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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Euphorbia hirta: a pollution indicator of diverse habitats

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Euphorbia hirta, also known as Asthma weed is a very common plant of the wild that can grow in almost all types of habitat. It can grow in various types of positions in sandy soil and even in pure sand mixed with a little nutrients. It grows abundantly on rubble, old building sites, at the margins of streams etc. where water logging does not occur.Euphorbia sp. cannot grow properly in polluted area. So it can also be taken as a pollution indicator.

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E.hirta growing in a pure sandy but pollution free  soil
(ALL pictures have been taken from the wild)

 Its common names are - Cats hair, asthma weed, basri dudhi, chara, malnommee, pill - bearing spurge, patikan kerbau, patikan kebo, fei yang cao, gelang susu, amampat chaiarisi, erva de santa luzia.

It is a very common annual herb. In India new plants start appearing in the wild soon after the first shower of monsoon and start developing very fast.No sooner than the plant grows a length of few centimeters, flowering starts in the plant.

Pollination is principally brought about by insects or especially by ants. Seeds get dispersed through simple mechanical process. Though a number of seeds get destroyed and eaten up by birds and insects, it does not cause any impact on the general population density of the plant due to abundance of its seeds.

Scientists and researchers have isolated a number of chemical compounds out of this plant.Some of the important phytochemicals that have been isolated from the extract of  Euphorbia hirta are - sterols, alkaloids, tannins, glycosides, triterpenoids, alkenes, phenolic acids, choline, and  shikimic acid. The plant extract has been reported to possess anti viral and anti bacterial properties.

Asthma weed has traditionally been used in Asia to treat bronchitic asthma and laryngeal spasm, though in modern herbalism it is more used in the treatment of intestinal amoebic dysentery. It should not be used without expert guidance, however, since large doses cause gastro-intestinal irritation, nausea and vomiting.

A number of companies prepare different types of medicines from the plant Euphorbia hirta across the globe. Many chemists prescribe extract of Euphorbia hirta for the treatment of asthma and for the treatments of other ailments. Euphorbia leaf- tea is very common for asthma patients but it is recommended that direct use of this plant may not be safe every time.

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