This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Spurge: a plant with small smooth leaves, round stalks full of a milky juice, and umbellike clusters of tetrapetalous flowers, whose cups are divided into four segments set alternately with the petala: the flower is followed by a roundish or three-square capsule containing three seeds.
1. Tithymalus paraltos: Tithymalus mari-timus C, B. Euphorbia Paralias Linn. Sea spurge: with oblong narrow flax-like leaves, broadest in the middle, clothing the stalks, and lying over one another in an upward direction, like scales; and two roundish, heart-shaped, or kidney-shaped leaves encompassing each of the subdivisions of the umbel: found wild on sandy shores, and flowering in June. All the parts of this plant are extremely acrid irritating cathartics; apt to inflame the mouth, fauces, and stomach; operating with so great violence, that though some may perhaps have borne their operation without much injury to the constitu-tion, yet common prudence forbids their being ever ventured on. Several correctors have been employed for them, but none with commendable success: maceration of the middle bark of the root in vinegar, directed by the faculty of Paris, renders it indeed less virulent, but of precarious operation: digestion of the milky juice with alkaline salts, recommended by others, leaves it still too acrid. For alleviating inflammatory symptoms produced by imprudently swallowing or tasting these acrid subslan-ces, milk, plentifully drank, seems the most effectual remedy. Gerard relates, that on taking but one drop of the milk of the sea spurge, it did so swell and inflame in his throat, that he hardly escaped with his life, and that on drinking milk, the extremity of the heat ceased.
2. TlThymalus Cyparissius C B. Euphorbia Cypariffias Linn, Cyprefs spurge: with numerous oblong slender leaves, not wider in the middle than at the ends; the umbel divided into numerous ramifications, each of which is di-vided and subdivided into two; the divisions perforating as it were the two roundish leaves which encoropass them; a native of Germany, Switzerland, and some other parts of Europe. This species, though allowed by the faculty of Paris to be used indiscriminately with the preceding, is in all its parts less acrimonious. Po-terius says he has found half a dram or a dram of the powdered root to act as a mild cathartic; and that the juice obtained from the bruised herb and root, depurated and exsiccated in the fun, is of the same operation with scammony (a).
Several other spurges are enumerated in catalogues of the materia medica, under the pames of efula, pityufa, cataputia, lathyrus, aly-pum, peplus, apios, etc. among which there does not appear to be any one more virulent than the first above described., or less virulent than the second. None of them are among us ventured on for any internal use: the milky juice of the wild spurges is sometimes applied externally by the common people for consuming warts.
(a) Pharmacopoeia spagyrica, lib. iii. fect. 3.