Alternative Names: Break-Stone.
Chanca Piedra, grown in the rainforest, has been used by Peruvian herbalist as a treatment for gallstones and kidney stones, urinary infections, hepatitis B, A, C, and antiviral applications for generations. Chanca Piedra is a composite name, "chanca" meaning "to break" in Quechua and "piedra" meaning "stone" in Spanish.
Chanca Piedra 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.
Chanca Piedra has been proven in scientific studies to have antihepatotoxic, antispasmodic, antiviral, bactericidal, febrifugal, and hypoglycemic activity. It is believed to help stimulate the production of bile and to promote healthy liver, kidney and gall bladder function.
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.
The analgesic activity of Chanca Piedra was demonstrated in 1994 and 1995 by another research group in Brazil. The diuretic, hypotensive and hypoglycemic effects of Phyllanthus niruri were documented in a 1995 human study, which showed a significant diuretic effect, and a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure in non-diabetic hypertensive and female subjects. Blood glucose was also significantly reduced in diabetic patients taking Chanca Piedra for 10 days. It is also considered an immune system stimulator.
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 traditionally used to clear obstructions throughout the various internal organs of the body by promoting the elimination of mucus and stones.
In different areas of South America, Chanca Piedra is used to treat a wide variety of conditions. It is used to treat edema and excess uric acid (as in gout), 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. It is also used there, for inflammation of the bowels (IBS), pimples, diabetes, and ulcers.
Chanca Piedra has also traditionally been used for diabetes, prostate disorders, asthma, fever, tumors, bladder infections, as a diuretic, for painful joints, jaundice, indigestion, 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).
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.
Break-Stone gained world-wide attention in the late 1980s due to the plant's antiviral activity against Hepatitis B. Preliminary clinical trials with P. niruri on children with infective hepatitis using an Indian drug containing Phyllanthus amarus is as the main ingredient showed promising results which fueled the subsequent in vitro and in vivo studies. The in vitro inactivation of Hepatitis B by Break-Stone was reported in India in 1982. A study that followed indicated that in vivo, Break-Stone eliminated Hepatitis B in mammals within 3-6 weeks. Several subsequent studies in the late 1980s and early 1990s failed to produce any effect against hepatitis, but other research conducted from 1990 to 1995 has indicated that Chanca Piedra does demonstrate antiviral activity against Hepatitis B.
Phyllanthus niruri/amarus is considered, based on accumulated research, as the most effective natural, non-toxic remedy for the Hepatitis B virus, a pathogen now carried by hundreds of millions people around the world.
Research during the 1990s on Break-Stone revealed that its antiviral activity extends to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). A Japanese research group discovered Phyllanthus niruri's HIV-1 reverse transcriptase inhibition properties in 1992 with a simple water extract of the plant. Bristol-Myers Squibb's Pharmaceutical Research Institute isolated at least one of the constituents in the plant responsible for this activity – a novel compound which they named "niruside" and described in a 1996 study.
Chanca Piedra is safe for pregnant women to take.