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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Duddi(Euphorbia hirta) : The Ashthma weed

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Euphorbia hirta or Duddhi - The Ashthma - weed in natural habitat


Standing erect along the side of a wall or at the edge of a stream you may spot a plant somewhere in your locality during rainy season. It may look somewhat peculiar in shape and behavior as if it has nothing to do with the other members of the plant community. Sometimes you may see it growing alone in crevices at the junction of a vertical wall and a horizontal floor both plastered with cement. A single shoot emerges out of the crack in the cement plaster, grows for about ten to fifteen days and soon starts branching from the basal region to develop many erect hoots standing parallel to it. Not so green in colour, the leaves and the hairy stems appear slightly brown in unpolluted clear air. Never neglect this plant as it is now rare, rather endangered but most useful for our health. It knows history since Ayurveda and other health care systems emerged out to help the human civilization. The plant about which I am talking is Euphorbia hirta or Duddhi, yes the asthma plant.In English Euphorbia hirta is addressed as the Asthma Plant, pill-bearing spurge, and just euphorbia.In Siddha and Tamil it is called as Amman, where as in Ayurveda it is called as Dudhi, Dugdhikaa, aagaarjuni, and Vikshirini.In Unani it is known as Khurd.

Habit and Habitat

Euphorbia hirta syn. Euphorbia pilulifera is an annual, erect or ascending herb with rounded light red and hairy stem up to 4o cm in height. Stem contains white latex. Leaves are simple, opposite, elliptic, oblong, acute, and toothed or serrate, with reticulate venation. The young shoot is axillary, peduncled. Fruits are compressed, keeled, pubiscent. Seeds are pale brown in colour and oblong in shape. Flowering occurs during August – September months and fruiting is followed up to November and December. A single plant of E. hirta can produce even up to 3000 seeds that are disseminated by air or by ants and termites. Sparrows often visit this plant and thus they can be potential disseminator of its seeds.

E.hirta is a weed which is pan tropical in distribution. It has its origin in Central America. It has been reported that this plant was introduced in South East Asia probably along with crop seeds. From there it spread every where. This weed is regarded as invasive as it spreads quickly and adopts both dry and wet conditions. Production of a large number of seeds is another character which supports its invasive nature. However due to habitat destruction and reclamation of lands the plant has fallen into the category of rare plants. It is usually found in waste places and also in crop fields and even up to an altitude of 2000 m. It prefers moist sandy soil and can be seen growing often between pebbles and stones.

The plant can be propagated through seeds only that take a time of 2 to3 weeks in germination usually around 20 0C. It has been recommended that the plants should be grown in cool green houses in the first week of March month. Seedlings can be picked up in May and transplanted in a sandy loam or rich loam well drained soil

Duddhi- Euphorbia hirta showing floral heads

Chemicals found in the plant
A number of chemical compounds have been reported to be contained in the extract of its stems, roots and leaves. Some of these chemical compounds are Gallic acid, Phytosterin, Jambulol, Palmitic acid, Linoleic acid and a number of phytochemicals like fatty acids, flavones, essential oil, phenols, sterols etc.

Importance of the plant in traditional and Ayurvedic Healthcare Systems

E. hirta ahs traditionally been used as a remedy to treat asthma as intake of its extract is reported to be a bronchodialator.It is also used as - anti-asthmatic, anti-spasmodic, expectorant, pectoral, haemostatic, sedative, soporific, diuretic, anthelmintic, expectorant, ant dysenteric. Though in modern herbal practices the extract of this plant is used more as a remedy for intestinal amoebic dysentery, it is also reported to be used for the cure of syphilis. It is locally used in Africa and Australia to treat hypertension, edema, diarrhea, ulcers, and acute enteritis. However, in many countries it is used as a natural medicine to treat asthma, bronchial infections, cough and throat spasm. It breaks up the mucus inside lungs and helps in releasing out the spasm.

The juice prepared from the leaves of the plant E.hirta is used for colics, boils, wounds and skin diseases. A decoction of fresh plant is used for gargle for the treatment of thrusth.It is also used to ally vomiting, chronic diarrheas, and fever. The extract of roots is used to relieve the victim from the snake bite.

The plant is anodyne, antipruritic, carminative, depurative, diuretic, febrifuge, galactogogue, purgative and vermifuge (Duke. J. A. and Ayensu E.S,, 1985). Chopra, Nayar and Chopra have reported that the herb relaxes the bronchioles but apparently depresses the heart and general respiration.

In African countries, the extract of plant is used in the treatment of asthma and the inflammations of the respiratory tract (Kokwaro, 1993). In Mauritius, it is also used for cough, chronic bronchitis, and different disorders of lungs and respiratory tract(Wong-Ting-Fook, 1980).In Nigeria extracts of leaves are used as ear drops, and also in the treatment of boils, sore and wound healing(Annon, 2005). In Angola the plant is widely used for the treatment of dysentery and diarrhea. In traditional Cambodian Health care System, the extract of Euphorbia hirta is given to expel worms and also in bowel complaints, in gonorrhea and other veneral diseases. Its tincture is suitably administered in cases of dyspnoea due to asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and in cardiac disorders. In traditional Indian and African practice the leaves of the plant are dried stuffed into a hollow paper cigarette, burnt and the smoked for the treatment of asthma. The leaf-extract of this plant has been reported to have a potent molluscicidal activity. In India, it is a common medicinal plant, which is used in variety of diseases i.e. cough, asthma, colic, dysentery, genito-urinary diseases.


1. Chopra. R. N., Nayar. S. L. and Chopra. I. C. Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants (Including the Supplement). Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi. 1986

2. Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S. Medicinal Plants of China Reference Publications, Inc. 1985 ISBN 0-917256- 20-4

3. Kokwaro JO (1993). Medicinal Plants in East Africa. 2nd edn. East African Literature Bureau, Nairobi, Kenya.Lind EM, Tallantire AC (1971). Some Common Flowering Plants ofUganda. Oxford University Press, Nairobi. p182.

4. Wong-Ting-Fook WTH (1980). The medicinal plants of Mauritius.ENDA publication No. 10, Dakar.Yoshida T, Namba O, Chen L, Okuda T (1990). Euphorbin E, ahydrolysable tannin dimmer of highly oxidized structure fromEuphorbia hirta. Chem. Pharm. Bull. 38(4): 1113–1115

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