Ethnomedicinal Uses of tawatawa (Euphorbia hirta Linn.) in Selected Communities in the Philippines: a Non-invasive Ethnographic Survey Using Pictures for Plant Identification

  • Hilton Y. Lam
  • Marco Nemesio E. Montaño
  • Isidro C. Sia
  • Francisco M. Heralde III
  • Lotgarda Tayao
Keywords: Euphorbia hirta, ethnomedicine, Philippines, tawatawa


Background. There is a growing interest in the use of Euphorbia hirta Linn. as herbal remedy for dengue, supposedly based on folkloric practice. However, there has been no ethnobotanical documentation of such use in the Philippines. Because of this, the medical community cautions the public against the sole use of E. hirta in treating dengue.

General Objective. To describe the ethnomedicinal uses of Euphorbia hirta Linn. In selected communities in the Philippines.

Specific Objectives. (1) To identify the vernacular names of the plant; (2) to identify the earliest known use of the plant against dengue infection and for other indications; (3) to document the methods of preparation and administration, side effects, and contraindications of use.

Methods. Cross-sectional descriptive design using the snowball sampling of interviewer-guided key informants for the ethnobotanical interview.

Limitations. The results of this study may be limited by its convenient sampling design and the use of plant pictures with different magnifications.

Results and Conclusion. Majority of the respondents were female (93%), 41-60 years old (39%), had high school education (43%), and resided in Quezon City (31%). The plant is locally known as tawatawa, butobutonesan, malagatas, and mangagaw. It has been used to treat fever in the Philippines as early as 1948. Its use as a treatment for dengue started only in the 1980s. The plant is either squeezed, crushed, or boiled, and is administered topically or orally. The only reported side-effect is increased urinary frequency.

Recommendations. It is recommended that more comprehensive and large scale studies be conducted, including: (1) identification of folkloric uses of E. hirta for the treatment of other diseases; (2) determination of different concentrations of extract (crude or semicrude) using the various reported preparations for optimal outcomes for the different reported medicinal uses.


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