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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Chhoti Duddhi (Euphorbia thymifolia Linn.): A rare and neglected wild medicinal herb


Chhoti Duddhi or Euphorbia thymifolia Linn.: An important medicinal herb

Chhoti Duddhi, as the name indicates is a small plant containing milky latex in it. I know it from my childhood because some of my caring elders used to apply a paste of this plant whenever anyone of us got wounded while chasing and running behind one another during our routine games and sports in the village. As time passed, I grew older and older but could not forget this small plant peculiar in appearance but inhabiting in such ways that it can easily escape out of your notice if you are not a keen observer. Whenever and where ever I went and walked, in a not so happy mood, not in a hurry to rush for reaching to my destination, looking on the earth passing through my left or right sides, I located this humble plant with all its small expansion, sleeping on the surface without any ambition of life, never looking up towards the egoistic world, never wretched to feel about its smallness, rather shy enough in showing its existence, living under tough conditions offering refuge to lots of dust particles and bits of light weights. My writing about the humble plant is just a tribute to it as it occupies its place in my mind like anything else for the whole of my life, not like a thing of some use to me but like someone of the God’s creation occupying a place in the field of love of my mind I just cannot explain about.

Chhoti Duddhi in Ayurveda is called as Laghu Dugdhikaa. In Sidha it is called as Ammanpthrishi. It is taxonomically known as Euphorbia thymifolia Linn. , belonging to the family Euphorbiaceae. It has different names in different regions like – Dudia and Shweetkerua in Bengal, Cgittirapalavi in Ceylon; Nahani dudheli in Gujrat; Ghakdidudhi and Chothadudhi in Maharashtra; Chickenweed, dwarf spruce, and red caustic creeper in English. In Sanskrit it is known as Lakhu dugdhi, Dugdhika, and Raktabinducchada. In Spenish it is called as Golondrina and in Unani it is called as Dudhi khurda.

Habit and Habitat
Euphorbia thymifolia is an annual herb with pan-tropic distribution. This is mainly found in waste lands, along roadsides and wall sides under humid conditions. Its stem is slender, smooth, and reddish in colour and profusely branched. Delicate adventitious roots come out from nodes. Roots are fibrous, thin and delicate. The stem is 10 to 20 cm in length with a diameter from 1 to 3 mm.

Leaves are opposite, elliptic, oblong or ovate, 4 to 8 mm long and 2 to 5 mm wide with rounded apex, oblique base, inequillateral, margins serulate, stipules lanceolate or linear, and 1 to 1.5 mm long, deciduous.
Flowering occurs from June to November. Inflorescence is solitary or severely clustered at axils of leaves; peduncles are 1 to 2 mm in length and sparsely pilos. Involucres are slightly exceeding, and ovaries have short stipes. Fruits are cocci when mature and seeds are long, ovoid and tetragonal.

Medicinal Properties

According to Charak the soup of Dugdhika is beneficial in diarrhea and painful bleeding of piles. He has prescribed its latex for ring worm and for eruptive boils. In the traditional medicinal practice of konkan people also, the extract of this plant is applied for the cure of ringworms.
Bhaavaprakash states that Dugdhika is expectorant as it can cure aggravated cough. Besides this a paste of the plant cures skin diseases and parasitic infections. If used internally, its extract promotes conception. It is aphrodisiac and possesses age sustaining properties.
In Tamil traditional Medicinal practices the leaves and seeds of this plant are given in cases of worms and certain bowel affections of children.
In North- Indian traditional practice the extract of plant is considered to be stimulant and laxative.
The Santal tribals of Jharkhand and other regions use the extract of its roots as remedy for treating amenorrhoea (the absence of a period in a woman of reproductive age).
The extract or the powder of this plant mixed in alcohol is used as a remedy for snakebites.
It has been reported that the extract of Euphorbia thymifolia is antiviral and anti oxidant. It has also been reported to act as diuretic, laxative, detumiscent, anti-diarrheic, anti-malarial, anti-rash, anti-dysentery, anti-carbuncle, detoxificant, and anti-hemorrhoidal.
It has been reported that the extract of this plant when combined with 1.5% HCl can inhibit the growth of both the Gram positive (Bacillus subtilis) and Gram negative bacteria (E.coli).
It has also been reported that the aqueous extract of E. thymifolia possessive laxative properties.