Euphorbia hirta

Euphorbia hirta (syn. Chamaesyce hirta):  asthma weed

Botanical Description

A common weed in the Tropics, often found in villages, 30-40 cm tall, sometimes trailing on the ground, with opposite, dentate leaves on short stalks. It has stiff, tiny, intensely yellow coloured hairs. The tiny flowers are green and are on short stems. When the stem is broken, a white milky sap appears – this is an important distinguishing feature of this plant. The fruit contains 3 reddish-brown seeds, three-edged and 0.8 mm long.


Propagate by seed. The plant prefers dry, sandy soil rich in organic matter, in full sun.

Parts used: the whole herb. When harvesting, always cut the herb with a pair of scissors, so that the roots are left in the ground. Otherwise you will quickly destroy all the plants in the area and have none left!

Use in Other Countries

In Senegal, Mali, Burundi, Benin and D. R. Congo the herb is mainly used for diarrhoea and dysentery; in Niger for asthma; in Nigeria for constipation and enteritis. In West Africa the plant is also known for its effect in stimulating the production of mother's milk. In Asia the asthma weed is mainly used for asthma and diseases of the respiratory tract. In the Philippines Euphorbia hirta tea is widely taken to prevent and cure Dengue fever. The Indian Pharmacopoeia recommends the plant for worms in children and for stimulating the milk production in women; the sap for colic and to remove warts. The plant is registered in the African Pharmacopoeia (OAU, 1985); if it was easier to cultivate and to process it would certainly be used for medical purposes in Europe as well - but this plant cannot be cultivated in large amounts!
In Kasai, in the D. R. Congo, this plant is called “anti-cataract”.
In experiments with animals an extract of fresh E. hirta showed the following effects: anxiolytic (releasing anxiety), analgesic (relieving pain), anti-inflammatory and sedative. The extract is also active in cases of diarrhoea (even if this was caused chemically). E. hirta has also been shown to have anti-microbial properties.

Recommendations for use

The asthma weed belongs to the family Euphorbiaceae, many members of which are very poisonous and/or carcinogenic. For this reason you have to be absolutely sure that you have the right plant – see the botanical description above.

  1. Amoeba dysentery
    Boil 15-30 g (1 handful) of the fresh, washed herb (or dried herb if need be) with 1 bottle of water for 15 minutes. Filter and drink in portions during the day. Repeat the treatment for 8 days in a row. Also drink ORS (see chapter 4.6).
  2. Severe amoeba dysentery, bacillary dysentery, cholera
    Make anamed anti-amoeba tea. Wash and mix one handful each of asthma weed (Euphorbia hirta - the whole plant, but not the roots) plus guava leaves plus young bright green mango leaves.
    If mango or guava leaves are not available, pawpaw leaves may be used instead. Mix it with one litre of water, heat it until it starts to boil, leave to steep for 30 minutes and then filter. Drink in portions throughout the day. For dosages for children, see chapter 2.6. Both adults and children should always also take ORS (see chapter 4.6).
    Continue to drink this tea for 8 days, even if the symptoms disappear after 2 days, which in our experience is often the case.
    This recipe has helped anamed to save hundreds of lives, especially in cases in which people with amoeba infections suffered from terrible stomach cramps after taking the usual medicine (Metronidazol), and who therefore stopped taking this "modern" treatment. Whose bacillary dysentery was caused by germs that were resistant to almost all antibiotics.
    All the above-mentioned plants are effective against amoebas and bacteria and thus can also be used separately. For patients with nausea, or for babies, do not add the (bad-tasting) pawpaw leaves during the first days.
  3. Urinary tract infection, kidney infection, intestinal cramps, diarrhoea
    Drink the infusion from recipe 1; it is no cure for gonorrhoea though! As a precaution, do not take for more than 8 days. In cases of diarrhoea, always use ORS (see chapter 4.6).
  4. Intestinal worms
    Wash and mix: asthma weed, whole plant without roots,        1 handful
    pawpaw leaves                        1 handful
    Boil for 15 minutes in 1 litre of water, then filter. Drink in portions in the course of the day. If a child refuses to drink this tea, prepare it with the handful of asthma weed only. Another successful treatment is pawpaw sap, see chapter 5.7.
  5. Asthma
    1. Smoke dried leaves rolled into a cigarette, or
    2. Place your head on 1 handful of these leaves at night, or
    3. Use recipe 1 above.
  6. Cataracts
    At an early stage of the disease put one drop of Euphorbia hirta sap into each eye three times daily for 10 days. To avoid the danger of eye infections, before breaking the stem the plant must be very well washed and dried with a clean towel. It is not known why this works!
  7. Warts
    Apply the plant latex onto the warts.

Side Effects

Do not exceed the recommended dosage or time. Euphorbia hirta belongs to a botanical family which includes many toxic species.