Herb: Asthma Weed

Latin name: Euphorbia hirta

Synonyms: Chamaesyce hirta, Euphorbia pilulifera

Family: Euphorbiaceae (Spurge Family)

Medicinal use of Asthma Weed:

Asthma weed has traditionally been used in Asia to treat bronchitic asthma and laryngeal spasm, though in modern herbalism it is more used in the treatment of intestinal amoebic dysentery. It should not be used without expert guidance, however, since large doses cause gastro-intestinal irritation, nausea and vomiting. The plant is anodyne, antipruritic, carminative, depurative, diuretic, febrifuge, galactogogue, purgative and vermifuge.The aerial parts of the plant are harvested when in flower during the summer and can be dried for later use. The stem, taken internally, is famed as a treatment for asthma, bronchitis and various other lung complaints. The herb relaxes the bronchioles but apparently depresses the heart and general respiration. It is usually used in combination with other anti-asthma herbs such as Grindelia camporum and Lobelia inflata. It is also used to treat intestinal amoebic dysentery. The whole plant is decocted and used in the treatment of athlete's foot, dysentery, enteritis and skin conditions. It has been used in the treatment of syphilis. The sap is applied to warts in order to destroy them. The treatment needs to be repeated 2 - 3 times a day over a period of several weeks to be fully effective.

Description of the plant:


30 cm
(11 3/4 inch)

Habitat of the herb:

Waste places and cultivated fields in lowland Japan. Moist open places at elevations up to 1800 metres in Nepal.

Edible parts of Asthma Weed:

Tender young leaves and shoots - cooked as a vegetable. A famine food, used when all else fails and I would have to be very desperate to eat it even then.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - sow mid to late spring in situ. Germination usually takes place within 2 - 3 weeks at 20C. It might be best to sow the seed in a cool greenhouse in early March. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant out the seedlings in late May. This will give the plants longer to grow and mature.

Cultivation of Asthma Weed:

Waste places and cultivated fields in lowland Japan. Moist open places at elevations up to 1800 metres in Nepal.

Known hazards of Euphorbia hirta:

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.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.