Euphorbia hirta L

[From Latin, Euphorbus = physician to King Juba II and from Latin, hirta = hairy]

Common names: Euphorbia pilulifera L., Chamaesyce hirta (L.) Millspaugh.

Common names: Hairy spurge, euphorbia herb, Australian snake weed, cat's hair, asthma plant; gelang susu (Malay); amumpatchai (Tamil).

Physical description: It is an annual herb which grows to a height of 40 cm in vacant plots of land, car parks by the roadsides. The plant produces an irritating milky latex. The stems are hirsute, reddish, sub-glabrous, scorpioid and pilose. Leave: simple, stipulate. The stipules are pectinate, opposite, oblong, asymmetrical, and 2 cm-4 cm x 8 mm- 1.5 cm. The petiole is 1 mm long. The apex of the blade is subacute, and the base round or obtuse. The margin is serrulate, often purplish above and pilose. The flowers are very small, densely packed between leaves into flower-shaped subcapitate and greenish cymes. The involucres are hairy outside. The fruits are capsular, 1 mm in diameter and puberulous. The seeds are ovoid, 0.7 mm long, and slightly transversely ribbed when dry (Fig. 206).

Uses: In Indonesia, the latex is used to treat ringworm infection and heal wounds. A decoction of this herb is used to treat asthma and assuage bronchial discomfort. The leaves are chewed to facilitate abortion, and the flowers are used to treat barrenness. In Malaysia, the latex is used to treat diseased eyes, heal wounds and soothe bruises. A decoction consisting of about 70 g of the fresh herb is drunk to promote urination, stop dysentery, remove blood from urine, assuage urethral pain and treat asthma. The plant is applied externally to treat dermatitis, eczema and irritated skin. A paste is used to soothe sores, and heal boils. In the Philippines, the leaves are mixed with those of Datura metel L. to make cigarettes which are smoked treat asthma. The plant is used to check bleeding, to calm a person, and stimulate the secretion of sweat. In Vietnam, Euphorbia hirta L. is used to stop dysentry. The dried entire Euphorbia hirta L. (Euphorbia, British Pharmaceutical Codex, 1954) was used in Britain in the form of a liquid extract (Euphorbia Liquid Extract, British Pharmaceutical Codex, 1949) in the treatment of cough or asthma.

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