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 Drugs.com. Last updated on Mar 22, 2021.
Poinsettias are used primarily as Christmas ornamentation but have been used traditionally to treat skin conditions, warts, and toothaches; however, clinical studies are lacking to support these uses.
No recent clinical evidence exists to support specific dosing of poinsettia 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.
Allergy and contact dermatitis have been reported. Minor GI irritation following ingestion is possible requiring only supportive therapy.
Although many published reports have warned of the plant's toxicity, there is little clinical evidence to support this claim.
- 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 found in the lactiferous vessels. When damaged, the plants secrete this latex. Poinsettia is a perennial ornamental found throughout warmer climates in the United States and Mexico. The plant has small yellow flowers and red leaves (bracts), which are prized for their decorative effect. The plant has also been referred to as Euphorbia poinsettia Buist and Poinsettia pulcherrima Graham.Trejo 2012, USDA 2015
The poinsettia plant was brought from Mexico to the United States by Joel Robert Poinsett, a physician, botanist, and US diplomat, in the early 1800s.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, although the plant is now primarily used for decorative purposes.Duke 1992, Trejo 2012
The 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 of the plant's toxicity.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
Uses and Pharmacology
Crude E. pulcherrima extract exhibited some antiviral activity; however, further fractionation resulted in loss of this effect.Forero 2008
Molluscicidal activity against fresh water snails has been demonstrated with aqueous poinsettia latex extract.Singh 2005
Effects of dried poinsettia latex on the CNS, including antinociception, anticonvulsant, motor coordination, sedative-hypnotic potentiation, and antianxiety effects, were evaluated in rodents; only anticonvulsant effects were observed.Singh 2012
Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of poinsettia.
Clinical evidence does not support specific dosing of poinsettia 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.
Although many published reports have warned of the plant's toxicity, there is little clinical evidence to support this claim.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 the plant 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 However, the diterpenes responsible for GI upset that are found in other members of the Euphorbia spp. are not found in E. pulcherrima.Evens 2012 Toxicity studies in rodents show 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 after repeated exposure in rabbits.D'Arcy 1974, Evens 2012
- Euphorbia poinsettia Buist
- Poinsettia pulcherrima Graham
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