Truth about Jew bush, science confirms

The scientific name of the Jew bush is Euphorbia tithymaloides Linn.

Scientific names Common names
Crepidaria carinata (Donn) Haw. Luha (Tag.)
Crepidaria myrtifolia (L.) Haw. Luhang-dalaga (Tag.)
Crepidaria subcarinata Haw. Bird cactus (Engl.)
Euphorbia carinata Donn Devil’s backbone (Engl.)
Euphorbia tithymaloides L. Jew bush (Engl.)
Pedilanthus camporum Standl. & Steyerm. Redbird cactus (Engl.)
Pedilanthus canaliculatus (Lodd.) Sweet Redbird flower (Engl.)
Pedilanthus carinaturs (Donn) Spreng. Slipper plant (Engl.)
Pedilanthus deamii Millsp. Slipper spurge (Engl.)
Pedilanthus fendleri Boiss. Zigzag plant (Engl.)
Pedilanthus gritensis Zahlbr.
Pedilanthus houlletii Baill.
Pedilanthus ierensis Britton
Pedilanthus myrtifolius (L.) Link
Pedilanthus petraeus Brandegee
Pedilanthus pringlei Rob.
Pedilanthus subcarinatus (Haw.) Sweet
Pedilanthus tithymaloides (L.) Poit.
Tithymalus deamii (Millsp.) Croizat
Tithymalus ierensis (Britton) Croizat
Tithymalus myrtifolius (L.) Mill.
Tithymalus petraeus (Brandegee) Croizat
Tithymalus pringlei (Rob.) Croizat
Tithymalus tithymaloides (L.) Croizat
Tithymalus villicus Croizat
Pedilanthus tithymaloides (L.) Poit. is a synonym of Euphorbia tithymaloides L. 
Euphorbia tithymaloides L. is an accepted name.
Other vernacular names
CHINESE: Tuo xie hua, Yang shan hu, Niu qu cao, Yu dai gen, Hong que shan hu.
INDIA: Vilaayati-sher, Naagaphani, Naagadaman.
INDONESIAN: Penawar lipan, Penawar lilin, Phon sig-sag.

General information

The name derives from the Greek words pedilon, meaning “slipper,” and anthos, meaning “flower.”

Jew bush is a half-woody, succulent, and erect shrub growing to a height of 1.5 meters or less, with fleshy and stout branches which produce a milky latex. Leaves are green or variegated, fleshy, smooth, alternate, deciduous, ovate or oblong, 3.5 to 7.5 centimeters long, 2.5 to 5 centimeters wide, pointed at both ends. Flowers are reddish, clustered on leafless stems, terminal or axillary. Capsules are 9 millimeters broad.


– Recently introduced species.

– Ornamental cultivation, especially as a hedge plant.

– Native of the West Indies.


• Considered emetic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiseptic, antihemorrhagic, antiviral, antitumoral and abortive.

• Milky juice is caustic, irritant, and emetic.


• A study assessing its scavenging properties yielded the antioxidant principles: a kaempferol, quercitrin, isoquercitrin and scopoletin; phenolics and flavonoids – gallic acid and rutin.

• A new proteolytic enzyme, pedilanthain, with anti-inflammatory activity was isolated from the latex.

• Caustic, milky juice of the roots, stems and leaves contains euphorbol and other diterpene esters which are irritants and cocarcinogens. A lectin and proteolytic enzymes are experimentally indicated.

• Extracts of leaves yielded five known compounds, viz. epifriedelanyl acetate (1), friedelanol (2), β-sitosterol (3), ursolic acid (4), and luteolin (5), along with the new compound 1,2-tetradecanediol 1-(hydrogen sulfate) sodium salt (6).

Parts utilized



–  Leaf tea used for laryngitis, mouth ulcers, venereal disease, asthma, cough.

– Root tea has been used as abortifacient and as purgative substitute for ipecacuanha.

– Latex has been used to treat cancer and umbilical hernia; also, dripped into painful dental caries and aching ears. (See eye toxicity: Caution)

– Used for treating warts, calluses and ringworm.

– The centipede leg-like leaf arrangement has given it folkloric application for treatment of centipede and scorpion stings.

– In Indian medicine, leaves used to heal wounds, burns, and mouth ulcers.

Scientific studies about jew bush

Anti-inflammatory / Antioxidant:

Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity of a medicinal tincture from Pedilanthus tithymaloides: A Cuban study showed inhibition of carrageenan-induced rat paw edema while scavenging assays showed it to be effective against all assayed ROS and RNS. Study results support its traditional use as an anti-inflammatory medicine.

Antimalarial / Anti-tuberculosis:

Study yielded six new poly-O-acylated jatrophane diterpenes along with five known compounds from the white latex of P tithymaloides. Antimalarial and antituberculous poly-O-acylated jatrophane diterpenoids from Pedilanthus tithymaloides: Compounds 1, 3, 4 and 5 showed antiplasmodial activity and antimycobacterial activity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis.


Antimycotic Screening of 58 Malaysian Plants against Plant Pathogens: Of 58 Malaysian plants screened, PT was one of 34 plants that showed selective antifungal activity.

Antibacterial / Antifungal:

Study investigated the antifungal and antibacterial properties of an ethanolic extract of leaves of P. tithymaloides and some of its constituents.


Study yielded principles identified as kaempferol 3-O-B-D-glucopyranoside-6″-(3-hydroxy-3-methylglutarate), quercitin, isoquercitrin and scopoletin.

Mosquito Control:

Ethanolic extract study of P tithymaloides yielded flavonoids, steroids and phenols and showed that phytochemicals from spurge exhibit significant biological activity against mosquitoes and presents a potential as a natural product-based biocide for disease vector control.

Hemagglutination / Lectin / Diabetes:

The usefulness of a galactose specific lectin from P. tithymaloides was examined to study the hemagglutination pattern in patients with diabetes mellitus. Significantly low titer was seen in patients with insulin dependent diabetes and no significant change in non-insulin dependent diabetics. The low titer was shown to occur along with increased duration of the diabetic condition.

Anti-inflammatory / Latex / Pedilanthain:

Study isolated pedilanthin, a new protease, from the latex of P. tithymaloides, and was subject4d to anti-inflammatory screening.

Petrocrop Potential:

Studies showed P. tithymaloides, PT var. cuculatus and PT var variegatus are promising varieties for development of petro-crops, with potential for good biomass and hydrocarbon yields.

Larvicidal / Dengue Vector / Aedes aegypti:

Study evaluated a crude ethanol leaf extract for larvicidal activity against dengue vector Aedes aegypti. Results showed moderate larvicidal property with LC50 of 0.32 and 0.12 percent after 24 and 48 hours.

Anti-Inflammatory / Leaves:

Study evaluated various extracts of leaves for anti-inflammatory activity in male albino rats using a carrageenan-induced paw edema model. A methanol extract showed significantly more anti-inflammatory activity in a dose-dependent manner.

Renewable Hydrocarbon Source:

Study evaluated P. tithymaloides for a renewable and potential source of hydrocarbons. Extractions yielded a white amorphous mixture of hydrocarbons comparable with gasoline.

Wound Healing / Leaves:

Study evaluated P. tithymaloides leaves for wound healing property. Fractionation yielded 2-(3,4-dihydroxy-phenyl)-5,7-dihydroxy-chromen-4-one and 1, 2-tetradecanediol, 1-(hydrogen sulfate), sodium salt. An ointment formulation showed significant wound healing activity on excision, incision and dead space wound models in rats.


Study evaluated the in vitro anthelmintic activity of an ethanolic leaf extract of Euphorbia tithymaloides against adult earthworm Pheretima posthuma. Albendazole was used as standard drug. Results showed remarkable anthelmintic activity at 45 mg mL-1.

Anti-Inflammatory / Analgesic / Antipyretic / Leaves:

Study evaluated the anti-inflammatory, antinociceptive, and antipyretic activity of chloroform and methanol leaf extracts in animal models. Results showed significant anti-inflammatory activity in carrageenan-induced paw edema, vascular permeability, and cotton pellet granuloma models; antinociceptive activity with significant increase in hot-plate reaction time and decreased writhing response; and significant antipyretic activity in a yeast-induced pyrexia model.


Study evaluated the antibacterial activity of P. tithymaloides against various gram positive and gram negative bacteria. n-Butanol extracts showed significant antibacterial activity against B. subtilis, P. mirabilis, S. pyogenes, Aermonas, K. pneumonia, S. aureus, E. coli, K. pneumonia and P. aeruginosa.

Caution / Toxicity


Ingested, a few drops of the juice produce irritation of the mouth and throat, vomiting and diarrhea. Externally, the juice produces irritation, inflammation and skin blistering. In the eye, it produces intense and painful irritation, followed by keratoconjuctivitis and temporary reduction of visual acuity. The seeds cause violent persistent vomiting and drastic diarrhea. In livestock, skin lesions are prone to secondary infections.

Case Report / Mechanism of Injury:

A case of eye injury consisted of severe conjunctivitis with chemosis and corneal erosion secondary to contact with the sap. Probably mechanism was the combined effect of the plant sap, possible proteolytic activity, and mechanical trauma.

Treatment / Prevention:

As a potential hazard to eyes, it should not be planted in places easily accessible to children, like gardens and playgrounds. Avoid contact with the sap. Wear goggles when cutting the plant. Skin contact should immediately be washed with soap and water. Topical steroids reduced pain and inflammation. Fluid replacement and hydration may be needed for acute gastrointestinal manifestations.



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