Erect annual or perennial plant growing to 20 in (50 cm), with pointed oval leaves and clusters of small flowers.
Habitat & Cultivation
Native to India and Australia, pill-bearing spurge is now widespread throughout the tropics. The aerial parts of the plant are gathered when it is in flower.
Pill-bearing spurge contains flavonoids, terpenoids, alkanes, phenolic acids, shikimic acid, and choline. The latter two constituents may be partly responsible for the antispasmodic action of this plant.
History & Folklore
As its name suggests, this plant was traditionally used in Asia to treat asthma.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
A specific treatment for bronchial asthma, pill-bearing spurge relaxes the bronchial tubes and eases breathing. Mildly sedative and expectorant, it is also taken for bronchitis and other respiratory tract conditions. It is most often used along with other anti-asthmatic herbs, notably gumplant (Grindelia camporum) and lobelia (Lobelia inflata). In the Anglo-American tradition, pill-bearing spurge is taken to treat intestinal amebiasis.
The Cherokee used E. maculate to treat sore nipples and skin disorders. Many other North American Euphorbia species were used for constipation. A decoction of E. lancifolia, native to the West Indies, is used to stimulate breast-milk production. E. atoto is used in Malaysia and Indochina to induce a delayed period and as an abortifacient. Many species of Euphorbia are used as arrow poisons.
Take pill-bearing spurge only under professional supervision.