Chanca Piedra (Phyllanthus Niruri) is an Amazonian super-herb whose name translates to "Stone Breaker." The ingenious people gave it this name due to their effective use of the herb in curing kidney stones and gallstones for thousands of years.
Medical Studies have shown Chanca Piedra to possess pain-relieving qualities that are several more times potent than modern pain medication- all without the harmful side effects.
Brazilian researchers have also discovered powerful, long-lasting pain-blocking activity in the roots, stems and leaves of several different species of Phyllanthus, including P. niruri. In a book called “Cat’s Claw: Healing Vine of Peru”, Kenneth Jones, in a section of the book devoted to Chanca Piedra, states:
“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 as beta-sitosterol and stigmasterol.”
Calixto, et al. have pointed out that different kinds of compounds isolated from plants belonging to the genus Phyllanthus, eg., flavonoids such as quercetin and rutin, tannins, such as geraniin and furosin, benzenoids, such as ethyl gallate and methyl gallate, and the phytosterols, exhibited antinocieptive effects in mice. With so many different pain-relieving active compounds present in these plants, the Brazilian researchers have indicated the possibility of the existence of synergistic effects between some molecules present in the extracts, and suggest future investigations of such effects.
Chanca Piedra is an abundant source of bioactive components such as flavonoids: gallocatechin, rutin, quercetin, and kaempferol, which have well-documented anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Chanca Piedra is a potent natural diuretic that has demonstrated significant increases in urine volume and production in medical research studies dating back to 1929.
The diuretic, hypotensive and hypoglycemic effects of Phyllanthus niruri were documented in a 1995 human study. Indian researchers gave human subjects with high blood pressure Chanca Piedra leaf powder in capsules and reported a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure, a significant increase in urine volume and sodium excretion. Chanca Piedra’s diuretic effect in humans was recorded as far back as 1929 and, in India a tablet of Chanca Piedra is sold as a diuretic there. This significant diuretic effect, and a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure in non-diabetic hypertensive individuals were attributed to a specific phytochemical in Chanca Piedra called geraniin in a 1988 study. In the above 1995 study, researchers also reported that blood sugar levels were reduced significantly in human subjects studied, with blood glucose in diabetic patients taking Chanca Piedra for 10 days.
Two other studies with rabbits and rats document the hypoglycemic effect of Chanca Piedra in diabetic animals. In dealing with diabetic neuropathy and macular degeneration, a study documented Chanca Piedra with aldose reductase inhibition (ARI) properties. Aldose reductases are substances that act on nerve endings exposed to high blood sugar concentration, resulting in neuropathy and macular degeneration. Substances that inhibit these substances can prevent some of the chemical imbalances that occur and thus protect the nerve. This ARI effect of Chanca Piedra was attributed, in part, to a plant chemical called ellagic acid. This well-studied plant chemical has been documented with many other beneficial effects in over 300 clinical studies. It is also considered an immune system stimulator.
Two Clinical studies conducted in 2017 (one in Brazil and the other in Romania) revealed that kidney stone count and size decreases in 67.8% of patients who consumed Chanca Piedra daily for 12 weeks.
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 during the expulsion of stones from the use of the whole plant either as a tea or in “crude” (whole plant) extracts in capsules. If cramping occurs, dosage can be cut in half.
Although scientific studies have indicated Chanca Piedra is safe for pregnant women to take, documented ethnic uses in Brazil indicate its use as an abortive by rural populace (effect seen at higher doses), presumably due to the smooth muscle relaxant properties. Therefore, if taken during pregnancy, it is recommended that doses of Chanca Piedra be kept low, especially during the first trimester. As with any supplements used while pregnant or nursing, consult your health care practitioner.
Chanca Piedra has been documented in human and animal studies with diuretic effects. Chronic and acute use of this plant may be contraindicated in various other medical conditions where diuretics are not advised. Chronic long-term use of any diuretic can cause electrolyte and mineral imbalances; however, human studies with Chanca Piedra (for up to three months of chronic use) have not reported any side effects. Consult your doctor if you choose to use this plant chronically for longer than three months concerning possible side effects of long-term diuretic use.
Researchers have suggested that another promising area for future study would be the use of Chanca Piedra in treatment of Lyme Disease. Since syphilis is caused by a spirochete and Chanca Piedra has traditionally been used for this illness, it would be a good study for the epidemic of Lyme Disease, which we are experiencing the northeastern United States, since Lyme is also caused by a spirochete. Some herbalists have used Chanca Piedra traditionally for gonorrhea and syphilis.
Chanca Piedra is a perfect example of a highly beneficial medicinal plant, which is deserving of much more research. Unfortunately, because of its complicated myriad of chemical constituents, there isn’t enough grant monies available. Major funding would have to be had for a pharmaceutical or research company to isolate a single, patentable chemical to justify the high cost of research.