Cactus sap causing Burning & Blistering

Discussion in 'Cacti and Succulents' started by AgentBen, Jun 4, 2008.

  1. AgentBen

    AgentBen Member

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    I handled cactus sap without washing afterwards. It was white and milky. I can't seem to find the cactus anywhere on any reference website. Does anyone know how to nuetralize burning and blistering caused be extended exposure to cactus sap? It was on my skin for two hours, a warming sensation followed, then it became very painful. By the fifth hour it felt burned, then blisters started to form. It has been nine hours since exposure and it's still painful. I have washed repeatedly, but too little to
    too late. I'm using a cold compress on the affected area. Can anyone tell me if there is some kind of thing I can use to nuetralize the base? Is there a remedy?
     
  2. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Renowned Contributor UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    It sounds like blistering from a Euphorbia (not a cactus, but commonly mistaken for one). You might (or might not) like to read about other people's experiences with a species of Euphorbia here.
     
  3. joclyn

    joclyn Rising Contributor

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    euphorbia, not cacti, have that white sap that can be an irritant. i'd think the effects, if you're susceptible to them, would be increased if the sap was left on the skin for a period of time.

    are you sure of what the plant was? there's some plant up there in canada that causes the same effect...i can't remember the name of it. it's some kind of weed thing that is kind of taking over up there (in some parts, maybe not all of the country). and the plant can get very, very large...

    sorry, i can't recall the name of it.
     
  4. constantgardener

    constantgardener Active Member

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  5. AgentBen

    AgentBen Member

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    This is the plant that gave me severe blisters. If anyone can tell me what kind of cactus this is, I would greatly appreciate it. If it's infamous for killing people after contact with broken skin, please let me know. So far, it's been 38 hours and the pain hasn't gone away. Blisters have formed in clusters. I'm taking tylenol and keeping an ice pack on it because it's the only way to stay comfortable. I've washed with cold water and soap several times. I think if it was going to kill me, I would know by now, but you can never be too careful. I had no idea cactai could kill you. Thank you for your help.

    B
     

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  6. joclyn

    joclyn Rising Contributor

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    that's a euphorbia trigona aka african milk tree. the sap won't kill you - it's just a nasty irritant to those that are sensitive to it.

    i'd keep up with the ice packs. that will certainly help relieve the irritation some.

    i can't find anything on the web about how to treat the resulting 'burn' from the sap...everything just says to not let it get on you and if it does, wash it off as soon as you can...

    you could ask your pharmacist what could be applied to relieve the pain/itchyness of di- and triterpens (the items in the sap that cause the problem) exposure. i don't know if something like caladryl lotion or the like would help.
     
  7. AgentBen

    AgentBen Member

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    You're very kind. Thank you for taking the time to respond. It's 48 hours later. Most of the pain is gone. Now I'm left with a slue of unsightly white blisters. I suppose it's getting better, but it looks awful. I'll leave the blisters intact to stave off infection. I think cactus plants should come with warnings.
     
  8. AgentBen

    AgentBen Member

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    Does the African Milk Tree have any medicinal qualities?
     
  9. karmahappytoes

    karmahappytoes Active Member

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    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthrothamnus

    AgentBen, one can run the name that joclyn supplied and one the links is above.
    I would recommend Benadryl for your allergic reaction if you plan to keep this a part of your collection. We got a 3" plant some 20+ years ago and she is what greets folks when they enter our home! One of our favorites and yes we have Benadryl on hand!
     
  10. lorax

    lorax Rising Contributor

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    I've had great success with treatment of Euphorbia-related burns by immersing the affected part in chilled alcohol. Down here we use Aguardiente, and my bet is Vodka is probably the cheapest solution for you. This and antihistamines are pretty much the only thing you can do for it; even Matico paste (common Ecuadorian burn remedy) didn't touch my Euphorb burns the first time I got them. Then again, I was dealing with E. tirucalli, which is far stronger than E. trigona.
     
  11. joclyn

    joclyn Rising Contributor

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    euphorbia are not cacti. they just look similar to some and grow in the same basic conditions.

    glad to hear that it's getting better, ben!! it should be all cleared up within a few days.

    and, duh!! i didn't even think about recommending benedryl. duh!! the basic treatment for allergic reactions...

    anyhoo. it's a hard way to learn a lesson...next time you need to do anything that requires cutting of this plant, wear gloves!! and lorax is correct, e. turicalli has a much nastier sap than the e. trigona.

    as for medicinal qualities...i did see a few things about that when i was looking for info the other day. basically, the types that have the more dangerous sap are/have been used for coating darts or arrows by the tribes native to the habitat. there are reports of the sap being used to treat some medical conditions...ingesting it can cause death, though, so i don't think it's a good idea!
     
  12. AgentBen

    AgentBen Member

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  13. lorax

    lorax Rising Contributor

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    I'd be cautious about it. The more caustic Euphorbs can actually do fairly serious damage to your soft tissues.
     
  14. joclyn

    joclyn Rising Contributor

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    if you do venture to use it, use a toothpick and put on only a very, very small amount and make sure it's directly in the center of the wart.

    my cat got rid of my warts for me. i'd had then since early teens and they would get bigger and then smaller and then bigger and then smaller. never completely went away. got the cat when in my twenties...she was spoiled and almost always got a taste of what i was eating as long as it was safe for her.

    one day i was eating a peanut butter/jelly sandwich and some of the jelly dropped on the plate. i scooped it up to lick it off my finger except she popped up in my lap and wanted a taste. so i let her lick it off. just so happened that was one of the fingers with a wart and the jelly was right on top of it.

    a couple weeks later, i noticed the wart was completely gone. i'd not done any treatments on it, so it had to have been her saliva. i tested the theory and put some jelly on another one and let her lick it. that one also disappeared.

    it's been over twenty years and none of them have come back...
     
  15. AgentBen

    AgentBen Member

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    That's crazy! Wow. I don't know if I buy it, but it's incredibly fascinating. Maybe I'll test your cat theory and see what happens. Thanks!
     
  16. joclyn

    joclyn Rising Contributor

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    yeah, i didn't believe it myself with the first one. after the second one, i was convinced...and then we took care of the ones on the other hand.

    truly bizarre, i agree. don't know if it was the grape jelly, her saliva, or the combo of both. they are gone though - with no scarring either (and the one had been there a long time and was a pretty good size). and they've never returned.
     

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