Family • Euphorbiaceae - Euphorbia tirucalli Linn. - MILK HEDGE, MILK BUSH - Lu yu shu

Scientific names

Arthrothamnus tirucalli (L.) Klotzsch & Garcke
Euphorbia tirucalli Linn.
Euphorbia rhipsalioides
Tirucalli indica Raf.

Common names

Aveloz (Engl.)
Bali-bali (P. Bis.)
Consuelda (Span.)
Katuit (Tag.)
Konsuerda (Tag.)
Gaton (Ig.)
Putputud (Ig.)
Solda-solda (C. Bis.)
Suelda-con-suelda (Bik.)
Suerda (Tag.)
Finger tree (Engl.)
Finger euphorbia (Engl.)
Pencil cactus (Engl.)
Pencil tree (Engl.)
Milk bush (Engl.)
Milk hedge (Engl.)
Rubber euphorbia (Engl.)
Indian tree spurge (Engl.)
Lu yu shu (Chin.)

Other vernacular names

AMHARIC: Kinchib.
ARABIC: Azfur zukkum, Injil, Zaqqume hindi.
BENGALI: Lanka sij, Latadaona, Siju .
DANISH: Levende pind.
FRENCH: Arbre de Saint-Sebastien, Euphorbe antivenérien, Euphorbe antivenérienne, Euphorbe éffilée, Garde maison, Liane sans feuille.
GERMAN: Benzin-Wolfsmilch , Bleistiftstrauch, Latex-Wolfsmilch.
GUJARATI: Thor dandalio
HINDI: Barki-sehund, Konpal, Konpahlsehnd, Sehund.
KANNADA : Bonta kalli, Mondugalli.
MALAY : Getih urip, Kaju tangan, Kayu patah, Tentulang, Tikel tosan, Tulang, Tulang-tulang.
MALAYALAM: Guda, Kalli, Kol kalli, Tirukalli.
MARATHI: Kada nivali, Shera, Vajraduhu.
ORIYA: Vajradruma.
PERSIAN: Shir tothar.
PORTUGUESE: Aveloz, Cassoneira.
RUSSIAN: M.olochai tirukalli
SANSKRIT: Satala, Trikantaka, Vajradruma.
SINHALESE : Nawa handi.
SPANISH: Alfabeto chino, Aveloz, Consuelda, Disciplinilla, Esqueleto, Palito.
SWAHILI: Malangili, Malanfili, Mtupa mwitu, Mtovua macho, Mwasi, Mwasi mchakaazi, Mchakaazi.
SWEDISH: Gummieuforbia
TAMIL: Eli palai, Kalli, Kodi kalli, Kompu kalli, Thadi kalli, Thiru kalli, Tirukalli.
TELUGU: Chemudu, Kada jemudu.
VIETNAMESE: Cành giao, Cây xuong cá, Cây xuong khô, San hô xanh.


Bali-bali is an erect. smooth, somewhat fleshy shrub or small tree, 2 to 5 meters high, growing to 30 feet in the wild. Branches are green, somewhat fleshy, cylindric, clustered or scattered, about 5 millimeters thick. There are no leaves except for a few, small, linear-oblong ones which are about 1 centimeter long or less, soon disappearing to leave the stems smooth and cylindrical, glossy green and pencil-thick. Involucres are shortly-stalked, clustered in the forks of the smaller branches, small, and turbinate. Each cell has a solitary seed.


– Found from norther Luzon to Mindanao.
– Nowhere spontaneous.
– Occasionally garden hedge.

• Euphorbon isolated from the needles, with 4 percent caoutchouc.
• A latex analysis yielded 75 to 82 percent resin, and 14 to 15 percent caoutchouc.
• Studies show the latex to be rich in terpenes, including ingenol and phorbol esters, the latter, highly irritating and shown to be tumor-promoting.
• Study isolated six terpenes: cyclotirucaneol cycloeuphordenol tirucalicine tirucaligine euphorginol euphorcinol.
• Latex showed great similarity in composition and activity to the highly poisonous croton seed oil from Croton tiglium.
• Phytochemical screening yielded alkaloid, coumarins, polyphenols and tannins, and triterpenes.

– Latex considered an energetic revulsive.
– Juice also used as vesicatory.
– Milky juice in small doses considered purgative; in large doses, emetic and an acrid irritant.

Parts utilized 
· Roots, stems, latex.

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Euphorbia tirucalli / Aveloz / Tropical Plant Database / Raintree Nutrition

(2) Tradtional use of the latex from Euphorbia tirucalli in the treatment of cancer in South Brazil / P. Cataluña, S.M.K. Rates

(3) African Burkitt’s lymphoma and an Epstein-Barr virus-enhancing plant Euphorbia tirucalli. / 1: Lancet. 1987 May 30;1(8544):1257-8. / Osato T, Mizuno F, Imai S, Aya T, Koizumi S, Kinoshita T, Tokuda H, Ito Y, Hirai N, Hirota M, et al.

(4) Euphorbia tirucalli L. modulates myelopoiesis and enhances the resistance of tumour-bearing mice / International immunopharmacology / 2006-Feb; vol 6 (issue 2) : pp 294-9

(5) Anti-arthritic activity of a biopolymeric fraction from Euphorbia tirucalli / Sarang Bani et al / Journal of ethnopharmacology / 2007, vol. 110, no1, pp. 92-98 / doi:10.1016/j.jep.2006.09.021

(6) Research into Euphorbia latex and irritant ingredients Scientific articles with references and (in many cases) summaries / collected by Dr. Richard J. Hodgkiss

(7) African ethnobotany / Hans Dieter Neuwinger

(8) Biodiesel from Milk Bush, Pencil Bush Oil as Bio-diesel, Biofuel – Reference & Resources / Oligae

(9) Evaluation of Pesticidal Properties of Euphorbia tirucalli against Selected Pests / Mwine Tedson Julius / Thesis


(11) Sorting Euphorbia names / Authorised by Prof. Snow Barlow / Maintained by: Michel H. Porcher / MULTILINGUAL MULTISCRIPT PLANT NAME DATABASE / Copyright © 1997 – 2000 The University of Melbourne.

(12) Gastric healing process with raw extract of Euphorbia tirucalli L.: study in rats. / dos Santos OJ, de Carvalho FF Jr, Sauaia-Filho EN, Santos RH, Santos RA, Barbalho WG. / Arq Bras Cir Dig. 2013 Nov-Dec;26(4):256-9.

(13) EFFICACY OF EUPHORBIA TIRUCALLI (L.) TOWARDS MICROBICIDAL ACTIVITY AGAINST HUMAN PATHOGENS / S.H.K.R.PRASAD / International Journal of Pharma and Bio Sciences, Vol 2, Issue 2, Jan-Mar 2011.

(14) Activation of the Epstein–Barr virus lytic cycle by the latex of the plant Euphorbia tirucall/ A MacNeil, O P Sumba, M L Lutzke, A Moormann and R Rochford / British Journal of Cancer (2003) 88, 1566–1569. doi:10.1038/sj.bjc.6600929

(15) Euphol from Euphorbia tirucalli induces human gastric cancer death through the degradation of TGFβR in lipid raft membrane microdomain (657.12) / Ming-wei Lin, Yaw-Bin Huang, Chia-Yuan Hsieh, Deng-Chyang Wu, Fang-Rong Chang and Chun-Lin Chen / The FASEB Journal—The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, vol. 28 no. 1 Supplement 657.12

(16) Cytotoxic effect of euphol from Euphorbia tirucalli on a large panel of human cancer cell lines / Rui Manuel Reis, Viviane Aline Oliveira Silva, Marcela Nunes Rosa, Aline Tansini, Joao Paulo Da S.N. Lima, Chris Jones, Luiz Francisco Pianowski / J Clin Oncol 31, 2013

(17) Medicinal Value of Euphorbia Tirucalli / Nishi Gupta, Garima Vishnoi, Ankita Wal, Pranay Wal / Systematic Reviews in Pharmacy, 2013, Vol 4, No 1, pp 40-46 / DOI: 10.4103/0975-8453.135843

· In the Philippines, the first report of use came from Father de Sta. Maria: Heated root scraping mixed with coconut oil are applied externally to the stomach to relieve pain.
· Poultices of stems used for healing of fractures of bones.
· Latex used for wound healing.
· The milky juice, in small doses, is purgative; in large doses, emetic.
· Milky juice also applied to itches and insect bites. Also used for ear aches, whooping cough, asthma. Also, used to remove warts.
· Latex employed as a cure for wounds. Contact with eyes may cause blindness.
· Decoction of the branches for colic and stomach pains.
· The latex may cause eye irritation or blindness.
· Externally, a warm rubefacient remedy for toothaches, rheumatism,
· Milky juice used to raise blisters, especially in syphilitic nodes.
· Juice, given with butter, said to cure affections of the spleen and acts as a purgative in colic and bowel complaints.
· Juice used as drops for earaches.
· Latex applied to various skin lesions: wounds, warts, swollen glands, earaches, and tumors of the nose.
· Roots used for treatment of schistosomiasis and sexually transmitted diseases.
· Latex used for sexual impotency and sterility.
· Latex used to promote breast enlargement.
· Latex boiled in milk used as antidote for poisoning and snake bites.
· Decoction of tender branches or roots used for colic and gastralgia.
· In Java bark is applied to fractures.
· Fresh, acrid juice used as vesicatory; also used to remove warts.
· Infusion of roots given for bone pains.
· Poultice of root or leaves used for ulcerations of the nose and for hemorrhoids.
· Decoction of wood applied on skin in leprosy and paralysis of the hands and feet following childbirth.
· Decoction of roots used to relieve pains in the abdomen; also used as purgative.
· In Africa, root used for snakebites; the latex for skin tumors, syphilitic ulcers; seeds and latex for intestinal parasites; decoctions of the wood for bacterial infections.
· In Malaysia, stems are pounded and used for swellings. Also used for hemorrhoids.
· In the Amazon, Madagascar and South Africa, latex used as application to warts, rheumatism, neuralgia and toothaches. Bark of plant used to treat fractures.
· In Dutch Indies, poultice of pounded stems are used to extract thorns.
· Root infusion for aching bones.
· In India, latex used for asthma, cough, earache, neuralgia, rheumatism, toothache and warts. Paste of fresh leaves and latex diluted with water used for cancer.
· In Peru, used for abscesses, asthma, cancer, stomachaches and toothaches.
· In Brazil, latex is used as folk medicine against syphilis

· Repellent: In Africa, used as insect repellent.
· Poison: In the Philippines, latex used as fish poison. In the Congo, a variety of the species used as criminal poison.

• With little effort the poisonous latex can be converted to the equivalent of alcohol and has led chemist Melvin Calvin to propose its exploitation for producing oil. Milk bush grows on land not suitable for other crops, and is estimated to produce 10-50 barrels of oil per acre.
• Bali-bali is included in the list of oils with a potential for biodiesel: Algae Oil, Artichoke Oil, Canola Oil, Castor Oil, Coconut Oil, Corn, Cottonseed Oil, Flaxseed Oil, Hemp Oil, Jatropha Oil, Jojoba Oil, Karanj Oil, Kukui Nut Oil, Milk Bush, Pencil Bush Oil, Mustard Oil, Neem Oil, Olive Oil, Palm Oil, Peanut Oil, Radish Oil, Rapeseed Oil, Rice Bran Oil, Safflower Oil, Sesame Oil, Soybean Oil,Sunflower Oil, Tung Oil.

Study Findings
• Traditional use of the latex from Euphorbia tirucalli in the treatment of cancer in South Brazil:The study concludes that cancer management with E. tirucalli has no scientific basis and its esters have already presented a tumor-promoting ability. There are also endemic cancers in places where E. tirucalli is widely distributed and folklorically used.
• Developmental Toxicity: Toxicological screening in rats suggests that the latex aqueous solution of E. tirucalli did not interfere with embryo development or implantation, but seems to alter the placenta morphology.
• New highly irritant euphorbia factors from latex of Euphorbia tirucalli L.: 5 new euphorbia factors were isolated from the latex, all of which are highly sensitive to autoxidation.
• Anti-Tumor Activity: Study of ET in tumor-bearing mice showed a modulatory effect on myelopoietic response and levels of PGE2 possibly through regulation of granulocyte and macrophage production and expression of functional activities.
•Tumor-Promoting: • Although touted folklorically for treating cancers, studies on its esters show tumor-promoting activity. The latex has been documented to promote tumor growth and/or trigger certain cancers. Some studies consider it an environmental risk factor for Burkitt’s lymphoma.
• Anti-Arthritic: Study of a biopolymeric fraction from ET showed dose-dependent anti-arthritic activity and in vivo immunomodulatory capacity as a major component in inhibiting arthritis.
• Hepatoprotective / Antioxidant: Study of aqueous extract of E tirucalli exhibited significant hepatoprotective effect, decreasing serum enzymes, bilirubin, cholesterol and tissue lipid peroxidation and increasing levels of tissue GSH. The hepatoprotective effect may be due to its antioxidant potential.
• Antibacterial / Antifungal: E. coli and P. aeruginosa were most sensitive to a leaf extract. Stem bark extract exhibited significant activity against P. vulgaris, K. pneumonia. Leaf extract showed maximum antifungal activity with A. fumigatus. Low MIC exhibited by an extract against S. aureus presents a potential alternative to orthodox antibiotics.
• Inganen Diterpenes: The prevalent constituents of the plant latex are diterpenes of the Inganen types (ingenol esters), as well as tigliane (phorbol esters). Study data has shown that Inganen as well as colchicene have an inhibitory effect on tubulin polymerization, instable of MT nucleation and formation. Neurons exposed to Inganen initiate a cellular process than can lead to cell death – Inganen-induced apoptosis.
• Pesticidal: Like all other pest remedies, E. tirucalli extracts vary in efficacy. High efficacy was observed with Anopheles spp. larvae, B. brassicae, R. similis, H. multicinctus, and P. goodeyi.
• Anti-Inflammatory / Analgesic: Latex extract of E. tirucalli showed moderate analgesic activity in the tail immersion and acetic acid induced writhing test possibly through the suppression of prostaglandin and bradykinin formation. Results suggest both a central and peripheral analgesic activity. The analgesic activity may be due to the presence of flavonoids in the latex extracts.
• Biogas Production: The results of a laboratory study on biogas production from Euphorbia tirucalli showed a maximum biogas yield of 298 liters per kg dry matter after mesophilic digestion (at 35 degrees Celsius) with bacteria from domestic waste water treatment for 21 days. Results showed E. tirucalli as a good feedstock for biogas production under laboratory conditions, with biogas production ranging from 218 to 293 liters/kg dry matter. Results provide a very interesting potential source of bioenergy in tropical countries.
• Gastric Wound Healing: Study evaluated the effect of a crude extract of Euphorbia tirucalli in the stomach healing process of mice subjected to a 1 cm longitudinal incision in the gastric body sutured with 6-0 polypropylene stitches. Results showed wound healing activity with no signs of peritonitis, hematoma, or fistulas, with no significant statistical difference in histological parameters.
• Microbicidal: Acetone extracts of stem portions of E. tirucalli showed activity against test organisms viz. Bacillus megaterium, B. subtilis, E. coli, E. faecalis, P. vulgaris, P. aeruginosa, S. aureus, A. niger, A. fumigatus, and Candida albicans.
• Latex Activation of Epstein-Barr Virus / Role in Burkitt’s Lymphoma: Study suggests environmental exposure to the latex of Euphorbia tirucalli could directly activate the EBV lytic cycle and provide evidence of a role for E. trucalli in the etiology of endemic Burkitt’s lymphoma.
• Euphol Induces Human Gastric Cancer Death: Study demonstrated that euphol, a euphane-type triterpene alcohol, attenuated TGF-ß-inudced smad2 phosphorylation, and induced gastric cancer cell death through mitochondrial-dependent apoptosis. Results suggest euphol may distribute TGF-ß receptors in lipid rafts, and the membrane modifications may induce cancer cell death.
• Euphol / Cytotoxic Effects on Human Cancer Cell Lines: The anti-tumor effects of euphol in vitro were assessed using MTS assays on 77 human cancer cell lines from 13 solid tumor models. Euphol demonstrated potent anti-tumor activity with dose and time-dependent cytotoxic effects on all cancer cell lines analyzed.

Toxicity / Concerns
Toxicity, immune suppression, tumor-promoting, and cancer concerns
• Latex is rich in terpenes, including phorbol and ingenol esters. Studies have shown the latex to be toxic. Phorbol esters are highly irritating and has been documented to promote tumors. One phorbol has been shown to enhance Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection, cause DNA damage to immune cells and cause suppression of the immune system. An extract has also been shown to decrease the ability of T-cells to kill EBV.
• Although touted folklorically for treating cancers, studies on its esters show tumor-promoting activity. The latex has been documented to promote tumor growth and/or trigger certain cancers. Some studies consider it an environmental risk factor for Burkitt’s lymphoma.
Contact Irritant / Uveitis / Keratoconjunctivitis:
• Latex skin contact causes burning and irritation. Ingestion causes burning and irritation of the mouth, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Several deaths have been attributed to the use of E. tirucalli for medicinal purposes. Reports have been made of chemical eye injury (keratoconjunctivitis) from exposure to the latex of ET.
• Many reports of mortality and morbidity with ingestion of the latex: vomiting, perforation of the stomach, intestines and kidney. In rats, it showed rapid severe inflammation, an oxytocin response, pro-convulsive and anti-convulsive effects,
• The triterpene esters are all highly inflammatory with carcinogenic activities.