HealthFrom garden beauty to cancer remedy: exploring the risky power of spurge plants

From garden beauty to cancer remedy: exploring the risky power of spurge plants

Wolf's milk is poisonous, but it also has health benefits.
Wolf's milk is poisonous, but it also has health benefits.
Images source: © Getty Images | Mandy Disher
9:04 AM EST, January 13, 2024

Utilization of Spurge

In American homes, it's not uncommon to find various types of spurges, such as the Beautiful Spurge (also known as the Star of Bethlehem), Shining Spurge (with small, red-orange flowers), Trilobed Spurge (with a stem covered in thorns) and Golden Spurge (with bright yellow flowers).

There's a plethora of Spurge species — nearly 2000 plants!

Each type has its unique uses in both traditional and contemporary medicine. Historically, spurges were used to treat conditions like insect bites, rashes, hay fever, sinusitis, eczema, skin eruptions, hair removal, and even to terminate pregnancy.

Today, what's known about Spurges is that they contain chemical compounds known to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, and cytostatic attributes.

This characteristic implies, among other things, that they could potentially be beneficial in treating various types of cancer, including skin cancer.

Additionally, the substances found in these plants stimulate intestinal peristalsis, improve appetite, and assist the respiratory tract by secreting mucus.

The Toxic Aspect of Spurge

The toxic element common to these variants is a white, thick, milky sap, which contains euphorbonic acid, euphorbin, and cyanogenic compounds.

When this sap reaches the stomach — say, due to a child or pet chewing on the plant — these substances can result in vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and inflammation.

When the damaged plant comes into contact with the skin, it can cause skin ulcers and blisters to form. The Star of Bethlehem is particularly toxic to those with allergies, as it contains latex compounds in addition to the aforementioned ones.

When taking care of Spurge plants, one should be alert for any potential damage and rinse away any traces of sap promptly. However, keep in mind, this should be done using a special emulsion due to the sap not being water-soluble. For safety, always wear gloves!

No one should ever attempt to self-medicate with these plants; and before utilizing a product containing it, consultation with a doctor is necessary.

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