Tawa Tawa

From the Republic of the Philippines 
Department of Agriculture Bureau of Plant Industry

EUPHORBIA PILULIFERA Linn.

  • GATAS-GATAS
  • Euphorbia capitata Lam.
  • Euphorbia hirta Linn.
  • Local names: Bambanilag (If.); botobotonis (Tag.); bolobotonis (Pamp.); bobi (Bis.); botonis (Ilk.); bugayau (S.L. Bis.); butobutonisan (Tag.); gatas-gatas (Bis., Tag.); magatas (Pamp.); malis-malis (Pamp.); maragatas (Ilk.); pansi-pansi (Bik.); patik-patik (Sul.); piliak (Sub.); saikan (Tag.); sisiohan (Pamp.); soro-soro (Bik.); tababa (Bis.); tairas (Iv.); tauataua (P. Bis.); teta (Bon.); Australian asthma weed, snake weed, cat's hair (Engl.).

Gatas-gatas is usually very abundant throughout the Philippines in waste places, open grasslands, etc. It is pantropic in distribution.

The plant is an annual, hairy herb, usually much - branched from the base - these branches being simple or forked and ascending or spreading - up to 40 centimeters long, and often reddish or purplish. The leaves are opposite, distichous, elliptic-oblong to oblong-lanceolate, 1 to 2.5 centimeters long, toothed at the margin, and usually botched with purple in the middle. The involucres are very much numerous, greenish or purplish, about 1 millimeter long, and borne on dense, axillary, stalkless or short-stalked clusters or crowded cymes. The capsules are broadly ovoid, about 1.5 millimeters long or less, hairy, and three-angled.

According to Power and Browning, Jr., who conducted chemical studies of the plant, from the portion of the alcoholic extract which was soluble in water the following substances were isolated: (1) Gallic acid; (2) quercetin C15H10O7; and (3) a new phenolic substance, C28H18O15.

The aqueous liquid contained, furthermore a considerable quantity of amorphous glucosidic material, together with a laevorotatory sugar which yielded d-phenylglucosazone (m.,p. 218-220°). There were also indications of the presence of an exceedingly small amount of alkaloidal substance, but this did not permit of being further characterized.

The portion of the alcoholic extract, which was insoluble in water consisted of soft, resinous material, amounting to about 3.2 percent of the weight of the air-dried plant. From this material there were isolated: (4) Triacontane, C30H62, with apparently a little (5) ceryl alcohol, C27H56O; and (6) a new monohydric alcohol, euphosterol, C25H39OH (m.,p. 274-297°), which yielded an acetyl derivative (m., p. 295-297°) and a bromoacetyl derivative (m., p. 183-186°). Euphosterol is evidently closely related to the compounds designated respectively as androsterol, homoandrosterol, taraxasterol and homotaraxasterol, all of which appear to be members of a series of monohydric alcohols represented by the general formula, CnH2n0-10 O. Also present are (7) a phytosterol ( m., p. 132-133°); (8) a phytosteroin (phytosterol glucoside); (9) jambulol, C16H3O4 (OH); (10) melissic acid, C30H60O2; and a mixture of acids which appeared to consist chiefly of palmitic, oleic and linolic acids.

Among the various above-mentioned constituents of Euphorbia pilulifera there are none to which any specific physiological action may be ascribed. Such therapeutic virtues as the plant has been presumed to possess would therefore not appear to depend upon any single substance of a definite chemical character. Dutt remarks that recent chemical research shows that some of the constituents of the plant are similar to those of the jambul (Syzygium cumini) seeds.

Marsset, who studied the pharmacological action of this euphorbia extract, found that it had a depressant action on the heart and respiration and produced a relaxation of the bronchioles by its central action. She continues by saying that intravenous injections do not produce any vomiting, showing that the drug is a true local irritant. Its pharmacological action so far investigated indicates that its use in spasmodic conditions of the respiratory tract at least is rational. She continues that it has produced good results in dyspnoea due to asthma and emphysema.

In the Philippines the leaves are mixed with Datura metel leaves and flowers in the preparation of "asthma-cigarettes". Father Alzina reports that the latex is prescribed in asthma. According to Guerrero, the entire plant is used as an antidote, being considered haemostatic, sedative and soporific. In decoction it is very efficacious for allaying the dyspnoea of asthmatics. Its haemostatic action had been previously reported by Father Alzina, Father de Sta. Maria, Father Blanco, and Tavera. In addition, Father de Sta. Maria says the latex is esthetic.

According to Nadkarni, Dymock, Warden and Hooper, and Bocquillon-Limousin the fluid extract or the tincture is most suitable in dyspnoea due to asthma, in bronchitis of old people, in emphysema, and in the pulmonary cardiac disease, angina pectoris. Its action is not cumulative. Nadkarni adds that it should be given after meals. It is a very useful remedy for acute and chronic dysentery. The tincture is anthelmintic and is applied for cure of ringworm.

It is popularly used in Australia and other places for asthma and pectoral complaints. In India the plant is used largely in affections of children, chiefly in bowel complaints and chest affections. The milky juice is dropped into the eyes for conjunctivitis and ulcerated cornea.

It is said to be used in a decoction for gonorrhea in Brazil, possibly because it acts as a diuretic, and it is also used for asthma.

The root is given by the Santals to allay vomiting, and the plant is given to nursing mothers when the supply of milk is deficient or fails. In the Gold Coast it is ground and mixed with water for use as an enema for constipation. The herb is very much used in La Reunion as an astringent in chronic diarrheas and dysenteries. The roots are employed in intermittent fevers.

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