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Family Euphobiaceae
Poinsettia
Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd.
CHRISTMAS FLOWER

Yi pin hong

Scientific names  Common names 
Euphorbia erythrophylla Bertoi. Pascuas (Span., Tag.)
Euphorbia fastuosa Sessé & Moc. Easter flower  (Engl.)
Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd. ex. Klotzsch Flame leaf (Engl.)
Euphorbia pulcherrima f. lutea Standl Lobster plant  (Engl.)
Pleuradena coccinea Raf. Painted leaf  (Engl.)
Poinsettia pulcherrima f. lutea. Standl. Mexican flame leaf  (Engl.)
Poinsettia pulcherrima Willd. ex Klotzsch Poinsettia (Engl.) 
Poinsettia pulcherrima (Willd. ex Klotzsch) Graham Christmas flower 
Poinsettia pulcherrima var. albida Maund Poinsettia (Engl.)
  Christmas plant (Engl.)
Poinsettia pulcherrima (syn: Euphorbia pulcherrima) has been confused by some authors and many bloggers with Poinciana pulcherrima which is a synonym of Caesalpinia pulcherrima. Caesalpinia is a tropical tree-legume appreciated for its flowers outdoors. (5)
Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd. ex Klotzsch is an accepted name The Plant List

Other vernacular names
CHINESE: Xing xing mu, Lao lai jiao, Yi pin hong.
DANISH: Julestjerne
DUTCH: Poinsettia.
FRENCH: Euphorbe écarlate.
GERMAN: Weihnachtsstern .
JAPANESE: Poinsechia, Shoujouboku.
LITHUANIAN: Puošniausioji karpažolė.
MALAY : Dènok, Godong ratjoon, Kastooba, Racunan, Ratjoonan.
PORTUGUESE : Flor-de-papagaio, Folha-de-sangue, Papagaio, Poinsétia.
RUSSIAN: Molochai krasivyeishij, Puansettiia.
SPANISH: Flor de noche buena, Flor de pascua, Rosas de pascua, Flor de Santa Catarina, Pascuero.
SWEDISH: Julstjärna.
TAMIL: Ilai paddi, Mayil kaḷḷi, Poo kaḷḷi.
THAI: Cheu eun, Poh pan, Song ra-doo.

Botany
Poinsettia is an erect, sparingly, and laxly branched shrub, 2 to 4 meters high. Leaves are elliptic to oblong-elliptic or the upper ones lanceolate, 10 to 18 centimeters, the lower ones entirely green, obscurely repand or slightly lobed, long-petioled, slightly hairy beneath, the upper ones, at the time of flowering, uniformly bright-red. Inflorescence is terminal. Involucres are ovoid, about 1 centimeter long, the margins toothed, each with one or two large, yellow glands. Flowers are crowded.

Distribution
- Cultivated as ornamental garden plant.
- A traditional Christmas plant.
- Probably introduced about 1870.
- Native of Mexico.

Constituents
- Triterpenes in the latex of E pulcherrima.
- Bracts yield a resin, a yellow and red coloring-matter, essential oil, tartaric acid, gallic acid, gum, glucose, sucrose, starch, and salts.
- Bark yields a red coloring principle; bracts yield a scarlet dye.
- Leaf yields alkaloids, saponins, sulfur, fat, amilodextrin, and formic acid.
- Aerial parts yielded alkaloids, steroids, terpenoids, saponins, glycosides, reducing sugar, and amino acid. (6)
- Analysis of various fractions of whole plant yielded terpenoids, flavonoids, alkaloids, saponin, and steroids. (12)

Properties
- Emetic, galactagogue, and cathartic.
- Latex considered caustic and poisonous.

- Studies have shown cytotoxic, antibacterial, anticonvulsant, antinociceptive, antioxidant properties.

Parts utilized:
Leaves and flowers.

Uses
Folkloric
- Leaves applied as poultice for erysipelas and a variety of cutaneous problems.
- Latex is poisonous and causes irritation in wounds.
- Latex is very caustic and dangerous to the eyes.
- Infusion of flowers used as galactagogue.
- Plants used as emetic and cathartic.
- In Mexico, decoction of bracts taken by nursing women to increase the flow of milk, although the practice is considered dangerous by some. (see concerns)
- Infusion of flowers prescribed as galactagogue.
- Plant used as emeto-cathartic.
- In Indonesia, the racunan plant (E. pulcherrima) is used as emetic, emmenagogue, and galactagogue, for treating tuberculosis, skin infections, and fractures.

Concerns & Myths
• The common myth of the Christmas flower poisoning originated in 1919 when authorities mistakenly claimed that ingestion of poinsettia leaves caused an American child's death. (16)
• Accidental ingestion of the the plant can cause stomach irritation, discomfort, nausea and vomiting. The latex can cause skin irritation.
• Although the plant is less toxic than once believed, pregnant and breast-feeding persons are advised against its use. Also, because of gastric side effects reported on accidental ingestion, patients with stomach ulcers, IBS, Crohn's disease are advised not to use it. (20)
• These two studies report on 2 cases of contact dermatitis: (1) Contact Dermatitis 1985 May;12(5):285-6 [Contact dermatitis due to Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd, simulating a phototoxic reaction / Massmanian A1.], and (2) Contact Dermatitis 1985 May;12(5):285 [Contact dermatitis from Euphorbia pulcherrima / Santucci B, Picardo M, Cristaudo A.]
* Other than occasional cases of vomiting, the ingestion of poinsettia plant is not associated with serious effects. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission denied a petition in 1975 to require warning labels on poinsettia plants. In a study of 22,793 cases of poinsettia exposure, 98.9% were accidental exposures in children and 96.1% required no treatment in a health care facility, and 92.4% did not require any type of therapy. (16) (17)
• A study reports a 50-pound child would have to eat more than 1-1/4 pounds of poinsettia leaves (500-600 leaves) to have any side effects. (18)
Is it poisonous? The Myth of the Poisonous Poinsettia—The weblog is a counterpoint that the deadly poison of the poinsettia is entirely a myth. It could be guilt by association with two other popular Christmas plants—holly and mistletoe—which are genuinely poisonous. While the genus (Euphorbia) to which poinsettia belongs contain some poisonous plants, poinsettia itself is not toxic. (13) (14) (15)

Studies
Cytotoxicity: Two cytotoxic terpenoids isolated from E pulcherrima. Cytotoxicity evaluation was performed using Ehrlich ascites tumor cells. Although no cytotoxic activity was observed, both isolated triterpenes exhibited cell inactivating effects. (1) Crude alcoholic extracts and isolated fractions of E. milli and E. pulcherrima exhibited promising cytotoxic activity against Artemis salina shrimp larvae attributed to the presence of polar compounds. (10)
Antibacterial: In a study of fruits, leaves, stems and flowers that included E. pulcherrima, the extracts exhibited moderate antibacterial effects on Micrococcus pyogenes, E coli and P aeruginosa.

Phytochemicals: A study of the petroleum ether extract of the latex, bracts and flowers of E pulcherrima yielded germanical,
ß-amyrin and pseudotaraxasterol; from the latex, a new sterol, pulcherrol; from the stems, an octaeicosanol and ß-sitosterol. (3)
Bactericide / Chitosan : A chitosan solution markedly inhibited the growth of Xanthomonas sp. pathogenic to E. pulcherrima from different origins. Results showed potential bactericide against plant pathogenic bacteria.
Anticonvulsant / Antinociceptive: Study evaluated the central nervous system effects of Euphorbia pulcherrima in mice and rats. Results showed the crude dried extracts showed anticonvulsant and antinociceptive properties with no effect on motor coordination and anxiety. (7)
Antibacterial / Antinociceptive: Study of racunan leaf extract showed it can be used as an antibacterial against Escherichia coli. (8)
Antibacterial / Free Radical Scavenging / Analgesic: Study of solvent fractions yielded alkaloids, terpenoids, saponins, glycosides, reducing sugar, and amino acid. An EA fraction and methanol extract exhibited significant free radical scavenging activity and moderate antibacterial activity against K. pneumonia, S. epidermis, B stearothermophilus and S typhimurium. A crude extract exhibited significant phytotoxic effect and a crude methanolic extract showed significant analgesic effect. (9)
Anticonvulsant : Study evaluated the anticonvulsive effects of E. pulcherrima of various extracts using various convulsive experimental models in mice. Results showed EP crude dried extract showed anticonvulsant properties in Maximal Electroshock Seizure test model and Pentylenetetrazole induced seizure models. (11)
Antibacterial / Bioactive Compounds: Study showed an ethyl acetate fraction of methanol extract of whole plant yielded phytochemicals (terpenoids, flavonoids, alkaloids, saponin, and steroids) which showed remarkable activities against E. coli, S. aureus, S. typhi and P. aeruginosa. (12)
Acute and Subchronic Toxicity Studies: Study evaluated the acute and subchronic toxicity of Euphorbia pulcherrima methanol extract. Results showed no changes in liver and kidney function parameters. Authors suggest further studies to evaluate the mild hepatic histological changes among a few members treated with 100 and 1000 mg/k/d and for any hepatoprotective or nephroprotective potential the extract may possess. (19)

Availability
Ornamental cultivation. 

© Godofredo U. Stuart Jr., M.D.

Update May 2017 / December 2015



Photos © Godofredo Stuart / StuartXchange
OTHER IMAGE SOURCE: Poinsettia (Graham.) pulcherrima /Catalogue of plants cultivated at the Darling Nursery, Sydney, New South Wales [1851] / Collection - Historic House Trust

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
(1)
Cytotoxic triterpenoids from the leaves of Euphorbia pulcherrima.
Planta Med 1996 Aug;62(4):322-5
(2)
Identification and characterization of cross-reactive poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) and natural rubber latex (Hevea brasiliensis) allergens / Ranta, P.M., Dimitropoulou, C., Ford, J., Young, P. and Ownby, D.R.

(3)
Chemical study of the latex, stems, bracts, and flowers of Christmas flower (Euphorbia pulcherrima) / Xorge Dominguez et al / Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences Volume 56 Issue 9, Pages 1184 - 1185
/ DOI 10.1002/jps.2600560931
(5)
Sorting Euphorbia names / Authorised by Prof. Snow Barlow / Maintained by: Michel H. Porcher / MULTILINGUAL MULTISCRIPT PLANT NAME DATABASE / Copyright © 1997 - 2000 The University of Melbourne.

(6)
Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd. ex Klotzsch (accepted name) / Chinese names / Catalogue of Life, China
(7)
Experimental study of neuropharmacological profile of Euphorbia pulcherrima in mice and rats
/ Kundan Kr Singh, Gajendra P Rauniar, and Himal Sangraula / J Neurosci Rural Pract. 2012 Sep-Dec; 3(3): 311–319.
doi: 10.4103/0976-3147.102612
(8)
Test Antibacterial Activity Of Ethanol Extract Racunan Leaf (Euphorbia Pulcherrima Wild) Against Bacteria Escherichia Coli Profile With Thin Layer Chromatography / Trianik Widyaningrum / IC-GWBT2012, Ahmad Dahlan University, March 23-24, 2012
(9)
Phytochemical and pharmacological evaluation of aerial parts of Euphorbia pulcherrima L / Abdur Rauf and Naveed Muhammad / Wudpecker Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, Vol. 2(2), pp. 015 - 020, April 2013
(10)
Cytotoxic Study of aerial parts of Euphorbia Milli and Euphorbia pulcherrima / Abdur Rauf, Ajmal Khan, Nizam Uddin, Roohullah / Topclass Journal of Herbal Medicine Vol. 2(12) pp. 266-269, 26 Dec., 2013
(11)
Experimental Study of Anticonvulsive Effects of Euphorbia Pulcherrima in Mice
/ Dr. Kundan K Singh , Prof. Gajendra P Rauniar , Prof. Himal Sangraula / WebmedCentral PHARMACOLOGY, 2011;2(12): WMC002572 / doi: 10.9754/journal.wmc.2011.002572
(12)
Preliminary Investigation of Bioactive Compounds and Bioautographic Studies of Whole Plant Extract of Euphorbia pulcherrima on Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella typhi, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa / H. B. Sharif, M. D. Mukhtar, Y. Mustapha, and A. O. Lawal / Advances in Pharmaceutics
Volume 2015 (2015) / http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2015/485469
(13)
The Myth of the Poisonous Poinsettia / Hoax Forum
(14)
Are Poinsettia Plants Poisonous? Fact or Fiction? / Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD / MedicineNet
(15)
Euphobia pulcherrima / Synonyms / The Plant List
(16)
The Dark Myth of the Poinsettia / Amber Young /Jan 2015
(17)
Poinsettia exposures have good outcomes...just as we thought. / Krenzelok EP, Jacobsen TD, Aronis JM. / Am J Emerg Med 1996 Nov;14(7):671-4
(18)
Things you never knew about poinsettias / The MidWeek News / Dec 23, 2014
(19)
Acute and Subchronic Toxicity Profile of Euphorbia pulcherrima Methanol Extract on Wistar Albino Rats / H. B. Sharif, M. D. Mukhtar, Y. Mustapha, Gabi Baba, and A. O. Lawal / Advances in Pharmaceutics, Volume 2015 (2015) / http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2015/539646
(20)
Poinsettia: Side Effects / WebMD

It is not uncommon for links on studies/sources to change. Copying and pasting the information on the search window or using the DOI (if available) will often redirect to the new link page.

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