Phytochemical, antioxidant and anti-cancer properties of Euphorbia tirucalli methanolic and aqueous extracts

Benjamin Munro, Quan V. Vuong, Anita C. Chalmers, Chloe D. Goldsmith, Michael C. Bowyer, Christopher J. Scarlett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)
69 Downloads (Pure)


Euphorbia tirucalli is a succulent shrub or small tree that is native to the African continent, however, it is widely cultivated across the globe due to its use in traditional medicines to treat ailments, ranging from scorpion stings to HIV. Recent studies have identified compounds present in the latex of the plant, including a range of bi- and triterpenoids that exhibit bioactivity, including anticancer activity. This study aimed to optimize water extraction conditions for high-yield total phenolic content recovery, to prepare methanol and aqueous extracts from the aerial sections of the plant, and to test the phytochemical, antioxidant, and anti-cancer properties of these extracts. Water extraction of total phenolic compounds (TPC) was optimized across a range of parameters including temperature, extraction time, and plant mass-to-solvent ratio. The water extract of the E. tirucalli powder was found to contain TPC of 34.01 mg GAE (gallic acid equivalents)/g, which was approximately half that of the methanol extract (77.33 mg GAE/g). The results of antioxidant assays showed a uniform trend, with the methanol extract’s antioxidant reducing activity exceeding that of water extracts, typically by a factor of 2:1. Regression analysis of the antioxidant assays showed the strongest correlation between extract TPC and antioxidant activity for the ABTS (2,2-azino-bis(3-ethyl-benzothiazoline-6-sulfonic acid) and DPPH (2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl) methods. The methanol extract also showed greater growth inhibition capacity towards the MiaPaCa-2 pancreatic cancer cell line. These data suggest that further investigations are required to confirm the source of activity within the E. tirucalli leaf and stems for potential use in the nutraceutical and pharmaceutical industries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)647-661
Number of pages15
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes


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