Euphorbia tirucalli L.

Last updated: 01 Sept 2016

Scientific Name

Euphorbia tirucalli L.


Arthrothamnus bergii Klotzsch & Garcke, Arthrothamnus acklonii Klotzsch & Garcke, Arthrothamnus tirucalli (L.) Klotzsch & Garcke, Euphorbia geayi Constantin & Gallaud, Euphorbia laro Drake, Euphorbia media N.E.Br., Euphorbia media var. bagshawei N.E.Br., Euphorbia rhipsaloides Lem., Euphorbia rhipsaloides Willd., Euphorbia scoparia N.E.Br., Euphorbia suareziana Croizat, Euphorbia tirucalli var. rhipsaloides (Willd.) A.Chev., Euphorbia viminalis Mill. [Illegitimate], Tirucalia indica Raf., Tirucalia tirucallu (L.) P.V.Heath. [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Kayu patah tulang, patah tulang, tulang, [2] kayu patah tulang, tulang-tulang, tentulang [3]
English Finger euphorbia, Indian tree spurge, Malabar euphorb, milk bush, milk hedge, pench tree, sticky plant, [2] finger tree, pencil tree, rubber euphorbia [3]
China Lu yu shu [2]
India Azfur zukkum, angli thor, anglithor, bahukshira, barki-sehund, barki-thohar, bonta-kalli, bottugalli, cak-kalavi, catukalavi, dandasruha, dandathuhara, dangla siju, doodhkushi, dugdhika, gander, gangli-thor, jemudu, jemudu-kadalu, kaadu jemmudu, kada-jemudu, kadajamudi, kadujemudu, kalli, kalli-kombu, kalli kiri, kampillaka, kan-jijemudu, kodukalli, kolu kalli, kolugalli, kolukalli, kombu-kalli, kombukkalli, konpal, konpal-sehnd, konpal sehund, konpahlsehnd, lanka sij, lankasij, latadaona, lonkasij, manchi jamudu, mondu kalli, mundugalika, mundugalli, pacchane-balli, pachankalli, parchanu, pullajeedikada, pullakada, sadhurakkalli, sannajemudu, satala, sehund, sehnd, sehnr, sehud, sehund, sendh, shir tothar, shirthohar, siju, snuhi, snuk, snuka, thirugu, jemmudu, thirugukalli, thirukalli, thorra, thor, tiru-kalli, tirucalli, tirugu-kalli, tirukalli, ituk-kalli, tiruku, tiruku-k-kalli, tirukukalli, tiruk-kalli, tiruku, tiruku-k-kalli, tirukukalli, tiruvatti, trikan-taka, trikuntaka, vajradruma, vajravrksah, zaqqume-hindi, zaquni-yae-hindi, zaqsuni-yae-hindi, zaquniya [2]
Indonesia Patah tulang; soesoeroe (Java) [2] tikel balung, kayu urip (Java) [3]
Thailand Khia cheen, khia thian, phayaa rai bai [2][3]
Laos Hai bai, ‘khi [2][3]
Philippines Konsuerda, solda-solda, [2] bali-bali (Panay Bisaya); seulda-con-suelda (Bikol); suerda (Tagalog) [3]
Vietnam C[aa]y x[uw][ow]ng kh[oo], san h[oo] xanh, x[uw] [ow]ng c[as] [2][3]
East Africa Asubgwachakaazi, kigomru, malangali, man-yara, mgofu, mguu wa kuku, mhunga shalo, minyara, mirila, mnyala, ,wasi, ngeza, sapu, utudi, utupa, utupu; mnyara, mtupa (Swahili), nkoni (Luganda), ol-oile (Maasai) [2]
South Africa Kraalnaboom, kraalmelkbos, umNduze, umuNde, umDuze, umSululu, umuNde, wasehlanzeni (Zulu); mahumbana (Tsonga); umHlonthlo, umHlonhlo (Xhosa) [2]
Congo Niondo [2]
Ecuador Lechero [2]
Nicaragua Hombre, desnudo [2]
Madagascar         Famata, famata fotsy, famata mainty [2]
S. Rhodesia Kanya-nganya [2]
Swaziland Umdvute, umnduze [2]
Tanzania Lugomuu, mgofu, mnyaa, mukonikoni [2]
Zambia Lunsonga [2]
France Euphorbe effilé, tirucalli [3].

Geographical Distributions

Euporbia tirucalli is a native to tropical Africa, but widely planted and naturalised throughout the tropics and subtropics. Within Malesia not yet reported from Borneo and New Guinea. [3]

Botanical Description

E. tirucalli is a member of Euphorbiaceae family. [1]

This plant is an unarmed, succulent shrub or small tree that can reach up to measure 10(-15) m tall. The branches are often in whorls, cylindrical, measuring 5-8 mm in diameter and finely longitudinally striate. [3]

The leaves are arranged alternate, early caducous, linear-lance-shaped, with a size of measure 0.7-1.6 cm x 0.1-0.3 cm, narrowing at the base, obtuse to subacute apex, hairless throughout or puberulent below, sessile or subsessile, minutely stipules and glandular. [3]

The inflorescence is on the apices stem and in bifurcations, generally composed of unisexual cyathia, with rounded bracts and small. The cyathia is with 5 subglobose to transversely elliptical and bright yellow glands. [3]

The capsule is exserted on a hairy pedicel, nearly spherical, measure 7-8 mm in diameter and glabrescent. [3]

The seeds are smooth, buff speckled with brown and with a dark brown ventral line. [3]


E. tirucalli easily naturalises in brushwood, open woodland and grassland, up to 2000 m altitude. [3]

Chemical Constituent

Fresh and un-dried stem bark of E. tirucalli has been reported to contain new triterpene compound named euphorcinol. [4]

Latex of E. tirucalli has been reported to contain 12-O-2Z-4E-octadienoyl-4-deoxyphorbol-13-acetate, phorbol-12-tetradecanoate-13-acetate, and 4-deoxyphorbol diesters. [5] Another compounds that has been isolated such as 13-O-acetyl-12-O-acylphorbol-, 12-O-acetyl-13-O-acylphorbol, 3-O-acylingenol, [6] 4-deoxyphorbol, phorbol, and ingenol derivatives. [7][8]

E. tirucalli has been reported to contain terpenes (e.g. ingenol, phorbol esters, cyclotirucaneol, cycloruphordenol, tirucalicine, tirucaligine, euphorginol, euphorcinol), alkaloid, coumarins, polyphenols, tannins, and triterpenes. [9]

Plant Part Used

Roots, stems, and latex. [9]

Traditional Use

The latex of E. tirucalli even though poisonous has been used in traditional medicine of Africa to treat various gastrointestinal diseases. Amongst its uses include the treatment of stomach complaints, constipation and intestinal worms, being a potent purgative and emetic. However, the use comes with the high risk of reaching the lethal dose especially when used in children. In Malaysia the plant is used to treat haemorrhoids. [9]

Heat seems to deactivate some of the toxic elements in the latex rendering the plant useful in the treatment of respiratory diseases. In Africa the heated branches are chewed and latex swallowed to relieve sore throat and dry cough. In Mauritius Islands the decoction of the root and bud is used to treat coughs and pectoral pain. In whooping cough the ashes of branches and stem are used instead. The latex is also used in cases of asthma. [9]

Externally the latex is applied over skin lesions like warts and wounds; swollen glands, oedema, rheumatism, toothache, earache and tumours of the nose. The roots are taken alone or in combination for treatment of schistomiasis and sexually transmitted diseases. The latex is also recommended for those with sexual impotency and sterility. It could be used to promote breast enlargement. The latex boiled in milk acts as antidote to poisoning and snakebites. [9]

Preclinical Data


Burkitt’s lymphoma activity

Ito et al found that extracts of E. tirucalli exerted a marked effect on the induction of Epstein-Barr virus-associated early and viral capsid antigens in EBV genome-carrying human lymphoblastoid cell lines. [10]

Mizuno et al found that not only the plant but also observed that the soil and drinking water from around the plant were also capable to activating the latent EBV genome and the EBV-induced transformation enhancement. [11]

It was further observed that exposure to E-BV and purified 4-deoxyphorbol ester from E. tiruicalli induced high frequency of chromsomal rearrangement in human B lymphocytes in vitro. The rearrangement commonly affected chromosome 8, the chromosome associated with Burkitt’s lymphoma cells. [12]

Imai et al further observed that 4-deoxyphorbol ester extracted from E. tirucalli reduced EBV-specific cytotoxic T-cell function and that the B lymphcytes exposed to EBV and 4-deoxyphorbol ester were resistant to EBV-specific T cell cytotoxicity, through down-regulation of latent membrane protein 1 (LMP1), the major target to EBV-specific cytotxic T-cells. [13]

Latex of E. tirucalli has been proposed to be a cofactor in the genesis of endemic Burkitt’s lymphoma. It was observed that the latex of E. tirucalli was capable of reactivating the EBV lytic cycle in a dose-dependent manner and at dilutions as low as 10(-6). [14]

Valadares et al. found that tumour bearing mice treated with E. tirucalli extract had their marrow myelopoiesis stimulated and splenic colony formation reduced. Furthermore, they found that changes produced by the tumour in total and the differential marrow cell counts were also restored and the prostaglandin E2 levels, typically increased in tumour bearers, was abrogated by the treatment. The extract enhanced the survival and concurrently reduced the tumour growth in the peritoneal cavity. [15]

Anti-arthritic activity

The biopolymeric fraction from E. tirucalli showed a dose dependent anti-arthritic activity with in vivo immunomodulatory capacity as the major component in this action. It was found to have caused suppression of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, inhibition of intracellular interleukin-2 (IL-2) and interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) by flow cytometry. It also inhibited vascular permeability and the migration of leucocytes at the site of insult. [16]

Immunomodulatory activity

Bani et al. [16] reported the immunomodulatory activity of E. tirucalli to inhibit arthritis in their study mentioned above. Llanes-Coronel et al. [17] did further studies on this activity and found that amongst the 14 extracts they tested, the latex of E. tirucalli strongly induced both proliferation and apoptosis in peripheral blood mononuclear cells. They also found that the subfraction from E. tirucalli induced lymphocyte proliferation without the need of accessory cells and this ability is not inhibited by the carbohydrate d-galactoes and alpha-methyl-d-mannopyranoside. These results reveal the presence of novel candidate compounds within E. tirucalli to induce proliferation and apoptosis in human lymphocytes, mainly in CD3+ T-cells.

Anticancer activity

Khaleghian et al. [18] studied the effects of inganen type compound extracted from E. tirucalli latex on the microtubule configuration. They found that there was significant tubulin conformational change in the presence of inganen which decrease the polymerization of tubulin.


Reproductive toxicity

Developmental toxicity study was done to determine the effects of E. tirucalli’s latex aqueous solution on Wistar rats. Silva et al. [19] found that this solution only caused morphological alternation in the placenta but did not interfere with tuberic embryo development or with implantation.

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

No documentation.


No documentation.

Side effects

No documentation.

Pregnancy/Breast Feeding

No documentation.

Age limitation

No documentation.

Adverse reaction

It has been reported by Hsueh et al. [20] and more recently by Shlamovitz et al. [21] of the effects of latex of E. tirucalli on the conjunctiva of individuals who accidently got it into their eyes. The initial symptoms were burning pain and subsequent blurring of vision up to 6/30 and 6/20. The macro-pathological changes include punctuate erosion, microbullae and Descemet’s folds. The ocular symptoms developed in 5 to 18 hours despite immediate copious irrigation. However, this is only temporary, and full recovery was seen with treatment, without any sequalae within a week.

Interaction & Depletion

No documentation.


No documentation.


No documentation.

Poisonous Management

No documentation.

Line drawing




Figure 1: The line drawing of E. tirucalli. [3]


  1. The Plant List. Ver1.1. Euphorbia tirucalli L. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mac 23, cited 2016 Sept 01]. Available from:
  2. Quattrocchi U. CRC world dictionary of medicinal and poisonous plants: Common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms, and etymology. Volume III E-L. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2012; p. 191-192.
  3. Nguyen NT, Sosef MSM. Euphorbia tirucalli L. In: de Padua LS, Bunyapraphatsara N, Lemmens RHMJ, editors. Plant resources of South-East Asia No. 12(1): Medicinal and poisonous plants 1. Leiden, Netherlands: Backhuys Publisher, 1999; p. 271-272.
  4. Khan AQ, Kazmi SN, Ahmed Z, Malik A. Euphorcinol: A new pentacyclic triterpene from Euphorbia tirucalli. Planta Med. 1989;55(3):290-291.
  5. Kinghorn AD. Characterization of an irritant 4-deoxyphorbol diester from Euphorbia tirucalli. J Nat Prod. 1979;42(1):112-115.
  6. Fürstenberger G, Hecker E. New highly irritant euphorbia factors from latex of Euphorbia tirucalli L. Experientia. 1977;33(8):986-988.
  7. Fürstenberger G, Hecker E. On the active principles of the spurge family (Euphorbiaceae). XI. [1] The skin irritant and tumor promoting diterpene esters of Euphorbia tirucalli L. originating from South Africa. Z Naturforsch C. 1985;40(9-10):631-646.
  8. Fürstenberger G, Hecker E. On the active principles of the Euphorbiaceae, XII. [1] Highly unsaturated irritant diterpene esters from Euphorbia tirucalli originating from Madagascar. J Nat Prod. 1986;49(3):386-397.
  9. Philippine Medicinal Plants. Bali-bali. Euphorbia tirucalli Linn. [homepage on the Internet]. No date [updated 2015 Sept, cited 2016 Sept 01]. Available from:
  10. Ito Y, Kawanishi M, Harayama T, Takabayashi S. Combined effect of the extracts from Croton tiglium, Euphorbia lathyris or Euphorbia tirucalli and n-butyrate on Epstein-Barr virus expression in human lymphoblastoid P3HR-1 and Raji cells. Cancer Lett. 1981;12(3):175-180.
  11. Mizuno F, Osato T, Imai S, et al. Epstein-Barr virus-enhancing plant promoters in east Africa. AIDS Res. 1986;1:151-155.
  12. Aya T, Kinoshita T, Imai S, et al. Chromosome translocation and c-MYC activation by Epstein-Barr virus and Euphorbia tirucalli in B lymphocytes. Lancet. 1991;337(8751):1190.
  13. Imai S, Suqiura M, Mizuno F, et al. African Burkitt’s lymphoma: A plant, Euphorbia tirucalli, reduces Epstein-Barr virus-specific cellular immunity. Anticancer Res. 1994;14(3A):933-936.
  14. MacNeil A, Sumba OP, Lutzke ML, Moormann A, Rochford R. Activation of the Epstein-Barr virus lytic cycle by the latex of the plant Euphorbia tirucalli. Br J Cancer. 2003;88(10):1566-1569.
  15. Valadares MC, Carrucha SG, Accorsi W, Queiroz MLS. Euphorbia tirucalli L. modulates myelopoiesis and enhances the resistance of tumour-bearing mice. Int Immunopharmacol. 2006;6(2):294-299.
  16. Bani S, Kaul A, Khan B, et al. Anti-arthritic activity of a biopolymeric fraction from Euphorbia tirucalli. J Ethnopharmacol. 2007;110(1):92-98.
  17. Llanes Coronel DS, Gámez Díaz LY, Suarez Quintero LP, et al. New promising Euphorbicaeae extracts with activity in human lymphocytes from primary cell cultures. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 2011;33(2):279-290.
  18. Khaleghian A, Riazi GH, Ghafari M, et al. Effect of inganen anticancer properties on microtubule organization. Pak J Pharm Sci. 2010;23(3):273-278.
  19. Silva ACP, de Faria DEP, do Espírito Santo Borges NB, de Souza IA, Peters VM, de Oliveira Guerra M. Toxicological screening of Euphorbia tirucalli L.: Developmental toxicity studies in rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2007;110(1):154-159.
  20. Hsueh KF, Lin PY, Lee SM, Hsieh CF. Ocular injuries from plant sap of genera Euphorbia and Dieffenbachia. J Chin Med Assoc. 2004;67(2):93-98.
  21. Shlamovitz GZ, Gupta M, Diaz JA. A case of acute keratoconjunctivitis from exposure to latex of Euphorbia tirucalli (pencil cactus). J Emerg Med. 2009;36(3):239-241.