Euphorbia peplus

Euphorbia peplus (petty spurge,[1][2] radium weed,[2] cancer weed,[2] or milkweed),[2] is a species of Euphorbia, native to most of Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia, where it typically grows in cultivated arable land, gardens, and other disturbed land.[1][3][4]

Euphorbia peplus
E peplus.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Malpighiales
Family: Euphorbiaceae
Genus: Euphorbia
E. peplus
Binomial name
Euphorbia peplus

Outside of its native range it is very widely naturalised and often invasive, including in Australia, New Zealand, North America, and other countries in temperate and sub-tropical regions.[1]


It is an annual plant growing to 5–30 cm (2–12 in) tall (most plants growing as weeds of cultivation tend towards the smaller end), with smooth hairless stems. The leaves are oval-acute, 1–3 cm (0.4–1.2 in) long, with a smooth margin. It has green flowers in three-rayed umbels. The glands, typical of the Euphorbiaceae, are kidney-shaped with long thin horns.[4]

Euphorbia peplus cyathium

Medicinal usesEdit

The plant's sap is toxic to rapidly replicating human tissue, and has long been used as a traditional remedy for common skin lesions.[5] The active ingredient in the sap is a diterpene ester called ingenol mebutate. A pharmaceutical-grade ingenol mebutate gel has approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for treatment of actinic keratosis.[5][6][7]

In Germany, recent studies have linked Euphorbia peplus with the virtual elimination of Bowen disease.[8]


  1. ^ a b c "Euphorbia peplus". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d Hazel Dempster; Bronwen Keighery; Greg Keighery; Rod Randall; Bob Dixon; Bill Betts; Margo O'Byrne; Diane Matthews. "Euphorbia terracina Workshop Proceedings 2000" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-10-25.
  3. ^ Flora Europaea: Euphorbia peplus
  4. ^ a b Blamey, M. & Grey-Wilson, C. (1989). Flora of Britain and Northern Europe. ISBN 0-340-40170-2
  5. ^ a b Siller G, Gebauer K, Welburn P, Katsamas J, Ogbourne SM (2009). "PEP005 (ingenol mebutate) gel, a novel agent for the treatment of actinic keratosis: results of a randomized, double-blind, vehicle-controlled, multicentre, phase IIa study". Australasian Journal of Dermatology. 50 (1): 16–22. doi:10.1111/j.1440-0960.2008.00497.x. PMID 19178487. S2CID 19308099.
  6. ^ Lebwohl, M, et al. "Ingenol Mebutate Gel for Actinic Keratosis." N Engl J Med 366;11, March 15, 2012.
  7. ^ "FDA Approves Picato® (ingenol mebutate) Gel, the First and Only Topical Actinic Keratosis (AK) Therapy With 2 or 3 Consecutive Days of Once-Daily Dosing". eMedicine. Yahoo! Finance. January 25, 2012. Archived from the original on February 10, 2012.
  8. ^ Braun, S.A.; Homey, B.; Gerber, P.A. (October 2014). "Erfolgreiche Behandlung eines Morbus Bowen mit Ingenolmebutat". Der Hautarzt (in German). 65 (10): 848–850. doi:10.1007/s00105-014-3509-5. ISSN 0017-8470. PMID 25217087.