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Pill-Bearing Spurge

Euphorbia hirta syn. E. pilulifera

Herbs gallery - Pill-Bearing Spurge

Common names

  • Asthma Plant
  • Pill-Bearing Spurge

Pill-bearing spurge, also known as asthma weed, is a plant that grows straight usually up to a height of 20 inches or 50 cm. This species is annual or perennial in nature and produces leaves that are pointed oval growing up to 2.5 cm to 4 cm in length and bears bunch of diminutive flowers. The flowers are virtually inconsequential and borne in dense, globular clusters, which subsequently develop into capsule having three cells each and a reddish-green color. This plant is said to be free of ester and considered to be a safe and effectual herb. In Chinese medicine, pill-bearing spurge is believed to be mismatched with licorice.

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One may notice the pill-bearing spurge plant in his/ her locality during the rainy season. The plant may be found growing erect beside a wall or at the periphery of a stream. This plant may have a rather peculiar shape and character as though it does not have anything to do with the other constituents of the plant family. At times, the pill-bearing spurge may be found growing in solitude in cracks at the intersection of a vertical wall and a horizontal floor both being plastered with cement. Initially, a solitary shoot comes out of the cement plaster, it grows for around ten to 15 days and subsequently begins to branch from the base of the plant. This results in the development of several upright hoots standing parallel to the original plant. The plant that grows in this manner does not have a complete greenish hue, but the leaves as well as the stems covered with bristles appear somewhat brownish in fresh and clear air. If you see such a plant growing out of the crevice, do not try to uproot or damage it for this is a rare plant species these days. In other words, don't ignore the plant for it is rather dying out, but very valuable for our health. This plant has a long history of medicinal use and has been in use since the days of Ayurveda. Later, several other streams of medicines as well as other healthcare systems also used this plant to take care of the health of the humans.

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As aforementioned, pill-bearing spurge is also known as the asthma weed and is widely used to treat problems of the respiratory tract. This herb disintegrates mucus as well as helps to provide relief from bronchial spasms, which has encouraged many people to use the plant as a remedy for asthmatic conditions, emphysema (a health condition wherein the air sacs of the lungs are abhorrently enlarged, resulting in breathlessness and wheezing), chronic bronchitis, chronic inflammation and hay fever. It may be noted here that toxic doses of the pill-bearing spurge are known to have stimulated respiratory failure in small animals.

Parts used

Aerial parts.

Uses

In herbal medicine, pill-bearing spurge is especially indicated for bronchial asthma, as this herb helps to soothe the bronchial tubes and facilitates normal breathing. This herb possesses mildly expectorant and sedative properties and is also prescribed for bronchitis as well as other problems of the respiratory tract. Generally, the herb pill-bearing spurge is used together with other anti-asthmatic herbs, such as lobelia and grindelia. According to the Anglo-American convention, pill-bearing spurge is also given to cure intestinal amebiasis or amebic dysentery.

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Traditionally, the pill-bearing spurge has been used as a medication to treat asthma since internal usage of the extract of the herb is known to be a bronchodilator (any substance that works to widen contracted bronchial tubes to assist breathing). In addition, this herb is also used as an expectorant (any substance that encourages discharge of phlegm), anti-spasmodic, anti-asthmatic, haemostatic (any substance that helps in stopping bleeding), pectoral (a substance that protects the chest), soporific (a substance that causes sleep), sedative, antithelminitic (any drug that helps to expel intestinal worms), dysenteric, and diuretic.

In contemporary herbal medicine, the pill-bearing spurge is more often used to treat intestinal amoebic dysentery. In addition, it is also used to cure the sexually transmitted disease (STD) syphilis. In Africa as well as in Australia, local people use the herb to treat edema (excessive accumulation of serous fluid in the intercellular spaces between tissues), hypertension, diarrhea, ulcers and acute cases of enteritis. Nevertheless, in most countries the herb is primarily used as a common medication to treat problems of the respiratory tract, such as asthma, cough, bronchial infections and spasm of the throat. Internal use of the extract of this herb helps to disintegrate mucus within the lungs and also facilitates in discharging the spasm.

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The juice extracted from the leaves of the pill-bearing spurge plant is prescribed for people suffering from colic, wounds, boils as well as other skin complaints. A decoction prepared from the fresh plant is used as a gargle for curing thrush. In addition, the herb is also used to prevent chronic diarrhea, vomiting and fever. On the other hand, the extract of the pill-bearing spurge root is given to victims of snake bite to alleviate their pain and associated symptoms.

The pill-bearing spurge plant is anodyne (a painkiller), carminative (a medicine that relieves flatulence), antipruritic (a substance that prevents itching), diuretic (a medication that increases flow of urine), depurative (a purgative), galactogogue (a substance that increases secretion of breast milk), and vermifuge (a substance that helps to expel parasites from the body, especially intestines).

As aforementioned, people in most African countries use the extract of the pill-bearing spurge plant to cure asthma and respiratory tract inflammations. People in Mauritius also use the extract of the herb for treating chronic bronchitis, cough and various disorders of the respiratory tract, especially the lungs. Locals in Nigeria use the extract of the leaves of the pill-bearing spurge as ear drops and also to cure sores, boils and heal wounds. Then again, people in Angola used the plant extensively for treating dysentery as well as diarrhea.

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In the conventional Cambodian healthcare system, the extract of the herb is given to patients to expel intestinal parasites as well as to cure bowel disorders. People in Cambodia also use the pill-bearing spurge plant extract to treat gonorrhea as well as other venereal diseases (an infection transmitted through sexual intercourse). In India and Africa, traditionally the leaves of the herb are dried and filled into a hollow paper cigarette, burnt and smoked to cure asthma. It has been reported that the extract obtained from the leaf of the pill-bearing spurge plant possesses potent molluscicidal properties. Pill-bearing spurge is a common herb in India that is used to treat a number of health conditions, including asthma, cough, dysentery, colic and genito-urinary ailments.

Habitat and cultivation

The pill-bearing spurge is indigenous to Australia and India, but presently it is found growing extensively all over the globe having tropical climatic conditions. The aerial parts of the plant possess therapeutic properties and are used to cure a number of health conditions, especially those related to the respiratory tract. These parts are collected while the plant is still flowering.

The stem of the pill-bearing spurge encloses whitish latex. The plant produces simple, elliptical, oblong, opposite, acute and toothed or indented leaves that have netted venation. The new shoots of the plant are axillaries and have a stalk-like structure. The plant bears compressed fruits that are keeled and pubescent. The fruits enclose pale brownish seeds that have an oblong shape. The pill-bearing spurge plant blooms during August - September which is followed by the fruiting period during November and December. A solitary pill-bearing spurge plant has the capacity to produce as many as 3,000 tiny seeds that are dispersed by air or by ants and termites. Sparrows have been found to visit this plant often and, hence, it is possible that they too help in disseminating the seeds of the pill-bearing spurge.

Pill-bearing spurge or the asthma weed is considered to be an invasive plant since it multiplies and spreads rapidly and is able to adapt itself in arid as well as soggy conditions. As mentioned before, this species produces copious amount of seeds and this is another reason for its invasiveness. Nevertheless, presently, this plant is endangered owing to destruction of habitat as well as land reclamation for various purposes. In effect, the pill-bearing spurge is a rare plant these days. Normally, it is found growing in wastelands and also in crop fields. Occasionally, this weed is also found to be growing at altitudes of around 2,000 meters. The pill-bearing spurge plant has a preference for sandy soil and has been found growing in regions that are covered with pebbles and stones.

Pill-bearing spurge can only be propagated through its seeds. Generally, it takes around two to three weeks' time for the seeds to germinate when they are placed in conditions where the temperature is 20°C. It is advisable that this plant is grown in cool green houses during the first week of March, when the atmospheric temperature is higher than 20°C. It is feasible to pick up the seedlings in May and transplant them in a sandy loam or rich loam soils having adequate drainage.

Constituents

Chemical analysis of the pill-bearing spurge has revealed that it encloses flavonoids, palmitic acid, gallic acid, alkanes, linoleic acids, phenolic acids, terpenoids, choline and shikimic acid. The last two elements contained by the herb are considered to be partially responsible for its antispasmodic attributes. In addition, pill-bearing spurge also encloses several phytochemicals, such as flavones, fatty acids, essential oil, sterols, phenols and others.

Usual dosage

Pill-bearing spurge may be taken both as an infusion and/ or a tincture.

Infusion: In case you are taking the herb in an infusion form, the standard dose is drinking it thrice every day. To prepare the infusion, pour a cup of steaming water onto half to one teaspoonful of dehydrated leaves of the herb and allow it to infuse for around 10 to 15 minutes.

Tincture: The standard dosage of the tincture prepared with pill-bearing spurge is taken thrice every day in the measure of 1 ml to 2 ml each time.

Collection and harvesting

The aerial parts of the pill-bearing spurge are harvested/ collected while the plant is still in bloom.

Combinations

The herb pill-bearing spurge may be used independently or in combination with other herbs to treat specific health conditions. For instance, it is combined with lobelia and grindelia to treat asthmatic conditions.

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