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Chanca Piedra (Phyllanthus niruri)

Promotes optimal liver, kidney and gall bladder function

Gall stones and kidney stones are a major health problem in Canada. In fact, 2,000,000 in Canada suffer from gall stones and 60,000 are treated by medical doctors each year for this condition. If all of the people in Canada who have gall bladder surgery or laser treatment for this condition each year were to use Chanca Piedra instead to eliminate their stones, $50 million dollars per year would be saved!

Chanca Piedra is a composite name, “chanca” meaning “to break” in Quechua and “piedra” meaning “stone” in Spanish. It is the popular name given to several small shrub-like plants in the Phyllanthus genus (botanical family Euphorbiaceae) , including Phyllanthus niruri, and Phyllanthus stipulatis. These two species have the same medicinal effects and look identical, except for their seeds, by which the botanist can tell them apart. A third species Phyllanthus amarus has been considered identical (perhaps not a different species at all) to Phyllanthus niruri. These species of Phyll anthus have been proven in scientific research to have antihepatotoxic, antispasmodic, antiviral, bactericidal, febrifugal, and hypoglycemic activity.

Traditional Uses

Chanca Piedra got its name because one of the outstanding qualities of this herb, according to Peruvians is to break up and expel both kidney stones and gall stones. It is believed to help stimulate the production of bile and to promote healthy liver and gall bladder function. It is also traditionally used to clear obstruction throughout the various internal organs of the body by promoting the elimination of mucus and stones.

In South America, chanca piedra is used to treat many conditions. It is used to treat edema and excess uric acid, as well as to treat stones of the gall bladder, kidney, and bladder. In some areas it is used to treat malaria, typhoid fever, flu, colds, constipation, dysentery, or stomach ache. In Peru, the plant is shredded and boiled and then lemon juice is added as a tonic for the liver (taken in small amounts four times daily). It is also used there, for inflammation of the bowel (IBS), pimples, diabetes, and ulcers, in addition to its use for stones. In the United States, it has been found to be very effective in treating irritable bowel syndrome. Chanca piedra has also traditionally been used for diabetes, prostate disorders, asthma,, fever, tumors, bladder infections, as a diuretic, to remove excess uric acid (as in gout), for painful joints, jaundice, pimples, indigestion, constipation, vaginitis, viruses of the reproductive tract, proctitis, poor circulation, excessive phlegm, bronchitis, and coughs. It is also considered an anti-spasmodic and muscle relaxant, specific to the urinary tract system. Traditionally it is also used as an anodyne (pain reliever), apertif (appetite stimulator), a digestive, carminative (helps gas to be expelled from stomach and intestines), and vermifuge (expels worms and other parasites from the intestinal tract), diuretic, and emmenagogue (stimulates menstrual flow).

Doctors’ Experiences

Nicole Maxwell, the author of the groundbreaking Witch Doctor’s Apprentice, first published in 1961 and based on research done in the 1950’s in the Peruvian rainforest, considers break stone (chanca piedra) one of the most important healing herbs which she encountered in the rainforest through her interactions with shamans and Amazonian Indians. She later met a German doctor who had been using chanca piedra in his medical practice in Germany who told her that 94% of all the cases he encountered among his patients of gall stones and kidney stones were “completely eliminated” within one or two weeks. For several hours during the actual process of elimination of the stones, some patients experienced stomach cramps. Another physician whom Maxwell interviewed about his use of chanca piedra for his patients said that the plant worked 100% of the time and without any side effects.

Liver Detoxification

Modern life has stressed the liver of the average person. Chanca piedra can be used, cycling on and off throughout the year, to assist the liver in performing its normal function of detoxification of the body. Liver stressors include eating excessive dairy, meat, and sugar, fried fast foods, processed foods with preservatives, antibiotics, pesticides, drinking water “decontaminated” by chlorine, drinking water containing parasites, the use of hormones in young women as contraception and in menopausal women as a means of preventing osteoporosis and heart disease, the use of steroid hormones to combat chronic inflammatory diseases , and the use of toxic chemotherapies to combat cancer.

Research Findings

Research done in Brazil at the Federal University of Santa Catarina in 1984 on chanca piedra revealed an alkaloid (phyllanthoside) in the leaves and stem with strong antispasmodic activity. It served as a relaxing agent for smooth muscles and they concluded that its spasmolytic action probably accounted for the efficacy of chanca piedra in expelling stones. Brazilian researchers have also discovered powerful, long-lasting pain-blocking activity in the roots, stems and leaves of several different species of Phyllanthus, including Phyllanthus niruri. In a book called Cat’s Claw: Healing Vine of Peru, the author Kenneth Jones states in a section of the book devoted to chanca piedra:

In the test system used, the extract of Phyllanthus urinaria showed about four times more potent activity than indomethacin and three times the strength of morphine against the second phase of pain which models the stage of “inflammatory” pain. The pain model used in these tests (formalin- induced persistent pain) appears to provide a state similar to that of post-operative pain in people. ...The pain blockers in Phyllanthus have been identified by the Brazilians as gallic acid ethyl ester and the steroidal compounds Beta-sitosterol and stigmasterol.

 

Since the 1960’s there has been a growing body of published information is on Chanca Piedra. Indian and Brazilian research groups were the first to conduct these studies since the plant was indigenous to their areas with a long history of use by its inhabitants. In some of the published research, scientists make little or no distinction between P. niruri and P. amarus because of the very similar phytochemical make up of both plants. In fact, some reference are found in which scientists believe that it is one species of plant with two botanical names, but there are botanists who would argue this point.

Chanca Piedra turns out to be a very versatile herb with an astonishing array of medicinal activities, as demonstrated by substantial reserach, most of it carried out in the 1980’s and 1990’s. In addition to its anti-spasmodic effects and its analgesic affects discussed above, other effects of Phyllanthus niruri demonstrated by research include: liver detoxifying and healing properties (phyllanthin, hypophyllanthin, and triacontanal have been identifed as the main chemical actives responsible ); hypoglycemic activity accomplished through the Aldose reductase (AR) inhibitory activity of its glycosides, making it helpful to diabeltics; a diuretic, making it useful for those suffering from edema; and an immune system stimulator. Furthermore, in the last twenty years, significant research has been carried out on the effectiveness of Chanca Piedra as an anti-viral agent. Although the results have been somewhat mixed--and this may be due to a fault in the research design or to the strength of the water-based extract-- on the whole they have been favorable in demonstrating this plant’s effectivenesss as an anti-viral agent. In one experiment involving an animal model in which woodchucks were given Hepatitis B, (a lamentable way to do research in our opinion), Phyllanthus niruri (Chanca Piedra) proved to be a very effective anti-viral agent for this disease. Since this diseage affects approximately 400 million people throughout the world, chanca piedra may play an important role in the future as a non-toxic alternative to pharmaceutical drugs in the treatment of this disease.

Since it has a number of chemical actives which contribute to liver health, Chanca Piedra, together with Desmodium adscendens, may be used on an alternating basis to help maintain the health of the liver of people who have had Hepatitis B. People with a history of Hepatitis B have a significantly higher risk of contracting liver cancer, and although no claims can be made that the use of these herbs will help prevent liver cancer, in the absence of reserach in this area, the use of these herbs can be considered desirable on general principles for promotion of liver health

Phyllanthus niruri and the HIV virus

 The focus of Japanese research on Chanca Piedra has been on its activity in relation to another dreaded virus--the HIV virus which has been demonstrated to be the most significant co-factor for the development of AIDS. Although it is important not to overestimate the importance of the findings since many different agents have found to have some activity against the HIV virus, the Japanese found that Chanca Piedra has HIV-l reverse transcriptase inhibition properties. Leslie Taylor, author of Herbal Secrets of the Rainforest, reports that Bristol-Meyers Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute in 1996 isolated one compound effective against the HIV virus which they call a “niruside.” This research is evidently being conducted in order to make a patented drug from the Chanca Piedra plant. There already is a pharmaceutical drug being marketed in France derived from Chanca Piedra. It It is part of a pharmaceutical product called Pilosuryl, which is sold as a diuretic and has been used for some time to treat gall and kidney stones.

Toxicity, Side Effects

There has been no toxicity reported in any of the clinical studies, nor have there been any side effects reported, except for an occasional case of cramps, sometimes during the expulsion of stones. If cramping develops, the amount taken can be reduced and the cramping will stop.

Tea Preparation

The effectiveness of Chanca Piedra as a liver protector, a stone eliminator, and a liver detoxifier have all been based on the use of this herb as a water extract. That is, a small quantity of the dried (or fresh) herb is dropped into boiling water, the heat is immediately reduced to a simmer. In this way, the chemical actives responsible for the promotion of liver health are released into the water--or “extracted” from the plant by the hot water.

The most effective way to make a healing tea: add four level teaspoons (four grams) of dried Chanca Piedra to five cups of boiling water (or 8 teaspoons to 10 cups of boiling water). Reduce the heat to a low boil (simmer) and simmer for 15 minutes, The tea can then be strained (optional) and stored in a glass jar with a lid in the refrigerator. To start the treatment a “loading dose” of 2 cups can be drunk. Then one cup can be drunk on an empty stomach (15 minutes before meals or between meals) two or three times a day. Others have drunk it in place of water, as frequently as water with no adverse side effects. Treatment should not be continued beyond three weeks.