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Common Name: Madwoman's Milk
Euphorbia helioscopia is an annual plant that can grow up to 0.35 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and medicine
The sap contains a latex which is toxic on ingestion and highly irritant externally, causing photosensitive skin reactions and severe inflammation, especially on contact with eyes or open cuts. The toxicity can remain high even in dried plant material[
]. Prolonged and regular contact with the sap is inadvisable because of its carcinogenic nature[
Europe, including Britain, south to the Mediterranean and east to central Asia.
Common in cultivated ground throughout Britain to an altitude of 450 metres[
Prefers a light well-drained moderately rich loam in an open position[
]. Succeeds in dry soils.
Hybridizes with other members of this genus[
]. The ripe seed is released explosively from the seed capsules[
Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer or rabbits[
This genus has been singled out as a potential source of latex (for making rubber) for the temperate zone, although no individual species has been singled out[
Young stems - cooked[
]. Caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.
Young leaves are used as a tea substitute[
The leaves and stems are febrifuge and vermifuge[
The root is anthelmintic[
The plant is cathartic[
]. It has anticancer properties[
The milky sap is applied externally to skin eruptions[
The seeds, mixed with roasted pepper, have been used in the treatment of cholera[
]. The oil from the seeds has purgative properties[
Seed - sow spring or late summer in situ. Germination usually takes place within 2 - 3 weeks at 20°c.