Resin spurge

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  • Botanical: Euphorbia resinifera
  • Family: Euphorbiaceae
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Resin spurge


Euphorbia resinifera



Known as

Euphorbia officinarum




This leafless, cactus-like plant is a glaucous perennial growing 6 feet or more in height. Its ascending stems are fleshy and 4-angled, each side of the stem about 1 inch in width. The stems have spreading branches whose angles are clothed with divergent, horizontal stipules of a spinescent character taking the place of leaves. These are arranged in pairs and converge at the base into an ovate, somewhat triangular disc; above each pair of spines is a depressed spot indicative of a leaf-bud.

The flowers, which are borne on stalks on the summits of the branches, are 3 in number, 2 of them being borne on pedicles. The branches abound in a milky juice, which exudes and concretes on the surface of the plant when it is wounded.

Properties & Uses

Emetic, cathartic, and errhine. Seldom, however, used for these properties, on account of its severity of action. Its principal use is externally as a rubefacient or vesicant. The following reparation forms an excellent counter-irritant: Take of powdered euphorbium 1/2 drachm, coarsely powdered cantharides and mezereon bark, of each, 2 drachms, rectified spirits of wine 2 1/2 fluid ounces. Mix together, digest for 8 days, then press and filter, and to the filtered tincture add, white colophony 1 ounce, white turpentine 6 drachms. With this preparation, paper or silk may be coated three separate times, by means of a soft sponge, and, when dry, forms an excellent irritating plaster for rheumatic, gouty, and neuralgic pains. Powdered euphorbium, is frequently added to the compound tar plaster to render it more active.


Resin euphorbia emits a thick white milky sap known as latex when stems are cut or damaged. This latex (resin) is poisonous containing some of the most potent irritants known. The chief toxic constituents of the latex is resin, and is known to contain wax, calcium malate, euphorbone, euphorbo-resene, euphorbic acid, potassium malate, lignin, bassorin, volatile oil, and water, with no soluble gums.

The latex is particularly dangerous for the eyes, skin and mucous membranes and will produce burning pain in bones and limbs and paralytic weakness in the joints. Also, resin spurge will produce respiratory and skin toxicity symptoms. Handle cultivated plants carefully and use extreme caution to NOT get any laxtex in eyes or mouth. The acrid resin is soluble in alcohol, and will burn brilliantly, becoming very aromatic.


Moroccan coast and the Canary Islands.


Euphorbium consists of resin soluble in ether (26.95 per cent), resin insoluble in ether (14.25), euphorbon (34.6) caoutchouc (1.1), malic acid (1.5), gum, salts (20.40), and ammonia-soluble matters (1.2). The resin insoluble in ether melts between 119° and 120° C. (246.4° and 248° F.). Euphorbon (C13H22O, Flückiger; C15H24O, Hesse; C20H36O, Henke), was first obtained in an impure state by Dragendorff and Alberti, in 1864, and was four years later given its name and prepared pure by Flückiger (Wittstein's Vierteljahresschrift, 1868, p. 89). It is a crystallizable substance, fusing at 68° C. (154.4° F.), (Henke), and yields upon treatment with phosphorus pentoxide, certain hydrocarbons, as heptane (C7H16), octane (C8H18), and paraxylene (C6H4[CH3]2). It is soluble in ether, benzin, benzene, chloroform, amylic alcohol, acetone, hot alcohol, and glacial acetic acid; almost insoluble in hot water, and precipitable by tannic acid. Henke prepared it by extracting the gum with petroleum ether and purifying the crystalline euphorbone thus obtained by dissolving it in ether, adding alcohol to permanent turbidity, allowing the yellow resin to subside, evaporating the clear liquid and crystallizing from benzin. It is tasteless, of neutral reaction, dextro-rotatory, and is not affected by diluted acids nor by alkalies. A bitter principle is also present, and may easily be obtained by boiling an alcoholic extract of the gum with water. This dissolves the bitter principle together with some of the acrid resin. 

For educational purposes only This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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