Euphorbia milii, the crown-of-thorns plant, has long been prized for its beautiful flowers. It has also been used in folk medicine. And thanks to modern science, new uses are being developed.
An Ornamental Plant
Euphorbia milii serves as a potted ornamental in many different countries. Tropical residents also use it for hedges or as a strategically placed cynosure in landscaping.
Euphorbia milii plays a role in folk medicine. The Chinese use it as a cure for cancer, and some Brazilians believe that it can cure warts.
Helps Prevent Schistosomiasis
Euphorbia milii can curb the spread of schistosomiasis, a disease of the liver. Its latex has ingredients that can kill snails of the genera Indoplanorbis and Biomphalaria, which are vectors (alternate hosts) of the flatworms which cause this disease.
Fungi of the genus Aspergillus produce a toxic substance called aflatoxin, which contaminates crops (e.g., corn and peanuts) and causes human diseases. Aflatoxin has even been implicated as a contributing factor in liver cancer. Euphorbia milii flowers, when dried and processed as powder, inhibit the growth of Aspergillus.
Milin, an extract of Euphorbia milii latex, is a glycosylated serine protease (an enzyme that breaks down protein and has a sugar attached to it). Because it is more stable than most proteases, it will be useful to food processers and makers of detergents who have been using proteases in their operations. Milin will also be useful to research scientists who use serine proteases to get rid of unwanted proteins so that they can obtain the ones they want in pure form.