Euphorbia. Wild Ipecac, Wild Hippo. Euphorbia corollata, Euphorbia ipecacuanhae, Euphorbia spp.; Euphorbi
Euphorbia. Wild Ipecac. Wild Hippo. Euphorbe, Fr. Wolfsmilch, G.—The genus Euphorbia (Fam. Euphorbiaceae) contains numerous species, having the common property of yielding a milky juice. They are herbaceous or shrubby, with or without leaves, and the leafless species, which are chiefly confined to the African deserts, have fleshy, naked, or spiny stems, like those of the cactus. They nearly all afford products which act powerfully as emetics and cathartics, and in overdoses occasion dangerous if not fatal prostration, with symptoms of inflammation of the gastro-intestinal mucous membrane. Their milky juice, which concretes on exposure, usually possesses these properties in a high degree, and, in addition, that of powerfully irritating the skin when applied to it. The U. S. Pharmacopoeia formerly recognized the indigenous species E. corollata L. and E. Ipecacuanhae L.. In a full dose the root of E. corollata L. acts as an emetic and cathartic and in smaller doses is a nauseating diaphoretic and expectorant. It is, however, too harsh and uncertain in its action for practical use, and has passed entirely out of vogue. The dose of the dried root as an emetic is from ten to twenty grains (0.65-1.3 Gm.), as a cathartic from three to ten grains (0.2-0.65 Gm.). The recent root, bruised and applied to the skin, produces vesication. C. Petzolt (A. J. P., 1873) found in the root of E. Ipecacuanhae fixed oil, resin, starch, glucose, and various salts. The resinous matter was a dark mass, of a taste slight at first but after a time nauseous and pungent, readily dissolved by alcohol, but insoluble in ether and petroleum benzin, and, when swallowed, producing in half grain (0.032 Gm.) doses watery stools, and in one and a half or two grain (0.096 or 0.13 Gm.) doses nausea and vomiting. It gave no evidence of the presence of an alkaloid. The medicinal properties of E. Ipecacuanha resemble those of E. corollata, though the former is said to be somewhat milder. The indigenous E. Preslii Guss. (E. hypericifolia A. Gray. and E. maculata L. are said by Zollickoffer to be a valuable remedy in dysentery, diarrhea, menorrhagia, and leucorrhea. (See 16th ed., U. S. D., also A. J. M. S., xi.) B. J. D. Irwin, U. S. A., states that, under the name of gollindrinera, the native Mexican uses the Euphorbia prostrata Ait. in New Mexico and Arizona as a remedy for snakes bites. (Am. J. M. S., 1861.). In Chili the juice of Euphorbia portulacoides L. (E. chilensis C. Gay) is said to be used as a drastic purgative. (A. J. P., 1866, 102.) The juice of Euphorbia Drummondii Boiss. is said in Australia to kill annually a great many sheep and cattle, and in 1886 John Reid (Australasian Med. Gaz.; No. 61) announced the discovery in it of a new anesthetic alkaloid, drummine, which he obtained in colorless crystals almost insoluble in ether, but freely soluble in chloroform and in water. The report of Alexander Ogsden (B. M. J., Feb., 1887) throws, however, very grave doubts upon the anesthetic power of this new alkaloid. The E. ocellata Durand and Hilgard of the Pacific coast is used as an antidote for snake bites, and is said to contain 2.82 per cent. of resin, besides gallo-tannic acid, while Euphorbia eremocarpus Auct. of the same region is employed for the purpose of poisoning fish in still pools and streams, and is said to contain a volatile oil, besides acid and resins. (See Proc. California Coll. Pharm., 1885.) The oil of E. Lathyris L. is stated to physiologically resemble croton oil. (Proc. A. Ph. A., xxvi, 305.)
The E. heterodoxa Muell. Arg., alveloz or aveloz, a Brazilian species, has been used with asserted extraordinary advantage against cancerous and syphilitic ulcers. It is a powerful irritant, and even mild caustic. The milky juice, preserved with salicylic acid, or a resin obtained by precipitating with water is employed. The ointment of the resin may be made 3 parts in 100 with vaseline. For further information concerning various euphorbia species which have been used in medicine, see U. S. D., 19th ed., p. 1484.
Euphorbia Pilulifera. N. F. IV. Pill Bearing Spurge.—"The dried herb of Euphorbia pilulifera Linne (Fam. Euphorbiaceae), collected while flowering and fruiting." N. F. This plant is a prostrate or ascending branched annual, found in almost all tropical countries; it is furnished with leaves which are opposite, shortly stalked, ovate to ovate-lanceolate or oblong, from 8 to 35 mm. long, denticulate, very oblique and narrow below, or with a semicordate base. Stipules minute and linear. The flower-heads are small, numerous, crowded in head-like cymes, globular, and are borne on a short stalk in one axil, only, of each pair of opposite leaves. The involucre is small, entire, and without petal-like appendages. According to De Candolle, the seeds are reddish, acutely oblong, four-sided, and transversely wrinkled, the ridges uniting irregularly. It is to be distinguished from E. parviflora (L.), which is sometimes substituted for it, by the flower-head of the latter having but few flowers, by the glands of the involucre being furnished with a white, obovate-orbicular appendage, and by the seeds being minutely papillose. The N. F. describes the drug as follows: "Roots usually present, small, branched, and reddish; sterna slender, cylindrical, obliquely erect, dichotomously branched from near the base, branches recurved at apices; branches and stem only sparsely leafed at base, pale greenish-brown, rough or hairy; stems coarsely pilose with yellow hairs which are rather dense on the upper parts but sparse on the lower; pubescence consisting of short, nearly straight, unicellular hairs, becoming almost hispid at the flowering tops; leaves opposite, obliquely oblong, acute, serrulate, rusty pale green, pubescent, especially on the prominent veins on the lower surface, becoming brittle on drying and usually much broken in the drug; flowers small, numerous, in short peduncled axillary clusters; fruits about 1 mm. in diameter, three-celled capsules; seeds about 0.9 mm. in diameter, triangular ovoid, pale brown. Odor aromatic and characteristic; taste faintly bitter, aromatic and acrid. Euphorbia Pilulifera yields not more than 12 per cent. of ash." N. F. Levison found in it (A. J. P., 1885, 147) several glucoside resins, wax, and volatile matter. Dr. F. B. Power (C. D., 1913, 544) examined E. pilulifera from the Fiji Islands and found a monohydric alcohol, euphosterol, among other constituents, none of which seem to possess value therapeutically.
A physiological study of Euphorbia pilulifera led A. Marsset (T. G., 1885) to the conclusion that the active principle acts directly upon the heart and respiration; that it is not an irritant to the skin, but in large dose it is to the gastric mucous membrane. It has been used by Dujardin-Beaumetz and a number of other clinicians with asserted excellent results in the treatment of asthma and bronchitis. The best preparation is the fluidextract (see Fluidextractum Euphorbia Piluliferae. N. F. IV), the dose of which is from a half to one fluidrachm (1.8-3.75 mils) three or four times a day.