Family • Euphorbiaceae - Pedilanthus tithymaloides Linn. - JEW BUSH - Hong que shan hu

Scientific names

Pedilanthus tithymaloides Linn.

Other vernacular names

CHINESE: Tuo xie hua, Yang shan hu, Niu qu cao, Yu dai gen.
INDIA: Vilaayati-sher, Naagaphani, Naagadaman.
INDONESIAN: Penawar lipan, Penawar lilin, Phon sig-sag.

Common names

Luha (Tag.)
Luhang-dalaga (Tag.)
Bird cactus (Engl.)
Devil’s backbone (Engl.)
Jew bush (Engl.)
Redbird cactus (Engl.)
Redbird flower (Engl.)
Slipper plant (Engl.)
Slipper spurge (Engl.)
Zigzag plant (Engl.)
Hong que shan hu (Chin.)

Gen info
The name derives from the Greek words pedilon, meaning “slipper,” and anthos, meaning “flower.”

Luha is a half-woody, succulent, and erect shrub growing to a height of 1.5 meters or less, with fleshy and stout branches which produce a milky latex. Leaves are green or variegated, fleshy, smooth, alternate, deciduous, ovate or oblong, 3.5 to 7.5 centimeters long, 2.5 to 5 centimeters wide, pointed at both ends. Flowers are reddish, clustered on leafless stems, terminal or axillary. Capsules are 9 millimeters broad.


– Recently introduced species.
– Ornamental cultivation, especially as a hedge plant.
– Native of the West Indies.

• Considered emetic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiseptic, antihemorrhagic, antiviral, antitumoral and abortive.
• Milky juice is caustic, irritant, and emetic.

• A study assessing its scavenging properties yielded the antioxidant principles: a kaempferol, quercitrin, isoquercitrin and scopoletin; phenolics and flavonoids – gallic acid and rutin.
• A new proteolytic enzyme, pedilanthain, with antiinflammatory activity was isolated from the latex.
• Caustic, milky juice of the roots, stems and leaves contains euphorbol and other diterpene esters which are irritants and cocarcinogens. A lectin and proteolytic enzymes are experimentally indicated.


Parts utilized 

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity of a medicinal tincture from Pedilanthus tithymaloides / Pedro Abreu et al / Life Sciences 78 (2006) 1578 – 1585

(2) Isolation and identification of antioxidants from Pedilanthus tithymaloidesPedro Abreu et al / Journal of Natural Medic • Volume 62, Number 1 / January, 2008 / DOI 10.1007/s11418-007-0186-z

(3) Antimalarial and antituberculous poly-O-acylated jatrophane diterpenoids from Pedilanthus tithymaloides / Wantana Mongkolvisut and Somyote Sutthivaiyakit / J. Nat. Prod., 2007, 70 (9), pp 1434–1438 / DOI: 10.1021/np070174v

(4) Oral anti-inflammatory activity of pedilanthain : a new proteolytic enzyme from pedilanthus tithymaloides poit. 

(5) Antimycotic Screening of 58 Malaysian Plants against Plant Pathogens 

(6) Antimicrobial and phytochemical studies on Pedilanthus tithymaloides / Genbtil Jose Vidotti et al / Fitoterapia • Volume 77, Issue 1, January 2006, Pages 43-46/ doi:10.1016/j.fitote.2005.08.020

(7) Pedilanthus tithymaloides (Euphorbiaceae) leaf extract phytochemicals: Toxicity to the filariasis vector, Culex quinquefasciatus (Diptera: Culicidae). / Siva Kamalakannan, Pari Madhiyazhagan, Abirami Dhandapani, Kadarkarai Murugan, and Donald Barnard. Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases. October 2010, 10(8): 817-820. doi:10.1089/vbz.2009.0081.

(8) Larvicidal activity of some Euphorbiaceae plant extracts against Aedes aegypti and Culex quinquefasciatus (Diptera: Culicidae) / A. Abdul Rahuman et al / Parasitology Research • Volume 102, Number 5 / April, 2008 / DOI 10.1007/s00436-007-0839-6

(9) Poisonous plants and animals of Florida and the Caribbean / David W. Nellis

(10) Oral anti-inflammatory activity of pedilanthain : a new proteolytic enzyme from pedilanthus tithymaloides poit. / Dhar SN; Ray SM; Roy A; Dutta SK /I ndian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences. 1988 Sep-Oct; 50(5): 281-3

(11) Potential of Pedilanthus tithymaloides as a petro-crop / Govind S Srivastava, Virendra K Bhatia et al / Fuel,
Volume 64, Issue 5, May 1985, Pages 720-721 / doi:10.1016/0016-2361(85)90064-X

(12) Pedilanthus tithymaloides / Vernacular names / GLOBinMED

(13) LARVICIDAL ACTIVITY OF PEDILANTHUS TITHYMALOIDES (L.) POIT (EUPHORBIACEAE) LEAF AGAINST THE DENGUE VECTOR AEDES AEGYPTI (L.) (DIPTERA: CULICIDAE) / R. Raveen1, P. Dhayanidhi, K. Dhinamala, S. Arivoli and Samuel Tennyson* / International Journal of Environmental Biology 2012; 2(2): 36-40


(15) Potential use of Pedilanthus tithymaloides Poit. as a renewable resource of plant hydrocarbons / Srilekha De, Archana Bag, and Subhendu Mukherji / Bot. Bull. Acad. Sin. (1997) 38: 105-108

(16) Evaluation of the wound healing activity of methanol extract of Pedilanthus tithymaloides (L.) Poit leaf and its isolated active constituents in topical formulation. / Ghosh S, Samanta A, Mandal NB, Bannerjee S, Chattopadhyay D. / J Ethnopharmacol. 2012 Aug 1;142(3):714-22. / doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2012.05.048. Epub 2012 Jun 7.

– No reported folkloric medicinal use in the Philippines.
– In other folk systems, leaf tea used for laryngitis, mouth ulcers, venereal disease, asthma, cough.
– Root tea has been used as abortifacient and as purgative substitute for ipecacuanha.
– Latex has been used to treat cancer and umbilical hernia; also, dripped into painful dental caries and aching ears. (See eye toxicity: Caution)
– Used for treating warts, calluses and ringworm.
– The centipede leg-like leaf arrangement has given it folkloric application for treatment of centipede and scorpion stings.
– In Indian medicine, leaves used to heal wounds, burns, and mouth ulcers.

Study Findings
• Antiinflammatory / Antioxidant: Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity of a medicinal tincture from Pedilanthus tithymaloides: A Cuban study showed inhibition of carrageenan-induced rat paw edema while scavenging assays showed it to be effective against all assayed ROS and RNS. Study results support its traditional use as an anti-inflammatory medicine.
• Antimalarial / Anti-tuberculosis: Study yielded six new poly-O-acylated jatrophane diterpenes along with five known compounds from the white latex of P tithymaloides. Antimalarial and antituberculous poly-O-acylated jatrophane diterpenoids from Pedilanthus tithymaloides: Compounds 1, 3, 4 and 5 showed antiplasmodial activity and antimycobacterial activity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
• Antifungal: Antimycotic Screening of 58 Malaysian Plants against Plant Pathogens: Of 58 Malaysian plants screened, PT was one of 34 plants that showed selective antifungal activity.
• Antibacterial / Antifungal: Study investigated the antifungal and antibacterial properties of an ethanolic extract of leaves of P. tithymaloides and some of its constituents.
• Antioxidants: Study yielded principles identified as kaempferol 3-O-B-D-glucopyranoside-6″-(3-hydroxy-3-methylglutarate), quercitin, isoquercitrin and scopoletin.
• Mosquito Control: Ethanolic extract study of P tithymaloides yielded flavonoids, steroids and phenols and showed that phytochemicals from spurge exhibit significant biological activity against mosquitoes and presents a potential as a natural product-based biocide for disease vector control.
• Hemagglutination / Lectin / Diabetes: The usefulness of a galactose specific lectin from P. tithymaloides was examined to study the hemagglutination pattern in patients with diabetes mellitus. Significantly low titer was seen in patients with insulin dependent diabetes and no significant change in non-insulin dependent diabetics. The low titer was shown to occur along with increased duration of the diabetic condition.
• Antiinflammatory / Latex / Pedilanthain: Study isolated pedilanthin, a new protease, from the latex of P. tithymaloides, and was subject4d to anti-inflammatory screening.
• Petrocrop Potential: Studies showed P. tithymaloides, PT var. cuculatus and PT var variegatus are promising varieties for development of petro-crops, with potential for good biomass and hydrocarbon yields.
• Larvicidal / Dengue Vector / Aedes aegypti: Study evaluated a crude ethanol leaf extract for larvicidal activity against dengue vector Aedes aegypti. Results showed moderate larvicidal property with LC50 of 0.32 and 0.12 percent after 24 and 48 hours.
• Anti-Inflammatory / Leaves: Study evaluated various extracts of leaves for anti-inflammatory activity in male albino rats using a carrageenin-induced paw edema model. A methanol extract showed significantly more anti-inflammatory activity in a dose-dependent manner.
• Renewable Hydrocarbon Source: Study evaluated P. tithymaloides for a renewable and potential source of hydrocarbons. Extractions yielded a white amorphous mixture of hydrocarbons comparable with gasoline.
• Wound Healing / Leaves: Study evaluated P. tithymaloides leaves for wound healing property. Fractionation yielded 2-(3,4-dihydroxy-phenyl)-5,7-dihydroxy-chromen-4-one and 1, 2-tetradecanediol, 1-(hydrogen sulfate), sodium salt. An ointment formulation showed significant wound healing activity on excision, incision and dead space wound models in rats.

Caution / Toxicity
• Toxicity: Ingested, a few drops of the juice produce irritation of the mouth and throat, vomiting and diarrhea. Externally, the juice produces irritation, inflammation and skin blistering. In the eye, it produces intense and painful irritation, followed by keratoconjuctivitis and temporary reduction of visual acuity. The seeds cause violent persistent vomiting and drastic diarrhea. In livestock, skin lesions are prone to secondary infections.
• Case Report / Mechanism of Injury: A case of eye injury consisted of severe conjunctivitis with chemosis and corneal erosion secondary to contact with the sap. Probably mechanism was the combined effect of the plant sap, possible proteolytic activity, and mechanical trauma.
• Treatment / Prevention: As a potential hazard to eyes, it should not be planted in places easily accessible to children, like gardens and playgrounds. Avoid contact with the sap. Wear goggles when cutting the plant. Skin contact should immediately be washed with soap and water. Topical steroids reduced pain and inflammation. Fluid replacement and hydration may be needed for acute gastrointestinal manifestations.