The Internet is abuzz about author and pastor Rick Warren being temporarily blinded by firestick plant sap. Rick was pruning a firestick plant in his yard when he got some of the sap on his hands. According to publicist A. Larry Ross, “He went to wipe his brow and immediately experienced excruciating pain in both eyes.” The sap of the Firestick plant, or Euphorbia tirucalli, is corrosive and extremely toxic.
The pain was so debilitating that his wife Kay had to call 911 and Rick was zipped to Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo because he couldn’t articulate to his wife what had happened. He was attended to by an eye specialist, kept overnight and released the next day.
After returning home, Warren took to Twitter, asking for prayers from friends, family and members of the Saddleback Church where he serves as a Pastor. Rick is the author of the international bestselling book “The Purpose Driven Life.”
It’s not uncommon for such a sap related problem to arise, thus the Firestick Plant being nicknamed the “Blinding Tree.” The Firestick plant is also known as Indian Tree Spurge, Naked Lady, Pencil Tree, or Milk Bush. It is a shrub that grows in semi-arid tropical climates and has red tips resembling sticks on fire. It is indigenous to tropical eastern and southern Africa.
All parts of the firestick plant ooze a milky sap when damaged or cut. Skin contact with the sap causes severe burning. Contact with the eyes may cause severe pain and temporary blindness for up to 7 days.
The milk bush has been used in traditional medicine in cultures of Brazil, India, Indonesia, Malabar, and Malaysia. It is thought to treat cancers, warts, asthma, rheumatism and toothache.
If you have firestick plant in your garden, please be warned. You would not want to experience what Rick had gone through.