Source, Etc

Euphorbia pilulifera, Linne (N.O. Euphorbiaceoe), is an annual herb indigenous to the hotter parts of India and occurring in all tropical countries. It has been used in India as a domestic remedy for ringworm, coughs, and other complaints.

The whole of the aerial part of the plant is collected whilst flowering and fruiting, and dried. It is exported chiefly from India.


The stem is slender, erect or ascending, 30 to 60 cm. high, cylindrical, and hispidly hairy. The leaves are from 2 to 4 cm. long, opposite, oblong-lanceolate, shortly petiolate and dentate or serrulate. They are dark green in colour, frequently blotched with red, and both upper and lower surfaces are hairy. The flowers are very minute, and crowded in dense axillary or terminal cymes about 1 cm. in diameter. The fruit is a minute, yellow, three-celled capsule, about 1 mm. in diameter, each of the three carpels being distinctly keeled, and containing a single, tetragonal, wrinkled seed.

Description 173Description 174Description 175Description 176Fig. 110.   Euphorbia pilulifera. A, flowering top;

Fig. 110. - Euphorbia pilulifera. A, flowering top;

B, inflorescence; C, fruit; D and E, end and side views of seed. C, D, E enlarged. {Pharmaceutical Journal).

The most conspicuous part of the drug is frequently the slender rounded stems; the leaves are often much broken, but the fruits, which are very characteristic, can usually be found by examining the inflorescence with a lens. The drug is odourless, but has a bitter taste.

The student should observe

(a) The slender cylindrical hairy stems,

(b) The minute three-celled fruits, each carpel distinctly keeled; and should compare the drug with

(i) Indian pink, which has larger leaves with prominent lateral veins and entire margins, (ii) Grindelia, which has stouter yellowish stems bearing alternate leaf-scars, (iii) Chiretta (smaller pieces), which branches freely, and bears much larger ovoid fruits with numerous seeds.


It appears doubtful whether the drug really possesses the efficacy with which it has been credited. Investigations have failed to isolate any particular constituent, although it is believed to contain a poisonous glucoside.


It has been recommended for asthma, bronchitis, hay fever, whooping cough, and other affections of the respiratory organs, but has never come into general use.