Related entry: Euphorbia pilulifera herb
Euphorbium is a resin obtained from Euphorbia resinifera,Berg (N.O. Euphorbiaceae), a plant common in the mountainous districts of Morocco. The plant produces fleshy quadrangular stems, bearing small scaly leaves, supported by two thorny stipules. The cortex and pith contain long laticiferous cells; when the stem is incised, the latex is exuded as milky drops, which harden on exposure to air, and form resinous masses which are collected and brought to Morocco for sale. It is exported chiefly from Mogador. The drug occurs in dull yellow or brown tears or irregular masses often mixed with pieces of stem and other impurities. It is partially soluble in alcohol (62 per cent.), ether (56 per cent.), and water (32 per cent.), but almost completely in glacial acetic acid. Euphorbium may be identified by allowing a petroleum spirit extract to flow over the surface of sulphuric acid containing one drop of nitric acid in 20 mils; a blood-red zone should be produced. The resin, freed from vegetable debris, yields about 5 per cent. of ash.
Constituents.—It consists chiefly of euphorbone (40 per cent.), euphorbo-resene (20 per cent.), euphorbic acid (0.7 per cent.), calcium malate (25 per cent.), an intensely acrid substance, and vegetable] debris. Euphorbone occurs in tasteless, odourless, colourless crystals, melting at 115° to 116°. The resene is yellowish-brown in colour, amorphous, and tasteless. All attempts to isolate the acrid principle, which is soluble in water, alcohol, and ether, have failed; it has only been obtained in the form of. a resinous mass with intensely acrid taste. The drug contains no gum.
Action and Uses.—Euphorbium is emetic and powerfully cathartic. On account of its violent action its use internally has been abandoned. Externally it acts as a vesicant, and as such is used in veterinary practice. Powdered euphorbium is a powerful irritant to the nasal mucous membrane, causing violent sneezing. If the drug gets into the system acute nephritis may follow.