Why do Euphorbiaceae tick as medicinal plants? A review of Euphorbiaceae family and its medicinal features
Euphorbiaceae is among the large flowering plant families consisting of a wide variety of vegetative forms some of which are plants of great importance. Its classification and chemistry have of late been subjects of interest possibly because of the wide variety of chemical composition of its members, many of which are poisonous but useful. In this review, we have tried to demonstrate why Euphorbiaceae are important medicinal plants. Two important issues have come up. The worldwide distribution of the family exposes its members, to all sorts of habitats to which they must adapt, therefore inducing a large variety of chemicals (secondary substances) that are employed for survival/defense. Succulence and the CAM (crassulacean acid metabolism) pathway that characterize a good number of its members were quoted as some of the adaptations that aid colonization and survival to achieve this induction. We have also found out that medicinal properties of some of its species may be due to stress factors that characterize most habitats of the family. Varying stress factors like temperature, salinity, drought and others were seen to operate in tandem with genetic factors such as gene expression and mutation loads to bring about synthesis of a wide assemblage of secondary substances that may probably be responsible for the family’s medicinal nature. It was concluded that the family is a good starting point for the search for plant-based medicines.