Applying Sap From Common Garden Weed ‘Could Cure Skin Cancer’

I don’ know about you but quite a few of my patients try this and have had some success.  Many call it chickweed.


The plant has been used for centuries as a traditional folk medicine to treat conditions such as warts, asthma and several types of cancer.

But for the first time a team of scientists in Australia has carried out a clinical study of sap from Euphorbia peplus, which is related to Euphorbia plants grown in gardens in the UK.

The study of 36 patients with a total of 48 non-melanoma lesions included basal cell carcinomas (BCC), squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) and intraepidermal carcinomas (IEC), a growth of cancerous cells confined to the outer layer of the skin.

Patients had failed to respond to conventional treatment including surgery, or they refused or were unsuitable for surgery because of their age.

The patients were treated once a day for three consecutive days by an oncologist using a cotton bud to apply enough of the E.peplus sap to cover the surface of each lesion.

The initial results were impressive, says findings to be released this week in the British Journal of Dermatology.

After only one month 41 of the 48 cancers had completely gone.

Patients who had some of the lesions remaining were offered a second course of treatment.

After an average of 15 months following treatment, two thirds of the 48 skin cancer lesions were still showing a complete response.

Of the three types of skin cancer tested, the final outcome was a 75 per cent complete response for IEC lesions, 57 per cent for BCC and 50 per cent for SCC lesions.

Side-effects were low, with 43 per cent of patients in no pain as a result of the treatment and only 14 per cent reporting moderate pain, and only one patient encountered severe short-term pain.

In all cases of successful treatment the skin was left with a good cosmetic appearance.

The researchers, from a number of medical institutions in Brisbane, attribute the benefit to the active ingredient ingenol mebutate which has been shown to destroy tumor cells.

British experts said further studies were needed and people should not try this at home as the weed sap can be harmful to the eyes and should not be eaten.

More than 76,500 people are diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer in the UK each year, with 90 per cent caused by ultraviolet light exposure.

Lesions usually appear on the areas most exposed to the sun, such as the head, neck, ears, and back of the hands.

Kimberley Carter of the British Association of Dermatologists said:

‘This is a very small test group so it will be interesting to see what larger studies and the development of the active ingredient in E. peplus sap will reveal.

‘Whilst it would not provide an alternative to surgery for the more invasive skin cancers or melanoma, in the future it might become a useful addition to the treatments available to patients for superficial, non-melanoma skin cancers.’

‘Any advances that could lead to new therapies for patients where surgery is not an option are definitely worth investigating.’

‘It is also very important to note that this is definitely not a treatment people should be trying out at home. Exposure of the sap to mucous producing surfaces, such as the eyes, results in extreme inflammation and can lead to hospitalization.’

‘The concentration of the active ingredients in the sap also varies between different plants, with high doses able to cause very severe and excessive inflammatory responses.’


  1. #1 by Ian McColl on January 30, 2011 - 12:40 am

    In my part of the world it is known as Radium Weed. The results at 15 months are not spectacular and I doubt it will become a viable commercial treatment. But it will be used by people, usually on inappropriate lesions I am afraid!

  2. #2 by hein vandenbergh on January 30, 2011 - 9:48 pm

    Hmm, ‘had not responded to surgery’ – which raises a prelim issue, incl accuracy of Dx. 1/3 had either not responded, or relapsed, at 18/12. Not wonderful figures. I think if this sort of stuff is going to be used, it should be supervised, with a tissue Dx first [as per imiquimod], and a follow-up regime put in place.

    However, my scepticism about ‘complimentary’ [ha!] remdies is such that I see more danger than good in this. Still there’d be a ready market for it in Byron, Nimbin, and other doctor-angst ridden sites on the Oz map.

    When I was at uni in the 60s, btw, chickweed was something altogether different.

  3. #3 by hiericsong on February 12, 2011 - 5:07 pm

    Dear Colleagues

    RPA dermatology unit is conducting a trial on a novel treatment for BCC.
    They are in need for help. They are looking for subjects with nodular BCC on trunk or extremities with diameter >8mm and they need around 6 extra patients. It involves localised injection to treat BCCs.
    If you have anyone with a BCC you don’t want to treat for whatever reason, please let me know so they can have a go with the new treatment at RPA. It is human ethics approved etc.

    Have a good weekend.


    Eric Song

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