Euphorbia is the largest genus of the family Euphorbiaceae with about 1600 species. All species of Euphorbia exude a milky juice when broken, and Euphorbia hirta's local name "gatas-gatas" derives from this.
Gatas-gatas is a slender-stemmed,
annual hairy plant with many branches from the base to the top,
the branches simple or forked and ascending or spreading, up to 40 centimeters tall, reddish or purplish in color. Leaves
are opposite, elliptic-oblong to oblong-lanceolate, distichous,
1 to 2.5 centimeters long, usually blotched with purple in the middle, toothed
at the margin. Involucres are numerous, purplish to greenish in color,
borne in dense, axillary, stalkless or short-stalked clusters or crowded cymes, about
1 millimeter in length. Capsules are broadly ovoid, hairy, three-angled,
about 1.5 millimeters long.
- Abundant throughout the Philippines, in waste
places, open grasslands, etc.
- Studies have isolated gallic acid, quercetin, triacontane,
cetyl alcohol, phytosterol, phytosterolin (phytosterol glucoside); jambulol, melissic, and a mixture of acids consisting chiefly of palmitic,
oleic, and linoleic acid.
- Phytochemicals screenings have yielded alkaloids, essential oil, phenols, sterol, flavones
and fatty acids.
- Yields flavonoids: euphorbianin, leucocyanidol, camphol, quercitrin and quercitrol.
- Study has suggested that some of the constituents of the plant are similar to those of the jambul (Syzygium cumini) seeds.
- Considered anti-asthmatic,
antibacterial, antidote, antifertility, antifungal, antimalarial, anti-spasmodic, anthelmintic, antidysenteric, diuretic, expectorant, pectoral, hemostatic, sedative, soporific.
Parts used and preparation
- Called gatas-gatas because
of the healing property of the milky juice.
- In the Philippines, leaves are mixed with Datura metel leaves and flowers in the preparation of "asthma-cigarettes."
- Latex is prescribed for asthma.
- Entire plant prescribed as an antidote; considered hemostatic, sedative, and soporific.
- Decoction used to allay the dyspnea of asthmatics.
- Fluid extract of tincture is used in asthma, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema, also in pulmonary cardiac disease and angina pectoris.
- Used for acute and chronic dysentery.
- Tincture is used as anthelmintic. Also used for ringworm.
- Juice used for colics.
- Juice used as ophthalmic drops for conjunctivitis or ulceration of the
cornea. Stem sap used in the treatment of styes.
- Leaf poultice used for swellings and boils.
- Infusion or tea of the plant, 4 glasses daily, for bronchitis and labored
breathing, asthma, chronic dysentery.
- Used for boils and wounds.
- Decoction of dry plant used for skin disease.
- Decoction of fresh plant used as gargle for the treatment of thrush.
- Decoction of the root used to allay vomiting, chronic diarrheas, and
- Root decoction also beneficial for nursing mothers deficient in milk:
4-5 glasses of tea.
- The same root decoction as an enema for constipation.
- Root used for snake bites.
- Used in sores, wounds, boils. As ear drop for pustular swellings in
- Leaves are mixed with Datura metel leaves and flowers to make the "asthma-cigarette."
- Latex also prescribed for asthma.
- Superficial bleeding: Crush leaves and apply on affected part, as local
- In Australia and elsewhere, used for asthma and pectoral complains.
- In Brazil, decoction used for gonorrhea and asthma.
- In Africa and Australia,
used to treat hypertension and edema.
- In India, used
for treatment of syphilis; sap applied to warts. Also for affections of children, especially bowel and chest complaints. The milky juice is dropped into eyes for conjunctivitis and corneal ulcerations.
- Plant decoction: 25 gms of the whole plant to a pint of boiling
water; boil for 3-4 minutes; drink 3-5 glasses a day. Externally as
- In traditional Indian medicinal systems, leaves used in the treatment of coryza, cough, asthma, bronchial infections, bowel complaints, helminthic infestations, wounds, kidney stones and abscesses.
- Santals use the root to allay vomiting; also, used by nursing mothers with deficient milk supply.
- In the Gold Coast, ground and mixed with water and used as an enema for constipation.
- In La Reunion, used as astringent in chronic diarrheas and dysentery.
- Roots used for intermittent fevers.
interests from the folk medicine grapevine
- Dengue and anecdotal reports of "cures" from the use of tawa-tawa has created a flurry of queries, web blogs, and sustained media interest.
- Tea Making Procedure:
Take 5 to 6 full whole Tawa Tawa plants
- Cut off the roots
- Wash and clean
- Fill a boiling pot with clean water
- Boil the Tawa Tawa for 1 (one) minute in a slow rolling boil
- Let the dengue fever victim drink only the Tawa Tawa water for 24 hours
- Sip 1 to 1.5 glasses of Tawa Tawa water every hour.
- Another Decoction Preparation: Cut roots off 5 to 6 gatas-gatas plants.
Rinse. Put the tawa-tawa into a pot of boiling water for one minute.
Cool. Drink the decoction, 1 to 1 1/2 glasses, every hour for 24 hours.
(Also see: Papaya)
• Anti-Diabetic / Lipid Effect: Study of ethanolic extracts of leaf, flower and stem on streptozotocin-induced diabetic mice showed significant reduction in blood glucose levels. Biochemical effects showed significant decreases in serum cholesterol with elevation of HDL. Results showed EH has antidiabetic action and suggests further study for isolation of responsible compound. (15)
Activities And Toxicological Potentials Of Crude Ethanolic Extracts
Of Euphorbia hirta: The study showed the ethanolic
extract to inhibit the growth of test isolates except Salmonella typhi.
The antibacterial effect was attributed to the presence of alkaloids,
tannins and flavonoids which have been shown to have antibacterial properties.
The results support its use in traditional medicine. (2)
• Antibacterial: Study on the antibacterial effect of compounds extracted from C sinensis and the methanol extract of E hirta against dysentery causing Shigella spp showed the extracts to be non-cytotoxic and effective antibacterial agents.
• Antibacterial: Methanolic extract inhibited the growth of S. aureus, E. coli, and B. subtilis. Phytochemical screening yielded terpenes, tannins, alkaloids and flavonoids.
• Diuretic: Euphorbia
hirta leaf extracts increase urine output and electrolytes in rats:
Study suggests that the active components in the water extract of E.
hirta leaf had similar diuretic effect as that of acetazolamide. The
results validate its traditional use as a diuretic by the Swahilis and Sukumas. (3)
• Anti-Allergic: Inhibition
of early and late phase allergic reactions by Euphorbia hirta L:
Study demonstrated that E. hirta possessed significant activity to prevent
early and late phase allergic reactions. (4)
• Anthelmintic: Anthelmintic
efficacy of the aqueous crude extract of Euphorbia hirta Linn in Nigerian
dogs: Extract of E. hirta Study reduced the fecal egg count of the helminths
and suggests a potential as an anthelmintic agent. (5)
• Antihypertensive / ACE Inhibition:
Angiotensin converting enzyme inhibiting
and anti-dipsogenic activities of Euphorbia hirta extracts:
Study showed the extract from leaves and stems inhibited the activity
of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE). (6)
• Anxiolytic / Sedative:
Euphorbia hirta showed an activity profile different from that of benzodiazepines.
Study showed a central depressant and sedating effect with no hypnotic
or neuroleptic effects. (7)
• Anxiolytic / Sedative: Study validated the traditional use of E. hirta as a sedative with anxiolytic properties.
• Antidiarrheal: Study investigated the antidiarrheal
activity of Euphorbia hirta extract. An active flavonoid
constituent, quercitin, was isolated and showed anti-diarrheic activity. (9)
• Antibacterial / Antifungal: The ethanol extract was analyzed for antimicrobial activity against S aureus, B cereus, S typhi, K pneumonia, P aeruginosa and fungus species A niger, A fumigatus, A flavus and R oryzae. Study of leaves isolated tannins, flavonoids, alklaloids, glycosides, proteins, sterols and saponins. Antimicrobial activity was attributed to one of these constituents. Leaves collected from August to December showed more significant antimicrobial activity. (11)
• Galactogenic: E hirta study in female guinea pigs increased the development of mammary glands and induced secretion.
• Antifertility: E hirta has been shown to decrease sperm motility, density of cauda epididymal and testis sperm suspension with 100% infertility.
• Anti-Malarial / Flavonol Glycosides: Study of aerial parts isolated flavonol glycosides afzelin, quercitin and myricitrin. The three compounds showed inhibition of proliferation of Plasmodium falcifarum. (12)
• Anticancer / Antiproliferative: (1) Studies of extracts of E hirta have shown selective cytotoxicity against several cancer line. (2) Extracts screened showed anti-proliferative activities against normal mouse fibroblast cells. (3) Study of a methanol extract of leaves of E. hirta on Hep-2 cells from human epithelioma of larynx showed anti-proliferative activity.
• Antioxidant: Studies of methanol and water extracts showed antioxidant activities comparable to that of green and black teas.
• Anti-Inflammatory: n-hexane extract of aerial parts and its main triterpene constituents showed significant and dose-dependent anti-inflammatory activity.
• Anti-Inflammatory / iNOS Protein Inhibition: An extract of Euphorbia hirta and its component beta-amyrin are able to block most of the iNOS protein functions and NO induction, and presents a potential as a new selective NO inhibitor for the treatment of arthritis inflammation. (20)
• Platelet Effect / Dengue Treatment: Study of decoction of tawa-tawa leaves on Sprague-Dawley rats showed an increase in platelet counts without notable effects on RBC and WBC counts. The increase was attributed to stimulation of platelet production in the bone marrow. (18)
• Anti-Arthritic: Euphorbia hirta possibly affects cartilage degeneration through matrix metalloproteinases(MMP-13) pathways and tissue inhibitors of matrix metalloproteinases (TIMP-1) pathways, displaying dose-dependent effects on their levels. Results suggest a viable alternative to treatment of arthritis. (19)
• Anti-Tumor: The antitumor activity of the aerial part of E. hirta was evaluated against EL-4 cell line (S.C.) in Swiss albino mice. There was a significant enhancement of mean survival time and reduction of solid tumor mass of EF-treated tumor bearing mice. (21)
• Antiviral / Anti-HIV1 / Anti-HIV2 / SIV: Antiretroviral activities of extracts of E. hirta were investigated in vitro on MT4 human T lymphocyte cell line. A dose-dependent inhibition of RT activity was observed for all three viruses. A 50% methanolic extract exhibited a higher antiretroviral effect than an aqueous extract. Study concludes that tannins are probably responsible for the high antiretroviral activity. (23)
• Acute Toxicity Study: Study evaluated the acute toxicity of Euphorbia hirta plant material in Swiss mice. Results showed no toxicity at a dose of 10 g/kbw. E. hirta was found safe, with no delayed toxic signs in all experimental groups. (27)
Tea, candied or capsules in the local market.