Are Euphorbia Poisonous to Humans? What You Need to Know

Are euphorbia poisonous to humans? It’s a valid question that we should all answer before keeping these plants at home. Euphorbias are popular because of their unique shapes, vibrant colors, and ease of care. However, just like other plant species, euphorbias can also have toxic properties that can cause harm to humans and animals.

Euphorbias contain a poisonous sap that can cause skin irritation, swelling, and even blindness, especially when it comes in contact with the eyes or mouth. Moreover, some species produce a milky white sap that can lead to severe allergic reactions, including respiratory problems and anaphylaxis. Despite these risks, euphorbias are still a popular choice among gardeners and homeowners because of their beauty, low-maintenance, and drought-tolerance.

So, what should you do if you have a euphorbia plant in your garden or home? First and foremost, be aware of its potential toxicity and take measures to keep it out of reach of children and pets. Wear protective gloves and clothing when handling a euphorbia and avoid rubbing your eyes or eating after touching it. Lastly, educate yourself about the different species of euphorbia, their specific toxic properties, and how to properly care for them to minimize the risks of toxicity.

Types of Euphorbia Plants

Euphorbias are a diverse group of plants that belong to the Euphorbiaceae family. There are over 2,000 species of Euphorbia plants, ranging from succulents to shrubs and even trees. Each species has its unique characteristics, but some are more commonly seen in gardens than others. Some of the most popular types of Euphorbia plants include:

  • Euphorbia milii – also known as the ‘Crown of Thorns,’ this succulent plant produces beautiful pink, red, and white flowers. It is native to Madagascar and is often grown as a houseplant.
  • Euphorbia tirucalli – also called ‘Pencil Cactus,’ this plant is a popular choice for a low-maintenance houseplant due to its drought-tolerant nature. It is native to tropical areas of Africa and produces pencil-like stems that can grow up to 30 feet tall.
  • Euphorbia pulcherrima – commonly known as the ‘Poinsettia,’ this plant is a staple during the holiday season. Its bright red and green leaves make it a popular choice for festive decorations.
  • Euphorbia obesa – named after its spherical shape, this rare succulent grows in South Africa’s arid regions. It can be challenging to grow due to its specific temperature and soil requirements.

These are just some of the many types of Euphorbia plants available. They all have different care requirements to thrive and may range from poisonous to non-toxic for humans and animals.

Symptoms of Euphorbia Poisoning

Euphorbia, a genus of plants that includes more than 2,000 species, is known as a notorious toxic plant to both humans and animals. While not all species of euphorbia are poisonous, several of them can cause severe health problems if ingested or touched. Symptoms of euphorbia poisoning can range from mild to severe and vary based on various factors such as the species of euphorbia, amount ingested, and the individual’s health condition. Some common symptoms of euphorbia poisoning include:

  • Stomach upset and diarrhea
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Severe abdominal cramps
  • Dizziness and headache
  • Fever and chills
  • Difficulty in breathing and swallowing
  • Burning and itching sensation on the skin
  • Rash and blistering on the skin
  • Eye irritation and swelling
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure

If you suspect that you or someone you know has ingested any part of the euphorbia plant, seek immediate medical attention. It is important to note that some species of euphorbia may cause delayed symptoms, which may take several hours or days to appear.

The table below provides an overview of some common species in the Euphorbia genus that are known to be poisonous and their associated symptoms. It is important to note that this is not an exhaustive list and that symptoms may vary based on several factors:

Species Name Symptoms
Euphorbia lactea (Mottled Spurge) Stomach pain, vomiting, burning sensation in the mouth, eyes, and skin
Euphorbia tirucalli (Pencil Cactus) Severe stomach pain, cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea
Euphorbia pulcherrima (Poinsettia) Mild stomach discomfort, vomiting, and diarrhea
Euphorbia ingens (Candelabra Tree) Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and skin irritation
Euphorbia milii (Crown of Thorns) Stomach cramps, burning sensation in the mouth and throat, vomiting, and diarrhea

To conclude, euphorbia poisoning is a serious health concern that should not be taken lightly. It is best to avoid any contact with euphorbia plants and seek immediate medical attention if you suspect that you or someone you know has been exposed to these toxic plants.

Treatment for Euphorbia Poisoning

Getting exposed to euphorbia plants can lead to some complications. Although the symptoms may vary depending on the type of euphorbia species, exposure to the sap of any euphorbia can be toxic to humans and animals. If you suspect that you have been exposed to euphorbia sap, you must seek medical attention immediately. Before seeing a doctor, here are some first-aid procedures to follow:

  • Wash the area with soap and water as soon as possible to remove the sap that may be on your skin or clothes.
  • If the sap gets into your eyes, flush it out with plenty of water. You may need to hold your eye open with your fingers and pour water in from a nearby faucet or showerhead for at least 15 minutes.
  • If you swallow the sap, rinse your mouth with water and drink plenty of water or milk to remove any sap that may have stuck in your throat or esophagus.

Medical treatment for euphorbia poisoning may vary depending on the severity of the symptoms you are experiencing. If you’re experiencing mild symptoms such as skin irritation, redness, or itchiness, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter antihistamine or hydrocortisone creams, or oral antihistamines to control the allergy. On the other hand, if your symptoms are severe, your doctor may give you prescription-strength antihistamines or corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and ease your breathing.

If you have ingested the sap, it is crucial to get it out of your stomach as soon as possible. Depending on the amount of sap you have swallowed, your doctor may prescribe an emetic or perform gastric lavage to remove the contents of your stomach. In some cases, activated charcoal may also be given to absorb any remaining toxin that has yet to be absorbed by the body. In severe cases of euphorbia poisoning, hospitalization may be required to manage the symptoms and provide supportive care.

First Aid Treatment for Euphorbia Poisoning Medical Treatment for Euphorbia Poisoning
Wash the area with soap and water Antihistamine or hydrocortisone creams
Flush the sap out of your eyes with water Oral antihistamines
Drink plenty of water or milk Prescription-strength antihistamines or corticosteroids
Rinse your mouth with water Gastric lavage
Seek medical attention immediately Activated charcoal

It is important to note that not all cases of euphorbia poisoning require medical attention. Mild skin irritation or minor exposure to the sap can be treated at home with first-aid procedures and over-the-counter medication. However, if you experience any severe symptoms after being exposed to euphorbia plants, do not hesitate to seek medical attention immediately.

Common Euphorbia Poisoning Cases

Euphorbia plants are a popular choice for gardens and indoor plants due to their unique appearance. Unfortunately, many species of euphorbia are known to be poisonous to humans. Some cases of euphorbia poisoning have been reported, and they vary in severity depending on the species of euphorbia ingested.

Common Euphorbia Poisoning Symptoms

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Headache

In severe cases, euphorbia poisoning can cause life-threatening symptoms such as seizures and cardiac arrest. It is important to seek medical attention immediately if any symptoms occur after ingesting a euphorbia plant.

Types of Euphorbia and their Poisonous Properties

There are over 2,000 species of euphorbia, and some are more poisonous than others. Here are some common types of euphorbia and their poisonous properties:

Type of Euphorbia Poisonous Properties
Euphorbia milii (Crown of Thorns) Causes skin irritation and gastrointestinal upset
Euphorbia tirucalli (Pencil Cactus) Causes severe skin irritation and eye damage
Euphorbia ingens (Candelabra Tree) Affects the heart and can cause cardiac arrest
Euphorbia hirta (Asthma-Weed) Can cause respiratory distress and allergic reactions

It is important to exercise caution when handling and consuming euphorbia plants. Always wear gloves and protect your eyes, and do not allow children or pets to ingest or come into contact with these plants. When in doubt, consult a medical professional.

Dangers of Euphorbia Ingestion for Pets

Euphorbia plants are a popular choice for gardeners due to their hardiness and ornamental features. However, these plants can pose a serious threat to pets if ingested.

  • Oral irritation: Euphorbia plants contain a white milky sap that can cause severe irritation to the mouth and throat of pets. This can lead to excessive drooling, vomiting, and difficulty swallowing.
  • Gastrointestinal upset: Ingesting large quantities of euphorbia can cause pets to experience diarrhea and abdominal pain. This can lead to dehydration and further complications.
  • Cardiac effects: Some species of euphorbia can cause cardiac arrhythmias in pets. This is especially dangerous for animals with pre-existing heart conditions.

If you suspect that your pet has ingested euphorbia, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately. Treatment may include administering activated charcoal to absorb the toxins, as well as providing supportive care to manage any symptoms.

To prevent accidental ingestion, keep euphorbia plants out of reach of pets and ensure that they are not used in areas where animals may graze or play.

Common Name Scientific Name
Poinsettia Euphorbia pulcherrima
Crown-of-thorns Euphorbia milii
Spurge Euphorbia amygdaloides

Remember, prevention is the best way to keep your pets safe from euphorbia poisoning. If you have any concerns about the safety of your garden or indoor plants, consult with a veterinarian or horticulturist for advice.

How to Identify Euphorbia Plants

Euphorbia plants are a diverse group of plants that can vary in appearance and size. With over 2,000 species, identifying a Euphorbia plant can be challenging. However, knowing what to look for can make it easier. Here are some key characteristics to look for when trying to identify a Euphorbia plant:

  • Euphorbia plants have a milky sap that contains white latex, which can be toxic in some species. It is important to wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly after handling them.
  • Most Euphorbia plants have small, inconspicuous flowers that are either yellow or greenish-yellow.
  • Their leaves are usually small and simple, and are often arranged in patterns along the stem.

While these characteristics can give you a general idea of what to look for, there are some commonly found species of Euphorbia plants that have distinct features:

The Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii) is a popular plant for its colorful flowers. It has long, sharp thorns and leaves that are round and fleshy.

The Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is a common holiday plant that has bright red or green leaves.

The Candelabra Tree (Euphorbia ingens) is a succulent tree that can grow up to 30 feet tall. It has multiple branches that resemble candelabras.

The Toxicity of Euphorbia Plants

It is important to note that some species of Euphorbia plants can be toxic, both to humans and animals. While the level of toxicity can vary by species, it is best to err on the side of caution and avoid ingesting any part of a Euphorbia plant. Symptoms of toxicity can include skin irritation, burning in the mouth or throat, vomiting, and diarrhea.


While identifying a Euphorbia plant can be challenging, knowing what to look for can help make it easier. Always exercise caution when handling Euphorbia plants, and avoid ingesting any part of them. If you suspect that you have been exposed to a toxic Euphorbia species, seek medical attention immediately.

Euphorbia plant Toxicity level
Euphorbia pulcherrima (Poinsettia) Low
Euphorbia antisyphilitica (Candelilla) Low to moderate
Euphorbia milii (Crown of Thorns) Low to moderate
Euphorbia esula (Leafy Spurge) Moderate to high
Euphorbia resinifera (Moroccan Mound) High

Table: Levels of toxicity for commonly-found Euphorbia species.

Preventing Euphorbia Poisoning at Home

As euphorbias are known to be toxic to humans, it is important to take precautions to prevent any accidental exposure to this plant in your home.

  • Keep euphorbias out of reach of children and pets, as they may be tempted to touch or ingest the plant.
  • Wear gloves when handling euphorbias and avoid getting the sap on your skin or eyes.
  • If you have a cut or open wound on your skin, avoid handling euphorbias as the sap can be absorbed into the skin and cause irritation or allergic reactions.

If you suspect that you, a family member, or a pet has come into contact with euphorbia sap, follow these steps immediately:

  • Wash the affected area with soap and water for at least 10 minutes.
  • Rinse the area with running water to remove any remaining sap.
  • If the eyes have been exposed, flush them with running water for at least 15 minutes.
  • Seek medical attention or contact a poison control center if any symptoms develop, such as skin irritation, rash, or difficulty breathing.

Below is a table of common household euphorbias that are toxic to humans:

Euphorbia species Toxic parts Symptoms of exposure
Euphorbia milii Sap Skin irritation, rash, eye irritation, stomach upset
Euphorbia tirucalli Sap Skin irritation, rash, eye irritation, stomach upset
Euphorbia pulcherrima (poinsettia) Sap and leaves Mild skin irritation, stomach upset

By taking these simple precautions, you can enjoy the beauty of euphorbias in your home without putting yourself, your family, or your pets at risk of poisoning.

FAQs about are euphorbia poisonous to humans

1. Are all types of euphorbia poisonous to humans?

Yes, all varieties of euphorbia are poisonous because they contain a milky sap that can irritate the skin and cause severe discomfort if ingested.

2. Can touching a euphorbia plant make you sick?

Yes, touching a euphorbia plant can cause skin irritation, allergies or rashes because of its milky sap. If the sap comes into contact with your eyes, it can cause irritation or temporary blindness.

3. Can euphorbia poisoning be fatal?

Yes, euphorbia poisoning can be fatal in rare cases, mostly when the milky sap comes into contact with the eye gland or when ingested in large quantities.

4. What are the common symptoms of euphorbia poisoning?

Symptoms include skin irritation, rashes, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, burning sensation in the mouth, eyes and throat, and temporary vision loss.

5. What should I do if I come in contact with euphorbia sap?

Wipe the sap off with a damp cloth or tissue immediately, and wash the affected area with soap and water or a saline solution. Seek medical treatment if you experience any symptoms.

6. Can euphorbia be safely used for medicinal purposes?

Yes, some species of euphorbia have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries, but it must be used under the guidance of a trained medical professional.

7. How can I prevent euphorbia poisoning?

Wear gloves and protective clothing when handling euphorbia plants, and avoid touching your eyes or mouth before washing your hands. Keep euphorbia plants out of reach of children and pets.

Closing Thoughts

Thanks for taking the time to read about whether euphorbia plants are poisonous to humans. Remember to handle euphorbia plants with care and always seek medical treatment if you experience any symptoms of poisoning. Check out our website for more articles on plant safety and other gardening tips!