Euphorbia helioscopia

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Euphorbia helioscopia
Euphorbia helioscopia2.jpg
Flowers and immature fruit
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Malpighiales
Family: Euphorbiaceae
Genus: Euphorbia
Species: E. helioscopia
Binomial name
Euphorbia helioscopia

Euphorbia helioscopia (sun spurge) is a species of spurge native to most of Europe, northern Africa, and eastward through most of Asia.[1][2][3]

Other old folk names include wart spurge, umbrella milkweed and "madwoman's milk".[4]


It is an annual plant growing in arable land and disturbed ground. It grows to 10–50 cm tall, with a single, erect, hairless stem, branching toward the top. The leaves are oval, broadest near the tip, 1.5–3 cm long, with a finely toothed margin. The flowers are small, yellow-green, with two to five basal bracts similar to the leaves but yellower; flowering lasts from mid spring to late summer.[3][4]


It is highly poisonous. Active ingredients are extracted from it for use in pharmaceutical industry. It is also a plant used in the Chinese traditional medicine.[5]


E. helioscopia contains the jatrophone-type diterpenoids euphoheliosnoid A, B, C[6] and D[5] and other toxic diterpenes such as euphoscopins, epieuphoscopins euphornins, cuphohelioscopins and euphohelionone.[7]

Four esters of 12-deoxyphorbol (12-Deoxyphorbol-13-phenylacetale-20-acetate, 12-deoxyphorbol-13-dodec-dienoate-20-acetate, 12-deoxyphorbol-13-[2-methyl-cis-2-butenoate].-20-acetate and 12-deoxyphorbol-13-[2-methyl-cis-2-butenoate]) can be isolated from the fresh aerial parts. These substances are the major skin irritants found in the plant.[8]

m-Hydroxyphenylglycine and 3,5-dihydroxyphenylglycine are two amino acids that can be isolated from the latex of E. helioscopia.[9]

Hydrolysable tannins can be found in E. helioscopia. Helioscopinin A (1,6-(S)-hexahydroxydiphenoyl-2,4-(S)-dehydrohexahydroxydiphenoyl-3-O-galloyl-β-D-glucose), helioscopinin B (1,6-(S)-hexahydroxydiphenoyl-3-O-galloyl-β-D-glucose), helioscopin A (1,6-(S)-hexahydroxydiphenoyl-2,4-(R)-elaeocarpusinoyl-3-O-galloyl-β-D-glucose) and helioscopin B (1,3,6-tri-O-galloyl-2,4-(R)-elaeocarpusinoyl-β-D-glucose) can be found together with the 8 other tannins corilagin, punicafolin, geraniin, elaeocarpusin, furosin, terchebin, mallotusinin and carpinusin.[10] Helioscopinin-A shows anti-allergic and anti-asthmatic activities in guinea pigs. It is suggested that this compound exerts its activities through antagonism on leukotriene D4-induced responses.[11]


  1. ^ Germplasm Resources Information Network: Euphorbia helioscopia
  2. ^ Flora Europaea: Euphorbia helioscopia
  3. ^ a b Blamey, M. & Grey-Wilson, C. (1989). Flora of Britain and Northern Europe. ISBN 0-340-40170-2
  4. ^ a b Malta Wild Plants Euphorbia helioscopia
  5. ^ a b Zhang, Wen; Guo, Yue-Wei (2006). "Chemical Studies on the Constituents of the Chinese Medicinal Herb Euphorbia helioscopia L". Chemical & Pharmaceutical Bulletin 54 (7): 1037. doi:10.1248/cpb.54.1037. 
  6. ^ Zhang, Wen; Guo, Yue-Wei (2005). "Three New Jatrophone-Type Diterpenoids fromEuphorbia helioscopia". Planta Medica 71 (3): 283–6. doi:10.1055/s-2005-837832. PMID 15770554. 
  7. ^ Yamamura, Shosuke; Shizuri, Yoshikazu; Kosemura, Seiji; Ohtsuka, Jiro; Tayama, Takao; Ohba, Shigeru; Ito, Masatoki; Saito, Yoshihiko; Terada, Yukimasa (1989). "Diterpenes from Euphorbia helioscopia". Phytochemistry 28 (12): 3421. doi:10.1016/0031-9422(89)80360-7. 
  8. ^ Schmidt, Richard J.; Evans, Fred J. (1980). "Skin irritants of the sun spurge (Euphorbia helioscopia L)". Contact Dermatitis 6 (3): 204–10. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0536.1980.tb05599.x. PMID 7389328. 
  9. ^ Müller, P; Schütte, HR (1968). "M-Hydroxyphenylglycine and 3,5-dihydroxyphenylglycine, 2 new amino acids from the latex of Euphorbia helioscopia L". Zeitschrift für Naturforschung B (in German) 23 (5): 659–63. PMID 4385921. 
  10. ^ Lee, Seung-Ho; Tanaka, Takashi; Nonaka, Gen-Ichiro; Nishioka, Itsuo (1990). "Tannins and related compounds. XCV. Isolation and characterization of helioscopinins and helioscopins, four new hydrolyzable tannins from Euphorbia helioscopia L. (1)". Chemical & Pharmaceutical Bulletin 38 (6): 1518. doi:10.1248/cpb.38.1518. 
  11. ^ Park Kwan Ha, Koh Dongsoo, Lee Seungho, Jung Illmin, Kyung Hyun Kim, Lee Chul-Hoon, Kim Kye-Hoon and Lim Yoongho (2001). "Anti-allergic and anti-asthmatic activity of helioscopinin-A, a polyphenol compound, isolated from Euphorbia helioscopia". Journal of microbiology and biotechnology 11 (1): 138–142. INIST:995613.