Euphorbia tithymaloides L.

Last updated: 15 Apr 2016

Scientific Name

Euphorbia tithymaloides L.


Crepidaria carinata (Donn) Haw., Crepidaria myrtifolia (L.) Haw., Crepidaria subcarinata Haw., Euphorbia anacampseroides Descourt. [Illegitimate], Euphorbia canaliculata Lodd. [Illegitimate], Euphorbia carinata Donn, Euphorbia myrtifolia (L.) Lam. [Illegitimate], Pedilanthus campester Brandegee, Pedilanthus camporum Standl. & Steyerm., Pedilanthus canaliculatus (Lodd.) Sweet, Pedilanthus carinatus (Donn) Spreng., Pedilanthus deamii Millsp., Pedilanthus fendleri Boiss., Pedilanthus gritensis Zahlbr., Pedilanthus houlletii Baill., Pedilanthus ierensis Britton, Pedilanthus myrsifolius (L.) Raf. [Spelling variant], Pedilanthus myrtifolius (L.) Link, Pedilanthus petraeus Brandegee, Pedilanthus pringlei Rob., Pedilanthus subcarinatus (Haw.) Sweet, Pedilanthus tithymaloides (L.) Poit., Tithymaloides fendleri (Boiss.) Kuntze, Tithymaloides houlletii (Baill.) Kuntze, Tithymaloides myrtifolia (L.) Kuntze, Tithymalus deamii (Millsp.) Croizat, Tithymalus ierensis (Britton) Croizat, Tithymalus myrtifolius (L.) Mill., Tithymalus petraeus (Brandegee) Croizat, Tithymalus pringlei (Rob.) Croizat, Tithymalus tithymaloides (L.) Croizat, Tithymalus villicus Croizat [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Lalipan, pedong, penawar lipan, pokok lipan, tentulang jantan [2]
English Bird cactus, devil’s backbone, Japanese poinsettia, Jewbush, nigger mouth, redbird cactus, redbird flower, ribbon cactus, slipper flower, slipper plant, zigzag plant [2], Christmas candle [3], fiddle flower, candelilla, Itamo real, [4]
India Vilaayati-sher (Maharashtra); naagaphani, naagadaman (Madhya Pradesh) [5]; agia tita, airi, baire, basam potro, kancipala, nagphani, seemachithramoolamu, sij, simiacitramulamu, vilaayathi shera [2]
Indonesia Pohon sig-sag [6]
Philippines Luha [2]
Japan Gin-ryu [2]
Yoruba Aperejo [2].

Geographical Distributions

Pedilanthus tithymaloides is native to the West Indies, now distributed globally as ornamental. [5][7]

Botanical Description

P. tithymaloides is a member of theEuphorbiaceae family [8]. The plant has abundance of milky white sap throughout. It is perennial shrub that can reach up to 2 m tall. The stem is green, fleshy, erect and zigzag [3].

The leaves are alternate, almost without petiole, green or green and white, oblong, measuring 10 cm x 5 cm with a keeled midrib. [3]

The flowers are small and borne terminally in clusters enclosed by red slipper-shaped bracts. [3]

The fruits are oval, trilobed seed capsule containing gray-brown seeds. [3]


No documentation.

Chemical Constituent

No documentation.

Plant Part Used

P. tithymaloides milky white sap is used to treat warts, leucoderma and venereal diseases in India. The root has emetic properties and in the West Indies it is used as an alternative to ipecacuanha. In Malaysia and Indonesia this plant is used to treat contusions, fracture and venomous bites especially centipede and scorpions. It is interesting to note that while the sap can cause irritation in the eye, a decoction of the plant is given orally as a remedy for conjunctivitis. [5][6]

Traditional Use

No documentation.

Preclinical Data

No documentation.

Clinical Data

No documentation.


No documentation.

Poisonous Management

Toxic parts

Milky juice from roots, stems and leaves. [3][4][7]


Euphorbol and other diterpenes which are irritants and cocarcinogens. [3][4]

Risk management

The Euphorbiaceae in general seem to be a much feared plant in the west because of the irritation Caucasians experience when they come in contact with the latex. However, in the east these plants are known to have medicinal values and are planted in the village homes for the very purpose. People with sensitivity to this plant should avoid handling the plant. [3][4][5][6][7]

Poisonous clinical findings

Upon ingestion, the juice produces irritation of the mouth and throat, vomiting and diarrhoea. Skin lesions in the form of irritation, inflammation and blistering can occur when coming in contact with the sap. In the eyes the sap can cause intensely painful irritation often followed by keratoconjunctivitis and temporary reduced visual acuity. The seeds on the other hand, can cause violent, persistent vomiting and drastic diarrhoea. [3][4]


Skin contact requires thorough washing with soap and water followed by application of mild steroid cream would suffice. In cases of eye contact continuous irrigation with clean water is important to reduce the irritation. It is advisable to seek medical attention immediately. Acute cases of ingestion of the plant may require fluid replacement therapy. [3][4]

Line drawing

No documentation.


  1. The Plant List.  Ver1.1 Euphorbia tithymaloides L. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 23; cited 2016 Apr 14]. Available from:
  2. Herbal Medicine Research Centre, Institute for Medical Research. Compendium of medicinal plants used in Malaysia. Volume 1. Kuala Lumpur: HMRC IMR, 2002; p. 192-193.
  3. Nellis DW. Poisonous plants and animals of Florida and the Caribbean. Sarasota, Florida: Pineapple Press, 1997; p. 42, 182.
  4. Nelson LS, Shih RD, Balick MJ. Handbook of poisonous and injurious plants. 2nd ed. New York: Springer, 2007; p. 231-232.
  5. Khare CP. Indian medicinal plants: An illustrated dictionary. Berlin: Springer, 2007; p. 469.
  6. Hariana HA. Tumbuhan obat dan khasiatnya. Seri Kedua. Jakarta: Niaga Swadaya, 2008; p. 186-187.
  7. Oakes AJ, Butcher JO. Poisonous and injurious ilants of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Washington DC: Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, 1962; p. 80-81.
  8. Hanelt P, editor. Mansfeld's encyclopedia of agricultural and horticultural crops: (except ornamentals). Berlin: Springer, 2001; p. 1236.