Pastor Rick Warren Burned by Firestick Plant Sap

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Author and pastor Rick Warren 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.

Warren’s wife Kay called 911 and an emergency vehicle transferred him to Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo where he saw an eye specialist. He was treated, kept overnight, and released Tuesday.

The Firestick plant is also known as Indian Tree Spurge, Naked Lady, Pencil Tree, or Milk Bush. It is a 2 foot tall 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.

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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.

Rick is wearing protective contact lenses and using an ointment, and although he has tweeted a temporary loss of eyesight, doctors expect a full recovery.

Warren is the author of the multimillion-selling book "Purpose Driven Life," and founder of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest in Orange County.

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