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Euphorbia hirta Linn. (Euphorbiaceae)


Chamaesyce hirta (L.) Millspaugh., Euphorbia pilulifera Linn.

Vernacular Names:

Ara Tanah, Gelang Susu, Kelusan, Ambin Jantan, Keremak Susu, Lanchang,  Gelang Susu
English: Hairy Spurge
Javanese: Gelang Susu, Gendong Anak, Kukon-kukon, Patikan
Sundanese: Nanangkaan, Nangkaan

Nam Nom Racha Si

Tamil: Amumpatchai

General Information


Euphorbia hirta is a common weed in garden beds, garden paths and wastelands. It is usually found in Java, Sunda, Sumatra, Peninsular Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. 

Plant Part Used

Entire plant, latex, aerial part, root, leaf

Chemical Constituents

The whole plant yields cycloartenol, friedelin, taraxerol, aphyldienol, ingenol triacetate, euphorbol hexacosanate, β-amyrin acetate, tinyatoxin, β-sitosterol, choline, shikimic acid  inositol, quercetin, rutin, an alkaloid xanthorhamnine, dimeric tannins euphorbins A-C and diesters of 12-deoxy-4β-phorbol. [2] Recently, flavonol glycosides: afzelin, quercitrin and myricitrin were also isolated. [3]

Traditional Used:

E. hirta extract is a sedative and affects the mucus membranes of the respiratory and genitourinary tracts. A decoction of the herb is used to treat cough, asthma, gonorrhoea, cataracts and phlegmon. It is also used to expel worms. E. hirta is believed to be an astringent and is used to treat chronic diarrhoea, enteritis, proctitis, dysentery and colic. It is mixed with water and used as an enema. The poultice is applied to abscesses and inflammed glands. The milk is applied to warts. The extract has tonic, narcotic and haemostatic properties.

The latex is used to treat conjunctivitis, cornea ulcers, warts, chronic catarrh and chest complaints. The extract is used as a protective medicine against ‘meroyan’ during the first 3 days after childbirth. It is also used as poultice to heal leg ulcers and bruises. This latex is reported to have been applied by the Jamaicans and Darienitas to the nipples of young girls to induce mammification.

The aerial part in combination with Fibraurea recisa is used as an antispasmodic to relieve chronic amoebic dysentery, abdominal colic, ascaridiosis and genitourinary disorders. It is also used as a gargle and poultice. The combination of the aerial parts with Lobelia inflata root or Polygala senega root is used to treat cough and asthma. The juice is used to treat Tinea imbricata while the essential oil is used to cure erysipelas caused by Streptococcus. The aerosol is used as insect repellents.

The root is used to allay vomiting. It is also used by nursing mothers to increase lactation. The leaves are useful for healing ulcers and eye-related diseases.

Pre-Clinical Data


Antimalarial activity

The flavonol glycosides afzelin, quercetrin and myricitrin were isolated from methanol extracts of the aerial parts of E. hirta. The compounds showed inhibition of the proliferation of Plasmodium falciparum with myricitrin being the most active. The little cytotoxic activity was exhibited against human epidermoid carcinoma KB 3-1 cells. [3] In another study of 20 African plants, the whole plant extract of E. hirta was one of the 14 plants that demonstrated more than 60% inhibition of the Plasmodium falciparum growth in vitro at a concentration of 6 μg/ml. The E. hirta whole plant extract also exhibited more than 60% chemosuppression of parasitaemia in mice infected with P.berghei berghei at the dose of 200-400mg/kg per day. [4]

Antidiarrhoeic activity

The lyophilised decoction of E. hirta was found to possess a prominent antidiarrhoeic activity in animal model induced by castor oil, arachidonic acid and prostaglandin E2. The decoction delayed small intestinal transit when this was hastened by castor oil. Quercetrin, isolated from this decoction, also showed anti diarrhoeic activity [5] at doses of 50mg/kg, against castor oil- and PGE2-induced diarrhoea in mice, but not when magnesium sulphate was used to provoke the diarrhea. [6] The flavonoid delayed rat intestinal transit when accelerated with castor oil but did not modify the fluid transport across the colonic mucosa when it was given intraluminally, either in normal conditions or when this transport was altered by PGE2 or sodium picosulphate. [6]

Another study investigated the effect of aqueous leaf extract of E. hirta on gastrointestinal motility in castor oil-induced diarrhoea in mice. [7] The results showed that aqueous leaf extract of the plant significantly and dose-dependently decreased the gastrointestinal motility in mice. These findings provide support to the traditional use of E. hirta in diarrhoea and that possibly the leaves played a fundamental role in antidiarrhoeic activity of the whole plant as reported earlier. [5]

Anti-inflammatory activity

Anti-inflammatory property of the lyophilised aqueous extract of E. hirta was studied in animal model. The  significant and dose-dependent anti-inflammatory effects were observed on an acute inflammatory process in carrageenan-induced oedema in rats from the dose of 100 mg/kg. Conversely, the plant extract remained inactive on chronic processes such as Freund's adjuvant-induced rheumatoid arthritis, after a chronic treatment during fourteen days at the daily dose of 200 or 400mg/kg. Nevertheless, if inefficacy was observed on rat backpaws oedema and on loss of weight, the aqueous extract reduced the inflammatory hyperalgia. [8]

Evaluation of the anti-inflammatory effect of an n-hexane extract of E. hirta on the 12-O-tetradecanoyl phorbol acetate (TPA)-induced mouse ear oedema was reported in another study. The compounds responsible for the anti-inflammatory effect were isolated and identified as β-amyrin, 24-methylencyclocloartenol and β-sitosterol. These three triterpenes were also examined for their inhibitory effects on TPA-induced inflammation in mice. Both the extract and the triterpenes wielded significant and dose-dependent anti-inflammatory activity in  the TPA-induced mice. Combinations of the isolated triterpenes were tested and the results showed that the combination was higher in magnitude as anti-inflammatory agent than those produced by each triterpene alone. [9]

The aqueous extract of E. hirta was investigated for its influence on prostaglandin biosynthesis (PG I2, PG E2, PG D2). The study showed that the extract of E. hirta strongly reduced the release of prostaglandins I2, E2, and D2. In addition, the extract exerted an inhibitory effect on platelet aggregation and depressed the formation of carrageenin induced rat paw oedema. The chemical nature of the active principle of E. hirta could be characterized as (a) compound(s) of medium polarity in the molecular weight range of 1000 to 3000 Da. [10]

Antiplasmodial activity

E. hirta was one of the seven African medicinal plants studied for its in vitro antiplasmodial activity for the treatment of malaria. The ethanol extract from the whole plant of E. hirta exhibited a pronounced antiplasmodial activity (IC50 < 3 μg/ml) in the investigation of the treatment of malaria. The same observation was made for its petroleum ether fraction.  The observed antiplasmodial activity may be related to the presence of terpenes, steroids, coumarins, flavonoids, phenolic acids, lignans, xanthones and anthraquinones. [11]

Larvicidal activity:

The larvicidal activity of ethyl acetate, butanol, and petroleum ether extracts of five species of Euphorbiaceae plants including E. hirta were tested against the early fourth instar larvae of Aedes aegypti L. and Culex quinquefasciatus (Say). The larval mortality was observed after 24 h of exposure. The highest mortality was found in petroleum ether extract. The LC50 value of petroleum ether extract of E. hirta was 272.36ppm against A. aegypti and 424.94ppm against C. quinquefasciatus. Of the various ratios tested, the petroleum ether extracts of E. hirta was observed to be the least efficient amongst the other plant extracts. The result shows that E. hirta can be applied as the potential larvicide against A. aegypti and C. quinquefasciatus albeit a weak activity. [12]

Antimicrobial activity

The ethanolic extract of the aerial parts of E. hirta was tested for antimicrobial activity. The plant exhibited a broad spectrum of antimicrobial activity, particularly against Escherichia coli (enteropathogen), Proteus vulgaris, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus. [13]

Antibacterial activity

Antibacterial effect of compounds extracted from the methanol extract of E. hirta was studied against dysentery-causing Shigella spp. using the Vero cell line. The cytotoxicity studies of the extract were performed using the cell line and the non-cytotoxic concentration of the extract was tested for antibacterial activity against the cytopathic dose of the pathogen. The extract was found to be non-cytotoxic and effective antibacterial agents. [14]

Diuretic activity

E. hirta is traditionally known to treat numerous diseases, including hypertension and oedema. The diuretic effect of the E. hirta leaf extracts was assessed in rats using acetazolamide and furosemide as standard diuretic drugs. The water and ethanol extracts (50 and 100mg/kg) of the plant produced time-dependent increase in urine output. The plant extracts also significantly affect the electrolyte excretion. The water extract behaved similarly like acetazolamide, by increasing urine output and enhancing the excretion of Na+, K+ and HCO3 suggesting that the active components in the water extract had similar diuretic effect to that of acetazolamide. On the other hand, the ethanol extract increased the excretion of HCO3, decreased the loss of K+ and had little effect on renal removal of Na+. Furosemide, increased the renal excretion of Na+ and Cl; but had no effect on the loss of K+ and HCO3. This study confirms the traditional use of E. hirta as a diuretic agent by the locals in Africa. [15]

Antiallergic activity

A 95% ethanol extract of whole aerial parts of E. hirta showed antihistaminic, anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties in various animal models. The study demonstrated that E. hirta possessed significant activity to prevent early and late phase allergic reaction. [16]

Antifertility activity

The aqueous crude extracts of the fresh leaves of E. hirta were administered to thirty eight-week old sexually mature male albino rats to determine the effects of the extract on the male reproductive organs of these animals. The results from this study showed that the aqueous crude extract of E. hirta caused varying degrees of testicular degeneration as well as reduction in the mean seminiferous tubular diameter in the treated rats. The aqueous extract of E. hirta has potentially deleterious effects on the testes and accessory organs of rats. The study has consequently revealed that E. hirta has potential toxic effects on animals and great caution should be exercised in the use of this plant for medicinal purposes. [17]

Behavioural and neurotropic activity

The non-toxic aqueous extract of whole plant of E. hirta has been investigated for behavioural and neurotropic effects in mice. The findings of the study confirmed the traditional use of the plant as a sedative and revealed original anxiolytic property. [18] The hypnotic and neuroleptic properties were not detected in the animal model. [19]

Anthelmintic efficacy

The anthelminthic activity of the aqueous crude extract of E. hirta was compared with Mebendazole a proprietary anthelmintic, which belongs to the benzimidazole group of anthelmintics. The study was also performed to determine effective route of delivery for this extract. Twenty Nigerian dogs which were found to be heavily infected with worms were used in this study. The results of this study showed that the aqueous crude extracts of E. hirta after its administration into local dogs produced a significant reduction of worm load. This is a positive and welcome development in the local helminths struggle, because the plant, E. hirta is available all-year round in Nigeria. The plant extracts displayed a high degree of wide spectrum, which implies that total dependence on proprietary drugs, which in most cases are imported, will be reduced. The phenol compound present in the plant extract could have caused reduction in worm load through this same mechanism that culminates in exhaustion and death of worms. Since the aqueous crude extract of E. hirta significantly reduced the faecal egg count of the helminths, it could serve as an anthelmintic agent. [22]


The aqueous and serially purified latex extracts of E. hirta have potent molluscicidal activity. The sub-lethal doses (40 and 80% of LC50) of aqueous and partially purified latex extract of the plant also significantly alter the levels of total protein, total free amino acid, nucleic acid (DNA and RNA) and the activity of enzyme protease and acid and alkaline phosphatase in nervous tissue of the snail Lymnaea acuminata in time and dose-dependent manner. [20] A similar study was also conducted on aqueous stem bark and leaf extracts of the E. hirta plant in different body tissues of L. acuminate. The findings concluded that aqueous extracts of the plant caused significant time and dose dependent alteration of the biochemical levels in various tissues of the vector snail. [21]

Clinical Data

Clinical Trials

No documentation

Adverse Effects in Human:

No documentation

Used in Certain Conditions

Pregnancy / Breastfeeding

Not to be used in case of pregnant women. [23]

Age Limitations

Neonates / Adolescents

No documentation


No documentation

Chronic Disease Conditions

No documentation


Interactions with drugs

No documentation

Interactions with Other Herbs / Herbal Constituents

No documentation



Not to be used in case of pregnant women. [23]

Case Reports

No documentation

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  1)  Botanical Info


    1. Herbal Medicine Research Centre, Institute for Medical Research, Kuala Lumpur. 2002. Compendium of Medicinal Plants Used in Malaysia. 1:332-3.
    2. Daniel, M.2006. Medicinal Plants, Chemistry and Properties, Science Publishers, Enfield, NH, USA pp 107.
    3. Liu, Y. et al. 2007. Antimalarial Flavonol Glycosides from Euphorbia hirta. Pharmaceutical Biology. 45:278-81. Abstract
    4. Tona, L., et al. 1999. Antimalarial activity of 20 crude extracts from nine African medicinal plants used in Kinshasa, Congo. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 68:193-203
    5. Galvez, J. 1993. Antidiarrhoeic activity of Euphorbia hirta extract and isolation of an active flavonoid constituent. Planta Med. 59: 333-6. Abstract
    6. Galvez, J. 1993. Antidiarrhoeic activity of quercitrin in mice and rats. J. Pharm. Pharmacol. 45:157-9. Abstract
    7. Hore, S.K., et al. 2006. Effect of aqueous Euphorbia hirta leaf extract on gastrointestinal motility. Fitoterapia. 77(1): 35-8
    8. Lanhers, M.C. et al. 1991. Analgesic, antipyretic and anti-inflammatory properties of Euphorbia hirta. Planta Med. 57(3):225-31 Abstract
    9. Martinez-Vazquez, M et al. 1999. Anti-inflammatory Active Compounds from the n-Hexane Extract of Euphorbia hirta. Revista de la Sociedad Quimica de México. 43(3,4):103-5
    10. Hiermann A, & Bucar F. 1994. Influence of some traditional medicinal plants of Senegal on prostaglandin biosynthesis. J Ethnopharmacol. 42(2):111-6. Abstract
    11. Tona, L. et al..2004. In vitro antiplasmodial activity of extracts and fractions from seven medicinal plants used in the Democratic Republic of Congo. J. Ethnopharmacol. 93(1):27-36
    12. Rahuman, A. et al. 2008. Larvicidal activity of some Euphorbiaceae plant extracts against Aedes aegypti and Culex quinquefasciatus (Diptera: Culicidae). Parasitology Research, 102(5): 867-73. Abstract
    13. Sudhakar, M., et al., 2006, Antimicrobial activity of Caesalpinia pulcherrima, Euphorbia hirta and Asystasia gangeticum. Fitoterapia, 77: 378–80
    14. Vijaya K., Ananthan S., & Nalini R. 1995. Antibacterial effect of theaflavin, polyphenon 60 (Camellia sinensis) and Euphorbia hirta on Shigella spp. -- a cell culture study. J. Ethanopharmacol, 49(2): 115-8
    15. Johnson, P.B. et al. 1999. Euphorbia hirta leaf extracts increase urine output and electrolytes in rats. J. Ethnopharmacol. 65(1):63-9. 
    16. Singh, G. D., et al. 2006. Inhibition of early and late phase allergic reactions by Euphorbia hirta L.  Phytotherapy Res.20(4): 316-21.
    17. Adedapo, A. A., et al. 2003, Morphometric and histopathological studies on the effects of some chromatographic fractions of Phyllanthus amarus and Euphorbia hirta on the male reproductive organs of rats. J Vet Sci., 4(2):181-5 
    18. Lanhers, M.C. et al. 1990. Behavioral effects of Euphorbia hirta I.: sedative and anxiolytic properties. J. Ethnopharmacol. 29 (2): 189-98 Abstract 
    19. Lanhers, M.C. et al. 1993. Behavioral and Neurotropic effects of an aqueous extract of Euphorbia hirta L. (Euphorbiaceǽ). Actes du 2e Colloque Européen d'Ethnopharmacologie et de la 11e Conférence internationale d'Ethnomédecine, Heidelberg, pp298-302. 
    20. Singh, S.K. et al. 2004. Toxic effect of two common Euphorbiales latices on the freshwater snail Lymnaea acuminata. Environ. Toxicol. Pharmaco., 15(2-3):87-93
    21. Singh, S.K., et al. 2005. Toxic effect of stem bark and leaf of Euphorbia hirta plant against freshwater vector snail Lymnaea acuminata. Chemosphere. 59 (2):263-70. 
    22. Adedapo, A. A. et al. 2005. Anthelmintic efficacy of the aqueous crude extract of Euphorbia hirta Linn in Nigerian dogs. Veterinarski Arhiv.75(1):39-47.  
    23., accessed 16 March 2009.

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