E is for Euphorbia
Consisting of 2008 species, Euphorbia is one of the largest and the most diverse genera in the plant kingdom, commonly referred to as spurges. Eurphorbias are mostly found in tropical and sub-tropical regions of Africa and the Americas, and in temperate zones worldwide. The botanical name Euphorbia derives from Euphorbus, the Greek physician of King Juba II of Numidia (50-52 BC - 23 AD), who married the daughter of Anthony and Cleopatra. He wrote that one of the cactus-like Euphorbia was a powerful laxative. "Spurge" derives from the Middle English/Old French espurge ("to purge") due to the use of the plant's sap as a purgative.
These are Eurphorbia milii also known as Crown of Thorns, Christ plant, a species of flowering plant in the spurge family Euphorbiaciae. Various colors and cultivars grow all over the Philippines but it is endemic to Madagascar. It's a succulent climbing shrub with dense spiny stems and straight slender spines of about 3 cm long with poisonous milky sap. Legend associates it with the crown of thorns worn by Christ before his crucifixion.
Another species of Euphorbia, locally known as tawa-tawa and gatas-gatas, (Euphorbia hirta) is believed to contain significant anti-thrombocytopenic properties that may increase platelet count of patients suffering from hemorrhagic fever like dengue. This herb grows in grasslands and road sides all over the Philippines. When I was a kid, we treated sore eyes with the milky sap of this plant.
A study about Euphorbia hirta conducted by Pharmacy students of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) in Manila won the 1st prize in the 2012 Philippine National Health Research System Week.
In the study, Euphorbia hirta was found to promote cell production, and prevents platelet destruction. Further research on the efficacy of this plant against dengue is now being fast-tracked by the government. Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral infection that is killing hundreds of people, mostly children, every year. There are no specific anti-viral drugs for dengue.
The popular Poinsettia, or Euphorbia pulcherrima, belongs to the diverse spurge family of Euphorbiaciae.
Euphorbias are tough plants and can take just about anything---both salt and drought-tolerant. They're easy to grow, according to my aunt who used to cultivate all colors of Euphorbia milii. I have been attracted to succulents and wanted to grow reds and two-tone Euphorbia milii but since I have a dog, I abandoned the idea. The thorns could be dangerous to pets and small children.
"A love that you withhold is the pain that you carry."
~ Alex Collier