Euphorbia tirucalli L. (Euphorbiaceae) –the miracle tree: current status of knowledge. In African Natural Plant Product: Discoveries and Challenges in Chemistry, Health, and Nutrition, American Chemical Society
Euphorbia tirucalli L. is an important tree Euphorbia species, known for its many uses in the tropics. Endemic to tropical eastern Africa where it often grows wild, it is usually planted for boundary demarcation but also as a live fence around compounds, shrines and kraals. Due to its rather unique combination of CAM stems and C3 leaves it has the ability to withstand extreme aridity and still produce a lot of biomass, whereas it withstands high herbivore pressure basically because the presence of caustic latex. E. tirucalli indeed contains a white latex which is vesicant and rubifacient, but also known to be a remedy against many ailments. However, most of its medicinal features are mostly informal reports from folk medicine and there appears to be little medical/laboratory analysis to validate them. In this review, we attempt to explore the current knowledge status about E. tirucalli in relation to its classification, chemical content and functions, and the extent to which modern research has been able to validate them. It was found that although a great deal has been done to analyze its chemical composition (bark, roots and latex), and potential for biofuel production, little is available on validation of its potential application for medicinal purposes, yet it continues to be used in traditional and alternative medicine on a daily basis. As a result, more empirical research is called for to clarify the current situation and potentials.