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Scientific Name(s): Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd. ex Klotzsch
Common Name(s): Christmas flower, Christmas star, Easter flower, Lobster flower plant, Mexican flame leaf, Noch buena, Papagallo, Poinsettia, Star of Bethlehem

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 1, 2021.

Clinical Overview


Poinsettias are used primarily for ornamental purposes (eg, during the Christmas season) but have also been used traditionally to treat skin conditions, warts, and toothaches; however, clinical data are lacking to support these uses.


No clinical evidence exists to support specific poinsettia dosing recommendations in a therapeutic context.


Contraindications have not been identified.


Avoid use. Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Allergy and contact dermatitis have been reported. Minor GI irritation following ingestion is possible but requires only supportive therapy.


Although many published reports include warnings regarding toxicity of the plant, there is little clinical evidence to support toxicity claims.

Scientific Family

  • Euphorbiaceae (spurge)


Poinsettia belongs to the Euphorbiaceae (spurge) family, which includes more than 1,000 herbs, shrubs, and trees. Many members of this family, including poinsettia, are characterized by the presence of a milky latex emulsion in the lactiferous vessels; when damaged, the plant secretes this latex. Poinsettia is a perennial ornamental found throughout warmer climates in the United States and Mexico. It has small yellow flowers and red leaves (bracts), which are prized for their decorative effect. Poinsettia has also been referred to as Euphorbia poinsettia Buist and Poinsettia pulcherrima Graham.(Trejo 2012, USDA 2021)


The poinsettia plant was brought from Mexico to the United States in the early 1800s by Joel Robert Poinsett, a physician, botanist, and US diplomat.(Trejo 2012) E. pulcherrima sap has been used as a depilatory agent, and extracts of the plant were used traditionally as an antipyretic and to stimulate lactation.(Duke 1992, Winek 1978)

Poinsettia has also been used as a natural remedy for warts and toothaches; however, the plant is now primarily used for decorative purposes.(Duke 1992, Trejo 2012)


Poinsettia stems and leaves may contain small amounts of alkaloids; however, there are conflicting data regarding the presence of these compounds. The latex or milky sap contains aminobutyric acids, cycloartenol, and pseudotaraxasterol.(Duke 1992) Although saponic glycosides and diterpene esters from the sap are often believed to be toxic, there is little evidence to support toxicity claims.(Cortinovis 2013, Petersen 2011)

Compounds found in the leaves and stems include germanicol, beta-amyrin, pulcherol, octaeicosanol, beta-sitosterol, rubber, caffeic acid, and anthocyanin.(Duke 1992) Chemical constituents of the flowers and fruit have also been described.(Duke 1992, Gupta 1983)

A unique new triterpenoid, eupulcherol A, has been isolated from poinsettia and has demonstrated some anti-Alzheimer activity in a transgenic worm model.(Yu 2020)

Uses and Pharmacology

Alzheimer disease

In vitro data

Anti-Alzheimer activity has been demonstrated in vitro.(Yu 2020)

Antiviral activity

In vitro data

Crude E. pulcherrima extract exhibited some antiviral activity in vitro; however, further fractionation resulted in loss of effect.(Forero 2008)

CNS effects

Animal data

Effects of dried poinsettia latex on the CNS, including antinociceptive, anticonvulsant, motor coordination, sedative-hypnotic potentiation, and antianxiety effects, were evaluated in rodents. Only anticonvulsant effects were observed.(Singh 2012)

Molluscicidal activity

Animal data

Molluscicidal activity against freshwater snails has been demonstrated with aqueous poinsettia latex extract.(Singh 2005)

Osteoclast inhibitory effects

In vitro data

Isolates from aerial parts of E. pulcherrima were evaluated for effects on osteoclastogenesis. Some compounds showed in vitro concentration-dependent inhibition of osteoclastogenesis in bone marrow macrophage cells.(Dai 2019)


No clinical evidence exists to support specific poinsettia dosing recommendations in a therapeutic context.

Pregnancy / Lactation

Avoid use. Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Traditional use as a galactogenic agent has not been clinically supported.(Winek 1978)


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Reports of contact dermatitis(D'Arcy 1974, Massmanian 1998) and allergy with rhinitis and asthma exist,(Ibáñez 2004) especially in atopic individuals.(Aydin 2014, Evens 2012)


Although many published reports include warnings regarding toxicity of the poinsettia plant, there is little clinical evidence to support toxicity claims.(Evens 2012, Winek 1978) The apparent source of these reports is a single, poorly documented 1919 case in which a 2-year-old child in Hawaii died after ingesting poinsettia leaves.(Evens 2012, Krenzelok 1996, Winek 1978)

Due to the bright color of the foliage, ingestion by children is common; however, there are very few poison center reports of adverse effects.(Evens 2012, Krenzelok 1996)

Supportive therapy is recommended; lavage or induction of vomiting is not necessary.(Krenzelok 1996)

Reports of toxicity (increased salivation, vomiting, and, rarely, diarrhea) in domestic cats, thought to be due to diterpenoid esters, have been published.(Botha 2009, Cortinovis 2013)

Diterpenes found in other Euphorbia spp. and responsible for GI upset are not found in E. pulcherrima.(Evens 2012) Toxicity studies in rodents showed no evidence of toxicity, even following instillation of the plant's latex into the eyes.(Evens 2012, Runyon 1980, Stone 1971)

Minor skin irritation has been observed in rabbits after repeated exposure.(D'Arcy 1974, Evens 2012)

Index Terms

  • Euphorbia poinsettia Buist
  • Poinsettia pulcherrima Graham



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Singh A, Singh SK. Molluscicidal evaluation of three common plants from India. Fitoterapia. 2005;76(7-8):747-751.16253436
Singh KK, Rauniar GP, Sangraula H. Experimental study of neuropharmacological profile of Euphorbia pulcherrima in mice and rats. J Neurosci Rural Pract. 2012;3(3):311-319. doi:10.4103/0976-3147.10261223188984
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Further information

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