|Mature tree in Mozambique|
Euphorbia tirucalli (also known as aveloz, firestick plants, Indian tree spurge, naked lady, pencil tree, pencil cactus, sticks on fire or milk bush) (Sanskrit: सप्तला saptala, सातला satala,Marathi : sher-kandvel शेर-कांडवेल) is a tree that grows in semi-arid tropical climates.
It has a wide distribution in Africa, being prominently present in northeastern, central and southern Africa. It may also be native in other parts of the continent as well as some surrounding islands and the Arabian peninsula and has been introduced to many other tropical regions. Its status in India is uncertain. It grows in dry areas, and is often used to feed cattle or as hedging. It is well known in Sri Lanka where it is called Kalli in Tamil, as mentioned in the Akananuru by the Sri Lankan Tamil poet Eelattu Poothanthevanar and in Sinhalese: වැරදි නවහන්දි, ගස් නවහන්දි Weradi Navahandi or Gass Nawahandi.
Euphorbia tirucalli is a hydrocarbon plant that produces a poisonous latex which can, with little effort, be converted to the equivalent of gasoline. This led chemist Melvin Calvin to propose the exploitation of E. tirucalli for producing oil. This usage is particularly appealing because of the ability of E. tirucalli to grow on land that is not suitable for most other crops. Calvin estimated that 10 to 50 barrels of oil per acre was achievable. It has also been used in the production of rubber, but this was not very successful.
Euphorbia tirucalli also has uses in traditional medicine in many cultures. It has been used for cancer, excrescence, tumors, and warts in such diverse places as Brazil, India, Indonesia, and Malaysia. It has also been used as for asthma, cough, earache, neuralgia, rheumatism, toothache, and warts in India and Malaysia.
Euphorbia tirucalli has been promoted as an anticancer agent, but research shows that it suppresses the immune system, promotes tumor growth, and leads to the development of certain types of cancer. Euphorbia tirucalli has also been associated with Burkitt's lymphoma and is thought to be a cofactor of the disease rather than a treatment.
The milky latex from E. tirucalli is extremely irritating to the skin and mucosa and is toxic. Contact with skin causes severe irritation, redness and a burning sensation; contact with the eyes may cause severe pain, and in some cases temporary blindness for several days. Symptoms may worsen over 12 hours.
For eye exposures, flush eyes with fresh, cool water for at least 15 minutes and repeat after a few minutes. Seek medical attention if there is no relief. Over-the-counter anti-histamines may provide relief for some people.
If swallowed, it may cause burning to the mouth, lips, and tongue. Deaths have been recorded from swallowing the latex, and anyone swallowing some should seek medical attention.
- Haevermans (2004). "Euphorbia tirucalli". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2006. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 11 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
- "Euphorbia tirucalli L". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 16 March 2010.
- Ayurveda Plants of Sri Lanka
- (in Malay) Tumbuhan-tumbuhan perubatan herba, P.13[permanent dead link]
- Euphorbia tirucalli L. in Handbook of Energy Crops, James Duke
- "Aveloz". American Cancer Society.
- van den Bosch C, Griffin BB, Gazembe B, Dziweni C, Kadzamira L (1993). "Are plant factors a missing link in the evolution of endemic Burkitt's lymphoma?". Br J Cancer. 68 (6): 1232–1235. doi:10.1038/bjc.1993.510. PMC . PMID 8260378.
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