Database entry for Aveloz - Euphorbia tirucalli - Aveloz - Euphorbia tirucalli - Aveloz - Euphorbia tirucalli Database entry for Aveloz - Euphorbia tirucalli - Aveloz - Euphorbia tirucalli - Aveloz - Euphorbia tirucalli

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(Euphorbia tirucalli)

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Database entry for Aveloz - Euphorbia tirucalli - Aveloz - Euphorbia tirucalli - Aveloz - Euphorbia tirucalli PLANT

Database entry for Aveloz - Euphorbia tirucalli - Aveloz - Euphorbia tirucalli - Aveloz - Euphorbia tirucalli


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  • Family: Euphorbiaceae
    Genus: Euphorbia
    Species: tirucalli, insulana
    Synonyms: Tithymalus tirucalli, Tirucalia indica, Euphorbia viminalis, E. geayi, E. laro, E. media, E. rhipsalioides, E. scoparia, E. suareziana, E. gymnoclada, E. entheurodoxa, Arthrothamnus tirucalli
    Common names:aveloz, milkbush, pencil tree, kayu patah tulang, kayu urip, mentulang, paching tawa, tikel balung, tulang-tulang, cega-olho, coral-verde, labirinto, cassoneira, arvore-do-lapis, cassoneira, garrancho, Indian tree spurge, fingertree, milkhedge, petroleum-plant, rubber euphorbia, euphorbe antivenerien, almeidinha, consuelda
    Part Used: Latex, Branches, Roots

    From The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs:

    Main Actions Other Actions Standard Dosage
  • promotes tumors
  • mildly laxative
  • Latex
  • causes cancer
  •   Not recommended
  • immune suppressant
  • causes vomiting
  • irratates membranes
  • activates viruses

    Aveloz is a succulent cactus-like plant growing to a height of about 10 m. Introduced from Africa as a garden plant, it is now naturalized in tropical areas and rainforests in the Amazon, Madagascar, and South Africa. In Africa, it is a common garden plant and its thick rapid growth promotes its use as a natural barrier fence. The main trunk and branches are woody and brown, but the younger branches are green and cylindrical, looking like many pencils and earning the plant its common name - pencil tree. Leaves are minute and are shed early, and the function of the leaves is taken over by the green branches. All parts of the plant ooze a caustic milky white sap when damaged, like many other Euphorbia species.

    Aveloz is called "petroleum plant" because it produces a hydrocarbon substance very much like gasoline. This plant is being studied by Petrobas, the national petroleum company in Brazil. It is thought that the hydrocarbon produced by the plant could be used directly in existing gasoline refineries; estimates of 10 to 50 barrels of oil per acre of cultivated aveloz with cost estimates of $3-10 per barrel have been postulated.


    In Africa, aveloz is regarded as an insect repellant. The root is used for snakebite; the latex is used for skin tumors and syphilis ulcers; the seeds and latex are used for intestinal parasites; and decoctions of the wood are used for bacterial infections. In Malaysia, the stems are pounded and applied to swellings, and in the Dutch Indies, the pounded stems are used as a poultice to extract thorns. A root infusion is used for aching bones and a poultice of the root or leaves is used for nose ulcers and hemorrhoids. A wood decoction is used for leprosy and paralysis of the hands and feet after childbirth. In India, the latex is used for asthma, cough, earache, neuralgia, rheumatism, toothache, and warts. A decoction of the branches or root is used for colic and gastric problems. In Brazil, the latex is used externally to remove warts and tumors and to treat rheumatism. The latex is diluted in water and used internally for snakebite, as well as benign and cancerous tumors. In Peru, the plant is used much like in India, for abscesses, asthma, cancer, colic, cough, earache, neuralgia, rheumatism, stomachache, and toothache.


    The chemistry of the plant does not validate any of the herbal medicines uses. In fact, the plant contains many harmful chemicals that make it unsuitable for many of the traditional uses, especially those for cancer. The latex of aveloz is a rich source of terpenes, including phorbol esters and ingenol esters. These phorbol esters are highly irritating and have been clinically documented to actually promote tumors. One particular phorbol in aveloz, 4-deoxyphorbol ester, has been clinically documented to enhance Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection, cause DNA damage to immune cells, and cause a suppression of the immune system in general. In addition to this one chemical, an extract of aveloz was also shown to reduce the ability of certain immune cells (T-cells) to kill EBV. EBV is a member of the herpes virus family. It is one of the most common human viruses - as many as 95% of adults in the United States have been infected at some point in their lives. After the initial infection, EBV establishes a lifelong dormant infection in the immune system (inside of B cells). EBV infection can lead to mononucleosis, and some EBV carriers will develop cancer, either Burkitt's lymphoma or nasopharyngeal carcinoma.

    Aveloz contains 4-deoxyphorbol ester, beta-sitosterol, caoutchouc, casuariin, corilagin, cycloeuphordenol, cyclotirucanenol, ellagic acids, euphorbins, euphol, euphorone, euphorcinol, gallic acids, glucosides, hentriacontane, hentriacontanol, ingenol, isoeuphoral, kamepferol, pedunculagin, phenols, phorbol esters, proteases, putranjivain A-B, sapogenin acetates, succinic-acid, taraxasterol, taraxerin, tirucallol, and tirucallin A-B.


    The studies on aveloz, its chemicals, and EBV were conducted by several research groups who were trying to understand why EBV and Burkitt's lymphoma were endemic in areas where aveloz was widely used as a local remedy (usually for parasites) and/or as a natural living fence in Africa. Their research concluded that exposure to the latex of aveloz directly activates latent EBV infections, and exposure to this plant is now considered a causative factor in the development of Burkitt's lymphoma. Burkitt's lymphoma is a non-Hodgkin's malignant lymphoma associated with EBV, and in clinical research, treatment of a Burkitt's lymphoma cell line with the latex of aveloz found the latex to reactivate latent EBV and promote tumor growth in general.


    Since the 1970s aveloz has been promoted as a "cure" for cancer when the latex is taken internally or used externally. While the plant has a folk use for certain types of cancer, it has been more widely used for external tumors. The latex is caustic and irritating and has been traditionally used to "burn off" warts and possibly skin tumors. Taking the latex of aveloz internally (for any reason) has no clinical merit or benefit, especially for cancer.

    Aveloz is confirmed to suppress the immune system. Suppression of the immune system makes the body less resistant to infections and some cancers, and it is therefore not recommended for cancer patients. Even more important, the latex has also been documented to promote tumor growth and/or to trigger certain cancers. Again, this certainly is not beneficial, indicated, or prudent for cancer patients. Unfortunately, aveloz sap still continues to be touted as a cancer cure in Brazil and now in the United States without any merit or scientific basis. As one group of researchers stated, " cancer management with Euphorbia tirucalli presents no scientific basis, at least up to the moment, since the phorbol esters have already presented tumor-promoting activity."

    Aveloz is not recommended as a natural remedy for any reason due to its toxicity and its immune suppression and tumor-promoting properties. It is hoped that the time will come where aveloz will go into our cars as a natural gasoline, rather than into desperate cancer patients who will try anything in their search for a cure.

    Main Preparation Method: cold maceration or undiluted latex

    Main Actions (in order):
    tumor promoter, carcinogenic, immune suppressant, irritant, caustic

    Main Uses:

    1. for warts (topically applied)
    Properties/Actions Documented by Research:
    antimicrobial, carcinogenic, caustic, emetic, immune suppressant, irritant, tumor promoter

    Other Properties/Actions Documented by Traditional Use: laxative

    Cautions: It is not recommended for internal use. It may trigger latent Epstein Barr infection and promote tumor growth.

    Traditional Preparation: None recommended.

    Contraindications: The latex is considered a poison and has caused deaths in Africa. Contact of the latex with the eyes can cause blindness. The caustic latex can also cause skin burns, ulcerations, and dermatitis. Taking pure latex internally is known to induce hemorrhages and stomach ulcers. Used internally, even in small quantities and in diluted form, the latex can cause digestive disturbances such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. In addition, internal use of the latex may cause burning and ulceration of the mouth and throat.

    Drug Interactions: None reported.

    Africa for parasites, sexual impotence, snakebite, syphilis, tumors
    Asia for broken bones, hemorrhoids, pain, swellings, ulceration
    Brazil for abscess, asthma, bacterial infections, cancer, constipation, fungal infections, rheumatism, scorpion bite, snakebite, spasms, syphilis, tumor, viruses, warts, and as an expectorant, and irritant
    Dutch Indies for bone aches, hemorrhoids, leprosy, nose ulcers, paralysis, thorns
    India for abscess, asthma, colic, constipation, cough, earache, gastralgia, neuralgia, rheumatism, syphilis, toothache, warts
    Peru for abscesses, asthma, cancer, colic, cough, earache, neuralgia, rheumatism, stomachache, toothache


    1. Duke, J. Euphorbia tirucalli L. Handbook of Energy Crops. Unpublished. 1983. Available through Purdue University Center for New Crops & Plants Products.
    2. Cataluna, P., et al. “The traditional use of the latex from Euphorbia tirucalli Linnaeus (Euphorbiaceae) in the treatment of cancer in South Brazil.” ISHS Acta Horticulture 501: II WOCMAP Congress Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, Part 2: Pharmacognosy, Pharmacology, Phytomedicine, Toxicology.
    3. Khan, A. Q., et al. “Euphorcinol: a new pentacyclic triterpene from Euphorbia tirucalli. Planta Medica 1989; 55: 290-291.
    4. Kinghorn, A. D. “Characterization of an irritant 4-deoxy-phorbol diester from Euphorbia tirucalli. J. Nat. Prod. 1979; 42(1): 112-115.
    5. Furstenberger, G., et al. “On the active principles of the Euphorbiaceae XII. Highly unsaturated irritant diterpene esters form Euphorbia tirucalli originating from Madagascar. J. Nat. Prod. 1986; 49(3): 386-397.
    6. Imai, S., et al. “African Burkitt’s lymphoma: a plant, Euphorbia tirucalli, reduces Epstein-Barr virus-specific cellular immunity.” Anticancer Res. 1994; 14(3A): 933-6.
    7. Aya, T., et al. “Chromosome translocation and c-MYC activation by Epstein-Barr virus and Euphorbia tirucalli in B lymphocytes.” Lancet 1991; 337(8751): 1190.
    8. Sugiura, M., et al. “Cryptic dysfunction of cellular immunity in asymptomatic human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) carriers and its actualization by an environmental immunosuppressive factor.” In Vivo 1994; 8(6): 1019-22.
    9. Epstein-Barr Virus and Infectious Mononucleosis. National Center for Infectious Diseases. CDC.
    10. MacNeil, A., et al. “Activation of Epstein-Barr virus lytic cycle by the latex of the plant Euphorbia tirucalli.” Br. J. Cancer. 2003; 88(10): 1566-9.
    11. van den Bosch, C., et al. “Are plant factors a missing link in the evolution of endemic Burkitt’s lymphoma?” Br. J. Cancer 1993; 68(6): 1232-5.
    12. Mizuno, F., et al. “Epstein-Barr virus-enhancing plant promoters in east Africa.” AIDS Res. 1986; 2 Suppl 1: S151-5.
    13. Prince, S., et al. “Latent membrane protein 1 inhibits Epstein-Barr virus lytic cycle induction and progress via different mechanisms. J. Virol. 2003; 77(8): 5000-7.

    The above text has been printed from The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs by Leslie Taylor, copyrighted © 2005 All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system, including websites, without written permission.


    † The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information contained in this plant database file is intended for education, entertainment and information purposes only. This information is not intended to be used to diagnose, prescribe or replace proper medical care. The plant described herein is not intended to treat, cure, diagnose, mitigate or prevent any disease. Please refer to our Conditions of Use for using this plant database file and web site.

    Quoted References

    From the Canadian Poisonous Plants Information System
    General poisoning notes for Euphorbia tirucalli
    "Penciltree (Euphorbia tirucalli) is an attractive indoor ornamental tree. The plant contains caustic and irritant chemicals in the latex which cause reactions with the skin, mucous membranes, and the eyes. Severe burning and inflammation result after the latex comes into contact with the skin. Ingestion causes burning and irritation of the mouth and stomach, accompanied by pain and perhaps diarrhea. Apparently, injudicious medicinal use of the latex of this plant has caused fatalities in East Africa (Fuller and McClintock 1986). Family pets should not be allowed to ingest the plant."

    Purdue University
    Folk Medicine
    "Recently (SPOTLIGHT July 14, 1980) Alec de Montmorency kindled long-sleeping interests in aveloz (Euphorbia spp. including tirucalli) inferring that it "seems to literally tear cancer tissue apart." Several Brazilian Euphorbias, E. anomala, E. gymnoclada, E. heterodoxa, E. insulana, E. tirucalli, known as aveloz, have local notoriety as cancer "cures," and often find their way into the U.S. press as cancer cures. I fear they are more liable to cause than cure cancer. Still the following types of cancer are popularly believed in Brazil to be alleviated by aveloz: cancer, cancroids, epitheliomas, sarcomas, tumors, and warts. Hartwell (1969) mentions E. tirucalli as a "folk remedy" for cancers, excrescences, tumors, and warts in such diverse places as Brazil, India, Indonesia, Malabar and Malaya. The rubefacient, vesicant latex is used as an application for asthma, cough, earache, neuralgia, rheumatism, toothache, and warts in India. In small doses it is purgative, but in large doses it is an acrid irritant, and emetic. A decoction of the tender branches as also that of the root is administered in colic and gastralgia. The ashes are applied as caustic to open abscesses. In Tanganyika, the latex is used for sexual impotence (but users should recall "the latex produces so intense a reaction ... as to produce temporary blindness lasting for several days." In Zimbabwe, one African male is said to have died of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis after swallowing the latex to cure sterility.) The root is used as an emetic for snakebite. In Malabar and the Moluccas, the latex is used as an emetic and antisyphilitic. In Malaya, the stems are boiled for fomenting painful places. The pounded stem is applied to scurf and swelling. In the Dutch Indies, pounded stems are used as a poultice for extracting thorns. The root infusion is used for aching bones, a poultice of the root or leaves for nose ulcers and hemorrhoids. The wood decoction is used for leprosy and for paralysis of the hands and feet following childbirth. Javanese use the latex for skin complaints and rub the latex over the skin for bone fractures."

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    Last updated 2-11-2013