailey & Bailey 1976). When the juice of the plant is placed on the skin, the area becomes erythematous almost immediately and there is a slight sensation of stinging at the contact site. The erythema disappears rapidly but is followed after a latent period by a constant, follicular, papulopustular irritative reaction (Shelmire 1940).

A man aged 50 years and a female aged 18 years developed marked swelling, erythema, and vesiculation a few hours after gathering and binding Euphorbia variegata. Application of the milky sap and an ether extract of the sap to the skin of the patients and of control subjects produced erythema and papules (Musger 1953). Samokhval & Krivchak (1974) also reported dermatitis from Euphorbia variegata.

In parts of Texas, the plant was formerly used for branding cattle, the juice having a caustic, blistering action on animals' skin. The plant is dangerous to handle, since contact with the copious milky juice causes swelling and an eruption (Orchard 1954). Honey derived from the plant is poisonous (Morton 1964).



Euphorbia megalantha Boiss.

Upadhyay et al. (1980a) ascribed the weak irritancy of this species to the presence of ingenol esters.



Euphorbia mellifera Aiton
(syn. Tithymalus melliferus Moench)

Pammel (1911) lists this species as being irritant.



Euphorbia memoralis R.A. Dyer

Kinghorn & Evans (1975a) demonstrated the irritancy of the latex of this thorny succulent species in a mouse ear irritancy assay, and subsequently reported the presence of ingenol esters in the plant (Evans & Kinghorn 1977).



Euphorbia milii Des Moul.
Crown of Thorns, Christ Plant

A number of varieties and forms of this species are recognised (Jacobsen 1974), the two most commonly encountered being Euphorbia milii Des Moul. var milii (syns Euphorbia milii Des Moul., Euphorbia bojeri Hooker) and Euphorbia milii var splendens Ursch & Leandri (syn. Euphorbia splendens Bojer). Both of these varieties are commonly found in collections of succulent plants.

The plant is grown as a garden subject in western Australia. The stems are armed with sharp spines and the sap is corrosive to the skin and eyes, causing temporary blindness (Orchard 1954, Morton 1962a, Souder 1963, Aplin 1966, Behl et al. 1966).

Arnold (1968) in Hawaii, stated that from personal experience the sap of Euphorbia splendens was not particularly irritating to his own skin whereas that of Euphorbia tirucalli was extremely irritating. Patch tests with a young flowering greenhouse specimen were also carried out by Camm EL & Mitchell JC (1974 — unpublished observation). Fresh latex, crushed flowers, and bruised leaves were applied by 48 hour closed patch tests to the forearm flexures of three healthy white volunteers. No irritant effect was observed. Kinghorn & Evans (1975a) found the latex of Euphorbia milii collected in Nigeria to be only weakly irritant in a mouse ear irritancy assay.

The roots and stems yield ingenol esters, named milliamines (Uemura & Hirata 1971, 1973, Marston & Hecker 1983). Evans & Kinghorn (1977) reported the presence of ingenol esters in Euphorbia milii var milii.



Euphorbia myrsinites L.
(syn. Tithymalus myrsinitis Hill)
Creeping Spurge

The plant, of Mediterranean origin, creeps around greenhouses and rock gardens throughout the United States. Children like to play with the milky latex and to rub it into their skin and on their toys (Editorial 1979).

Touton (1932) referred to dermatitis from the plant. Sierputowska & Sliwinska (1968) also refer to the irritant latex. In 20 patients, contact with the latex produced swelling and blistering of the skin, usually on the face, which appeared from two to eight hours after exposure and mostly cleared over the next four days (Spoerke & Temple 1979).

This species has been reported to contain esters of ingenol and 5-deoxyingenol (Evans & Kinghorn 1974, 1977) to which the irritant properties of the latex may be ascribed (Kinghorn & Evans 1975a, Upadhyay et al. 1980a).



Euphorbia neglecta N.E. Br.

The juice of this plant when introduced into the eye causes intense pain and inflammation, and on the forearm may raise a local rash (Raymond 1939).



Euphorbia neriifolia L.
(syns Elaeophorbia neriifolia A. Chev., Euphorbia ligularia Roxb.)
Cactus Hedge, Sweet Aloes, Hedge Euphorbia, Oleander-Leaved Euphorbia, Indian Spurge Tree, Sudu Sudu, Sesudu

This spiny plant is used as a hedge plant in India. The milky juice is locally rubefacient (Nadkarni 1976) and irritant to the skin and throat (Pammel 1911, Burkill 1935, Chopra & Badhwar 1940; Corner 1952, Souder 1963, Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962, Behl et al. 1966); it has been used to destroy warts (Chopra 1965).

The sap is irritating to the human eye (Lampe & Fagerström 1968, Grant 1974).

Kinghorn & Evans (1975a) demonstrated the irritancy of the latex in a mouse ear irritancy assay, and subsequently reported the presence of ingenol esters in the plant (Evans & Kinghorn 1977).



Euphorbia nivulia Buch.-Ham.
(syn. Euphorbia varians Haw.)

The latex is irritant (Chopra & Badhwar 1940, Behl et al. 1966).

Kinghorn & Evans (1975a) demonstrated the irritancy of the latex in a mouse ear irritancy assay, and subsequently reported the presence of ingenol esters in the plant (Evans & Kinghorn 1977).



Euphorbia nubica N.E. Br.

Kinghorn & Evans (1975a) found the latex of this species to be non-irritant in a mouse ear irritancy assay.



Euphorbia obliqua Endl.

The sap is used in conjunction with charcoal for tattooing to produce blue marks (von Reis Altschul 1973).



Euphorbia obtusifolia Poiret var regis-jubae Maire
(syns Euphorbia regis-jubae Webb & Berth, Tithymalus regis-jubae Klotzsch & Garcke)

Pamell (1911) lists this species as being irritant.



Euphorbia officinarum L.

Pamell (1911) lists this species as being irritant. Rowley (1960) notes that the sap is irritant to wounds and to the eye.



Euphorbia orientalis L.
(syn. Tithymalus orientalis Hill)

Upadhyay et al. (1980a) found this species to be weakly irritant in a mouse ear irritancy assay.




Richard J. Schmidt [Valid HTML 4.01!]



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