Euphorbia peplus


Euphorbia peplus, commonly known in Australia as Radium weed or milkweed, or cancer weed is classed as a non-invasive weed, and most probably was introduced to Australia by European settlers in the early 1800s for its historical medicinal use as a purgative

Some folklore suggested that the irritant sap was applied to warts, corns, waxy growths, sun cancers and rodent ulcers, but this is hard to qualify this absolutely.


My own introduction to the weed was through my Granfather who, having skin that was more suited to his home country of Scotland suffered with consistant outbreaks of basal cell carcinoma's, commonly referred to by many of his generation as 'sunspots'.
This treatment became a tradition in our family as my mother and consequently myself, inherited these genetic traits.

I have been using the sap, as the need arose, for well over 20 years and have found it a clean, convenient and extremely effective treatment with no adverse reactions and no scarring, but occasionally there is a pigmentation change in the area, as a reminder.

General information

It's native origins of Radium Weed are a little obscure and it may well have originated in the northern Mediterranian region but it is now so widespread throughout the world that it can be found in most gardens.

Radium weed is not classified as a noxious weed in any Australian State. It grows rapidly, self seeds easily and it is wonderfully suitable for anyone to grow in even the smallest home garden.

  • Questions & Answers
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    About the Herb and where it came from


    Radium weed is not classified as a noxious weed in any Australian State. It grows rapidly, self seeds easily and it is wonderfully suitable for anyone to grow in even the smallest home garden.
    It's native origins are a little obscure and it may well have originated in the northern Mediterranian region but it is now so widespread throughout the world that it can be found in most gardens.

    The Euphorbiaceae family covers a wide variety of plants (almost 2000) including herbs, trees and slow-growing succulents.
    When the stems are cut, many members exude a milky sap (latex) which has an unpleasant taste and is toxic when ingested in significant quantities.
    Such chemical properties, combined with the presence of thorns on some species are probably useful to protect the plant from grazing in the arid regions of the world where many of the family originate.
    The presence of so many members of the Milkweed family, all producing the characteristic milky sap, is the first reason for caution when selecting the weed for use as a treatment.
    Euphorbia peplus is the only member of the family that exhibits exactly the right chemical combination, to be useful in the treatment of BCC's and SCC's.
    Most of the sap bearing plants that are related to it are toxic or caustic and can be extremely harmful to the human animal.
    Wild harvesting can be very dangerous, even if it only from the next door neighbour's garden.
    Growing your own, from guaranteed seed is the safest way to produce the most benificial result.

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    The Research

    Basal cell carcinomas (BCC) and Squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) are the most common human cancers, and most Australians will develop one or more BCC or SCC during their lifetimes.
    Mortality from melanoma is about 50% in the state of Queensland.
    As of 2009 the treatment of non-melanoma skin cancer costs over $200 million dollars in Australia, making it a very expensive cancer.
    Western countries with less UV flux than Australia also have high incidences of non-melanoma skin cancer, due to our love of the outdoors.
    In the US, the annual cost of non-melanoma skin cancer has been estimated at US$3.5 billion.
    Growing your own remedy is obiviously a simple, reliable method of treating these skin cancers.

    There are a few points that need to be applied when using the raw sap.

    1. When plucking the stems to extract sap, choose the small stems first.
    2. Do not allow the sap to get onto your fingers as it smears everywhere you touch and is very uncomfortable on lips or eyes.
    3. Apply the sap only to the most prominent tissue. It's caustic action will only irritate non cancerous skin and will not prevent an eruption.
    4. Do not overtreat. Once or twice per day is enough.
    5. Allow your plants to self seed our you will not have continual supply.

    While there are some mentions of Euphorbia peplus in historical texts, there seems to be very little actual use of the herb to treat cancers of any kind. Homeopathically, the herb has been used for over 100 years, but not necessarily to treat cancerous growths.

    The activity of the raw sap seem to lie in the in macrocyclic diterpenes of three families.

    These are Ingenane, Pepluane and Jatrophane.
    Pepluane and jatrophane are unusual molecules with unusual structure and they are reported to be non-inflammatory.
    Ingenane, on the other hand is responsible for the irritant properties of the raw sap.


    Over 70% of current pharmaceuticals are natural products or have been developed from a natural product lead.
    It is not 'alternative' to look to the plant world for treatment, it is really quite normal. Plant based medicine is mainstream.
    E.peplus is one of many plants in the Euphorbiaceae family that has been extensively used as a home remedy for skin cancer for at least the last 100 years.

    Unfortunately, most of the focus of attention on Euphorbia peplus has been to isolate the active constituents for large scale and highly commercial production of the remedy and secure the ownership of the active principles.


    Intellectual property surrounding the use of ingenane, jatrophanes and pepluane as anti-neoplastic differentiation control agents are the subject of patent application No. PCT/AU98/00656 and are the property of Peplin Biotech Pty Ltd.

    Regardless of the success of the patent applications and the ability to isolate or synthisize the components, the plant itself continues to grow and be useful in it's native form.
    Available to anyone with a little patch of dirt in which to thrive.

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    Growing your own treatment

    From many conversations with other sufferers, I have concluded that only foolish behaviour concerning the use of the herb has resulted in unwanted effects.
    Generally, once someone decides to begin to use the herb, it is impatience and a frantic desire to cure everything at once that is the stumbling block.
    If you can slow down your enthusiasm and carefully treat one BCC at a time, cleanly and sensibly, it will be effective and safe.

    Once you are confident that you have the genuine herb, it is straightforward to grow and use.

    Contrary to much published information, Radium weed will grow in full sun as well as part shade.

    A shady area will produce a taller plant with softer branch tissue and a deeper green colour.

    Full sun produces a sturdier plant, lighter in colour, often shorter and higher in sap content.

    In most temperate climates it will grow throughout the year but does best in full summer if it is watered often.

    The seed is best sown into loosly raked soil, covered lightly and then just left to germinate in it's own time.
    The plant reaches full maturity in 3 months, so buying a potted plant is not the best alternative as often it will be 'past' it's best time.
    Always allow some plants to remain untouched to ensure that self seeding can occur.

    The root system is fine and dense but not deep, so water frequently but not heavily.
    Remember that the plants are always happier without too much attention.

    In temperate climates, the plant will happily grow during all seasons, but in areas where cold winters and snow are common it can be grown under lights, indoors.

    It will need at least 8 - 10 hours of light per day or it will become thin and 'leggy' thus producing too few branches to be of any great use.

    Water well and often but allow the pot to drain well. They are not 'bog plants'.

    Radium weed thrives in slightly to very alkaline soil, and the sandier the better.

    It does not need fertilizer but the ocassional seaweed emulsion will keep it happy.

    As a weed, it enhances the soil, rather than consume as do most agri-crops.

    Do not mulch the plant as this will cause weak stems and make it struggle.



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    If you want to buy the seed

    To grow your own Radium Weed

    Packet of 30 seeds - including packing and postage $6.90 AU

    Packet of 60 seeds - including packing and postage $9.90 AU

    Packet of 90 seeds - including packing and postage $12.50 AU

    Bulk buy seeds 1 gram packet -aprox 1,600 fresh seeds, - including packing and postage (Registered Post only in Australia) $150.00 AU

    International Post/ Essential for seed purchase outside Australia $3.50 AU

    If you would like to buy 'The Little Radium Weed Book' to read more about using and growing the herb, it is available as a single download as either an epub or pdf, or both if you wish, optimized for mobile devices.


    For the complete herb and seed shopping experience, visit our Australian Gardener website..(click here)

    Questions and Answers:

    Q1.Go To Top EXCELLENT idea to add the Petty Spurge Information Site to
    It helps the customer and saves you time/typing. That have yet another question, but it's something you may wish to add to your Info page (I rationalize that I'm actually "helping" you by asking...[cringe]).
    I assume nearly all buyers of Petty Spurge seeds plant them for medicinal purposes, and Petty Spurge is an annual with a limited life span. I want to stagger two plantings to ensure that mature plants are always available. Is that possible? I've been researching online, but still don't understand the life cycle of the plant. I need to know:
    What is the expected life span of the plant?
    A1. Typical lifespan depends heavily on how frequently the plant is harvested for sap. If left untouched, life span is usually 5-6 months. With frequent harvesting, lifespan can be increased by one month, (aprox) The plants begin to die when their seed crop is mature. So, best practice is keep one plant aside (not harvested for sap) always as your self seed producer.

    Q2. Is the life span based on a particular growing season? Or is it a fixed number of months? I'll grow them in planters indoors during the winter, and also wheel them outdoors in temperate Spring, Summer and Fall.
    A2. Test the first lot of seed for germination time and allow one month between plantings.

    Q3. In brief: If first planting is at September 1, when should second planting occur? Best regards and thanks,
    Tom Burgess
    A3. The time from planting to germination will depend on day length, so indoors is anyone's guess initially. You can begin breaking small stems for sap when the plants are quite young (3 inches high), just don't snap the main stem, only branches, at any stage of the plants growth. I hope this helps.

    So, second planting should occur on November 1 + germination period.

    Q4. Hi - I got some petty spurge seeds from you and have had great success with them in a pot. Now that winter is approaching, in Idaho (USA) I wonder what I can do to get through the winter. Can I simply leave the pot out in the cold or should I bring it indoors and take it out for watering and sun on mild winter days? Hate to bother you but I can't get any answers here in Idaho. Many thanks, Den

    A4. If bringing them in is convenient, then please do so as your chances of getting them to self seed are higher, the longer they live. We recommend always leaving one plant untouched, (if you can stop yourself) to allow for good seed formation. The seed will quite naturally fall and will germinate in the same pot easily, so that you always have a goodly supply of plants. We get frost in winter and the plants do survive, but it is safest not to risk it until you are confident that you have sufficient plants to fill your needs.