Friday, February 15, 2013

Let's Get Petty

Petty Spurge that is.

Let me explain.  You see, last summer my husband looked at me and said, "What's that above your lip?"  I hadn't paid any attention before that but I realized that there was a sort of flaky patch above my lip on the left side.  Hummmph.  I kept an eye on it and noticed that it changed a bit from time to time.  Sometimes it would scab up a little and when the scab would come off there would be almost nothing there for a few days until it started flaking again.

So I went online to look at skin cancer.  I looked at pictures until I found something that looked about like what I had,
It looked about like this, but this isn't my pic
read the accompanying article and decided (after a bit more research) that it was an Actinic Keratosis
Not too big a deal actually.  It is a non-cancerous skin aberration that has only about a 20% chance of turning into squamous cell carcinoma.  I tried not to worry about it, but by the end of the summer the scabbing was happening more frequently, and I just didn't like it.

So I did some more research.  My mom had had a few small squamous cell carcinomas removed and I was pretty sure I didn't want to go that way if I could help it, I don't think I could afford it for one thing.  So I looked at other options.  There are several creams that dermatologists use to burn off small carcinomas, so I checked out the ingredients on each of them, side effects, etc.  Lo and behold, I came across one that is derived from a plant!  It's called Ingenol Mebutate and it comes from the Euphorbia Peplus plant (Petty Spurge).

The herbalist in me sprang to life!  I'll grow petty spurge and use the sap the way other people are doing!  Here's a link to a forum in which people are discussing their experiences with Petty Spurge.
So in November, I ordered some seeds and planted them as soon as they came.  The plants were initially soooo spindly that I thought I'd wasted my money, but now the plant is just lovely.

It's time to start experimenting.  I have a terrible habit of forgetting to take a before picture, so suffice it to say that it looked a little less scaly than the above photo before I treated it the first time on Saturday, February 9.  24 hours after the first treatment it looked like this:
During that 24 hours I never stopped feeling it.  It felt a little like tiny pins being lightly poked into my skin.  I added a new layer of sap and here's how it looked 24 hours after:
Gross.  I still felt it for the entire second day.  But now the scab was so thick that the third application did not feel like much.  I decided the scab was so thick that the good stuff wasn't getting through.  So in the morning I soaked it and gently washed my face taking care not to scrub hard on the affected spot.
Most of the scab was gone so I let it rest for the day and would re-apply sap again in the evening.  Once the scab dried, it started to pull at the skin causing the most painful segment of the treatment so far.  At night the spot looked like this:
The pulling on the skin was so irritating that I put vitamin E oil on it about an hour or so after the evening treatment.  I continued oiling it through the next day and before the fourth treatment, it looked thus:
So I guess it's a bit redder around the edges, but the scab both looked and felt less significant to me.

The redness is likely due to the effect that petty spurge has on surrounding tissues.  If you ever elect to treat yourself in this way you need to know that the sap from the plant is extremely aggressive and can do damage to unaffected areas.  Do not use it near your eyes!  Another route to take is dandelion, which is reportedly very effective, but less aggressive.  It can be used near the eyes though you should still be careful not to get it in your eyes.  I've been using dandelion through the early winter to keep my actinic keratosis at bay.  If this were the right time of year I would probably use it exclusively, but you just can't get dandelions to reliably grow in the winter.

Well anyway, I have treated the spot for the last time this week and 24 hours after that final treatment it's looking better to me.
I also soaked and washed it during that 24 hours.  I'm going to give my skin a break for a few days.  I'll keep up with the vitamin E oil and washings and when the scab comes off entirely I'll determine whether I should start another round of treatment.  The goal is to be completely rid of the Keratosis by the time I return to my day job as a power ranger in mid-March!

(For other posts on Petty Spurge, click here.)


  1. Rut roh. Noticed a few oddities here & there, myself. :(

    1. Well, if the experiment goes well I can grow you a plant!

  2. The active ingredient in the sap of the Petty Spurge (Euphorbia Peplus) is Ingenol Mebutate. This unique molecule does two things: 1) causes necrosis on rapidly dividing cells (keratosis and possibly carcinoma) 2) induces a strong wound healing response to repair the necrosis with healthy cell. The rub is that newly forming healthy cells are ALSO rapidly dividing cells. I would caution against overuse of the sap. Apply once a day for 3 days and then let it work. Do not keep applying because you may now be killing healthy cells. This is the challenge with basal cell carcinoma (BCC) that my have spread deeper into the tissues. More work needs to be done on how best to treat these types of lesions.

    1. Thank you for this response! I have been quite careful and have rarely used Petty Spurge for more than three days running. In my last set of treatments I probably did slightly more than you recommend here, but will not do so in the future. If future treatments are even necessary. Right now things are looking good!

  3. According to my dermatologist, it is standard procedure to allow 6 weeks for full healing between treatments. If you look at the clinical trials, you'll see that a course of daily applications over 3 days is typical.

  4. Thank you very much. It seems to me that that is a very good idea. The skin definitely needs ample rest because the treatment is so aggressive. I'm happy to report that at this point the original spot seems to be fully healed! There may be a new spot or two, I'm observing them right now. I hope that if I catch them early enough it will only take one or two treatments.

  5. Have you considered getting them scraped and tested to be sure they aren't BCC or SCC? (Sorry it's the oncology RN in me.)

    1. My hubby had a melanoma so I am a bit wary of just self treating. (It's my own personal bias for sure.) glad to read it improved.

    2. I was considering treatment when I came across info on one of the creams that are used to treat BCC and SCC and its principal component was petty spurge. If my treatment had now worked I probably would have gone to a doctor, but without insurance and not having a lot of spare money, The medical world doesn't tend to be my best option.