Common garden weed ‘cures skin cancer’, say scientists
The sap from a plant known as petty spurge (Euphorbia peplus L.) – found by roadsides and in woodland – can ‘kill’ certain types of cancer cells when applied to the skin.
It works on non-melanoma skin cancers, which affect hundreds of thousands of Britons each year.
They are triggered by sun damage and, although not usually fatal, can be disfiguring without treatment.
The plant has been used for centuries as a traditional folk medicine to treat conditions such as warts, asthma and several types of cancer.
But for the first time a team of scientists in Australia has carried out a clinical study of sap from Euphorbia peplus, which is related to Euphorbia plants grown in gardens in the UK.
The study of 36 patients with a total of 48 non-melanoma lesions included basal cell carcinomas (BCC), squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) and intraepidermal carcinomas (IEC), a growth of cancerous cells confined to the outer layer of the skin.
Patients had failed to respond to conventional treatment including surgery, or they refused or were unsuitable for surgery because of their age.
The patients were treated once a day for three consecutive days by an oncologist using a cotton bud to apply enough of the E.peplus sap to cover the surface of each lesion.
By Jenny Hope
Last updated at 4:41 AM on 26th January 2011
Source: Daily Mail
Name: Petty spurge
Latin name: Euphorbia peplus L.
Occurrence: Petty spurge is a small, branched annual plentiful in gardens and arable fields. It is native and common throughout Britain. It appears indifferent to soil type and is recorded up to 1,500 ft.
The plant exudes a milky sap when damaged. The sap is a severe irritant if applied to the skin. The oil contained in the seeds is a drastic purgative. Petty spurge has caused poisoning among horses and cattle in Australia and sheep in New Zealand. The active principles in the seeds and foliage are not affected by drying.
Biology: Petty spurge flowers from April to November. The seed number per plant ranges from 260 to 1,200. Petty spurge may be found in fruit for 8 months of the year.
Seedlings emerge throughout the year except for the winter months but the main flush of emergence is from April to May. Most seed germinates within a year of shedding with just a few seedlings emerging in the following 5 years. Germination occurs at 5 to 10 mm depth in soil.
Persistence and Spread: Seed recovered from house demolitions and archaeological digs and dated at 20, 25, 30 and 100 years old has been reported to germinate.
The seeds are dispersed explosively when ripe. Ants may aid with further dispersal.