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Chamaesyce - Claoxylon

(Spurge family)


Chamaesyce Gray

This is a genus of some 250 species of cosmopolitan distribution, which is considered by some authorities to be a sub-genus of Euphorbia L.

Chamaesyce adenoptera Small
[syn. Euphorbia adenoptera Bertol.]
Bois de Rose, Jerba di Lechi

The caustic sap is used as a "first-aid" styptic (Morton 1981).

Chamaesyce buxifolia Small
[syns Euphorbia buxifolia Lam., Chamaesyce mesembryanthemifolia Dugand, Euphorbia mesembryanthemifolia Jacq.]
Coast Spurge

Cuban bathers treat sea urchin punctures of the foot with the latex of this species (Morton 1981).

Chamaesyce chamaesyce Hurusawa
[syns Euphorbia chamaesyce L., Tithymalus chamaesyce Moench]

Pammel (1911) lists this species as being irritant.

Chamaesyce drummondii Soják
[syn. Euphorbia drummondii Boiss.]
Caustic Weed, Milk Weed, Mat Spurge

There is conflicting data concerning the effects of this plant. Pammel (1911) lists this species as being irritant. Orchard (1954) also states that the plant is irritant to human skin, but Stanley (1896) found that the latex had no caustic or even irritant action on the eye of the sheep or dog. Apparently the fresh milky sap is considered by Australian bushmen to possess great healing qualities (Hurst 1942). She also stated that the head of a sheep that has eaten the plant swells to an enormous extent and becomes so heavy that the animal cannot support it. It has also been noted that eating the flesh of pigeons that have fed on the fruit of the plant causes sickness in man (Cleland 1914).

Chamaesyce glomerifera Millsp.
[syn. Euphorbia glomerifera Wheeler]

Souder (1963) listed this species among spurges that can cause an acute dermatitis on contact with their sap or latex.

Chamaesyce hirta Millsp.
[syns Euphorbia hirta L., Euphorbia pilulifera auct. non L., Euphorbia capitata Lam.]
Asthma Plant, Asthma Weed, Hairy Spurge, Pill-Bearing Spurge

The common name asthma plant is derived from the use of extracts of the herb for the relief of asthma (Wren 1975).

The sap has been described as irritant by various authors: Chopra & Badhwar (1940); Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk (1962); Souder (1963); Behl et al. (1966). According to Morton (1972b), gardeners in Florida, where this species is a common lawn weed, can develop dermatitis of the hands, particularly of the sides of the fingers after pulling this weed. Uhe (1974) records that Euphorbia hirta is used in Samoa as a skin-irritant and anti-asthmatic. However, patch tests carried out using the leaves of this species crushed in a small quantity of normal saline elicited positive reactions in only 2 of 18 contact dermatitis patients tested in New Delhi, India (Singh et al. 1978). From his personal experience, Arnold (1968) in Hawaii states that the sap is not particularly irritating to the skin. Further, it is difficult to reconcile the reported skin irritant effects with the oral use of extracts of the herb evidently without concomitant purgation. It is likely that any dermatitic effects appropriately ascribed to this species have been of allergic rather than irritant aetiology.

Chamaesyce hypericifolia Millsp.
[syns Euphorbia hypericifolia L., Euphorbia lasiocarpa Klotzsch]

The juice is used as a caustic on skin lesions (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962). Chopra & Badhwar (1940) also note that the plant contains an acrid and vesicant juice.

Chamaesyce hyssopifolia Small
[syns Euphorbia hyssopifolia L., Euphorbia brasiliensis Lam.]
Wart Weed, Chicken-Weed Hembra

The caustic sap is applied to warts, callouses and ringworm, and in Brazil, on cataracts and chronic ulcers (Morton 1981).

Chamaesyce maculata Small
[syns Euphorbia maculata L., Tithymalus maculatus Moench]
Spotted Spurge, Eyebane

This native plant of the eastern and mid-western United States occurs as an occasional weed in the Pacific states. It has irritant latex (Hardin & Arena 1974).

Chamaesyce nutans Small
[syns Euphorbia nutans Lagasca, Euphorbia preslii Guss., Chamaesyce preslii Arthur]
Pasture Spurge, Spotted Spurge, Eye-Bright

Application of the juice to the eyes causes severe irritation with smarting, burning, lachrymation, and momentary blindness (Pammel 1911).

Chamaesyce pilulifera Small
[syn. Euphorbia pilulifera L.]

Pammel (1911) notes that this species produces dermatitis.

Chamaesyce prostrata Small
[syn. Euphorbia prostrata Aiton]
Prostrate Spurge

The plant occurs as a weed in the Sydney district of Australia, and is common in townships in Queensland (Blakely 1923).

The milky sap is sometimes applied to sores on the skin and is not known to be irritant (White 1927). Souder (1963) lists this species among spurges that can cause an acute dermatitis on contact with their sap or latex. Martinez (1969) noted a report of an irritant action in a Materia Medica and applied the juice to the eyes of animals but did not see the irritant action that he expected.

Chamaesyce thymifolia Millsp.
[syn. Euphorbia thymifolia L.]
Chicken-Weed, Eyebright, Wart Weed, Thyme-Leaved Spurge

The latex can cause dermatitis (Pammel 1911, Souder 1963), and is vesicant to the skin of many individuals (Allen 1943). Chopra & Badhwar (1940) also note that this species contains and acrid and vesicant juice.

Chiropetalum griseum Griseb.
[syn. Argithamnia mollis Kuntze]

The plant has irritant effects on contact with the skin (von Reis Altschul 1973).

Claoxylon carolinianum Pax & K.Hoffm.

The latex sometimes poisons the skin (von Reis & Lipp 1982).

Claoxylon marianum Müll.Arg.
Panao, Cator

Souder (1963) lists this species among spurges that cause an acute dermatitis on contact with their sap or latex.

Richard J. Schmidt

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