Chanca piedra long remained a well-kept secret, though it was widely used in both Amazonian and Ayurvedic medicine. While its name translates to “stone breaker,” this herb can also protect the liver, lower inflammation, help with diabetes, and combat infections. Find out if it can really clear your kidney stones, and learn more about its benefits and possible side effects.
What is Chanca Piedra?
Chanca piedra is part of a big plant family known as Phyllanthus. These plants grow in tropical regions all over the world – from China to India to the vast and largely unexplored rainforests of the Amazon. “Phyllanthus” simply means “leaf and flower,” because the flowers (and fruits) of these plants are joined together with the leaves .
The myriad of chanca piedra’s folk uses reflect this plant’s incredible geographical and herbal diversity.
In India, Phyllanthus plants were traditionally used for liver and kidney diseases. In the rest of Asia, they are considered a remedy for digestive disorders, while in South America folks use them for urinary tract infections. In Africa, on the other hand, they’re deemed useful for malaria and wound healing [2, 3].
And if you think these uses sound too wide-ranging for just one plant species, you’re right. In reality, two different species – Phyllanthus niruri and Phyllanthus amarus – are both referred to as chanca piedra or “stone breaker” [2, 3].
The first thrives in humid, warm places and likes a bit of shade. Its exact origin is a mystery, but it flourishes in the Amazonian rainforest, India, China, the Philippines, and even the Bahamas. The second also grows in the Amazon, but it originates from Asia and South Africa [1, 4, 5].
The “Stone Breaker”
Chanca piedra is well-known for dissolving kidney stones. Research revealed it can also protect the liver, fight infections, and lower oxidative stress and inflammation. Plus, it contains some cancer-fighting compounds that have yet to be further explored [6, 1, 2, 7].
A while ago, Brazilian teams set out to conduct medically-oriented research about chanca piedra for the first time. They wanted to understand the traditional use of this plant by indigenous people. But despite their efforts, few records of its folk use in the Amazonian region exist .
In Brazil, people call it “Quebra Pedra,” which means “stone breaker” in Portuguese. They consider it an excellent remedy for a range of kidney disorders .
- Jaundice and fever
- Skin diseases
- Digestive complaints (such as constipation, pain, IBD, and indigestion)
- Sexually transmitted diseases (syphilis, gonorrhea)
- Urinary tract infections
- Menstrual problems
Chanca piedra is also used in cosmetic, dental, and skin care products, including hair dye, face creams, and toothpaste .
- Tannins (geraniin, corilagin), which can fight viruses, bacteria, and free radicals; they also help prevent cancer
- Lignans (phyllanthin, hypophyllanthin), which have anticancer properties.
- Flavonoids (gallocatechin, rutin, quercetin, kaempferol) which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Snapshot of Chanca Piedra
- Dissolves kidney stones
- Supports liver detox
- Helps with diabetes
- Fights infections
- Lowers inflammation, pain, and oxidative stress
- May protect the stomach and heart
- May fight cancer
- May cause infertility
- Possible drug interactions
- Likely unsafe for pregnant women
- Insufficient research for many traditional uses
Chanca Piedra Health Benefits
1) Dissolves Kidney Stones
Kidney stones are deposits of minerals and salts that build up in the kidneys or urinary tract. In clinical studies with over 200 people with kidney stones, chanca piedra (Phyllanthus niruri) reduced their kidney stones, helping to clear the minerals and salt deposits [21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26].
- Blocking the growth and the clustering of salts that form kidney stones
- Dissolving already formed kidney stones
- Clearing this dissolved mixture of salts and minerals from kidney stones (uric acid, oxalate, potassium, calcium, and magnesium) and helping eliminate them by promoting urination
Overall, the available evidence suggests it works.
More clinical studies are desperately needed, but chanca piedra appears to be a promising herbal remedy for clearing kidney stones naturally.
2) Protects the Liver
In clinical studies with over 3.5k people, chanca piedra blocked the growth and division of the hepatitis B virus, reduced virus levels in the blood (HBsAg) and recovered liver function [30, 31, 32, 33, 34].
In a clinical study with 100 people with hepatitis C, chanca piedra increased an immense number of important antioxidant compounds (superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione, vitamin C, vitamin E). It also decreased oxidative stress and prevented liver damage .
In animal and cell-based studies, chanca piedra prevented liver injury caused by toxins, drugs or alcohol and protected liver function by lowering oxidative stress and blocking harmful compounds [, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49].
What does chanca piedra do to enhance liver function and reduce damage?
- Decreasing enzymes linked to liver damage (ALT, AST)
- Reducing bilirubin levels, high levels of which indicate liver disease
- “De-blocking” liver detox pathways; it blocks an enzyme that reverses the detoxifying process of glucuronidation (beta-glucuronidase)
- Increasing antioxidant enzymes (superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione)
- Lowering oxidative stress and inflammation
To sum it up, chanca piedra may help combat viral hepatitis, but it’s probably not superior to conventional antivirals. It also helps clear toxins and supports healthy liver function.
3) May Help with Diabetes
In clinical studies with 30 people,chanca piedra (the Phyllanthus amarus species) lowered their blood sugar levels. The same was confirmed in numerous studies with diabetic rats [57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 48, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68].
For one, it acts by blocking enzymes that digest complex carbs, such as alpha-amylase. Subsequently, it delays sugar absorption and may prevent spikes in sugar levels after a meal. Secondly, it increases sugar storage in the liver, which reduces blood sugar levels [4, 69, 59, 70].
4) May Keep Your Heart Healthy
This benefit was explored in detail in animal studies. In rats and mice, chanca piedra had powerful lipid-balancing effects; it reduced total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, VLDL cholesterol and it increased HDL cholesterol. Balanced blood lipid levels are key to preventing heart disease [39, 73, 74, 63, 65, 75, 76, 67].
It might also keep your heart healthy by decreasing enzymes that signal oxidative stress, heart or tissue damage (such as dehydrogenase, creatine phosphokinase, and alkaline phosphatase) [57, 39, 73, 81, 78].
All in all, chanca piedra is good for the heart. It may lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart damage while relaxing and protecting your blood vessels. Clinical studies are still limited, though.
5) May Protect the Gut and Stomach
In a clinical study of 30 children with viral diarrhea, chanca piedra (Phyllanthus niruri) improved symptoms such as stool consistency, fever, vomiting, stomach pain, loss of appetite, and dehydration. Overall, it worked better than the placebo .
Plus, the other chanca piedra species (Phyllanthus amarus) delayed diarrhea onset in mice; in mice with diarrhea, it normalized bowel movements .
Chanca piedra contains powerful antioxidants: rutin and quercitrin (a cousin of the better-known quercetin). These active compounds helped with inflammatory bowel disease and diarrhea in rats [89, 90, 91].
6) May Reduce Pain and Swelling
In a clinical study of 33 people with nerve damage caused by diabetes (also known as diabetic neuropathy), chanca piedra decreased pain and the sensation of numbness, tingling, and in the legs .
7) Helps Fight Infections
In mice and cells, chanca piedra inhibited the growth of various bacteria, fungi, and parasites, including those that cause malaria, snail fever, and infections of the urinary tract, bowel, stomach, blood and skin (Plasmodium species, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus, Enterobacter, Bacillus, Salmonella, Streptococcus, Helicobacter pylori , Candida) [100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111].
To sum it up, chanca piedra can fight incredibly diverse types of infections. However, its efficacy in humans is unknown as the available data are limited to animal and cell-based studies.
8) May Fight Cancer
Scientists recently uncovered that chanca piedra contains some interesting anti-cancer compounds. Studies are ongoing, but so far this effect has only been tested in animals and cells.
In test tubes, it prevented the growth and spread of different cancer cells (lung, breast, colorectal, liver, ovarian, skin, pancreas, brain), triggering their death [16, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137, 128, 138, 139, 140, 141].
It’s unknown if chanca piedra has any anti-cancer effects in humans.
9) May Lower Inflammation and Oxidative Stress
- Increasing important antioxidant, detoxifying compounds (superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione)
- Lowering key inflammatory cytokines, enzymes, and messengers (TNF-a, IL-1 beta, bradykinin, prostaglandin, Cox-2, NF-κB)
- Increasing IL-4, which can act as an anti-inflammatory cytokine
- Activating immune cells (lymphocytes and other white blood cells)
10) May Protect the Brain
In mice, chanca piedra improved memory and reversed amnesia .
To understand how it might act, we’re going to dive into neuroscience a bit, so bear with us.
Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter mainly used by the rest-and-digest nervous system. It supports cholinergic activity in the body that counters your fight-or-flight response. Acetylcholine is extremely important for memory, focus, and good cognitive function .
Chanca piedra may work by blocking the enzymes that break down acetylcholine (acetylcholinesterase and butyrylcholinesterase). In turn, it might boost acetylcholine levels in the brain, which would be useful to people with Alzheimer’s disease [151, 152].
And while this is promising, remember that the research is still preliminary. We have yet to see clinical studies of chanca piedra in people with cognitive dysfunction.
11) May Protect from Radiation
With more research, it might be used to reduce the side effects of radiation therapy in cancer patients.
12) May Promote Hair Growth
In one study, researchers gave testosterone to mice to induce baldness. Chanca piedra (Phyllanthus niruri) blocked an enzyme (5α-reductase) involved in baldness and increased the animals’ hair growth. Since overactivity of this enzyme is thought to underlie baldness in men, chanca piedra might turn out to be a targeted remedy for hair re-growth .
This may sound like great news to many, but we still don’t know if it can enhance hair growth in humans.
13) Other Traditional Uses
- Skin diseases (scabies, rash)
- Asthma and lung inflammation (bronchitis)
- Eye and mouth inflammation
- Constipation and low stomach acid
- Sexually transmitted diseases (syphilis, gonorrhea)
- Urinary tract infections
- Menstrual problems
Chanca Piedra Side Effects & Precautions
- Stomach pain
- Headache or dizziness
Pregnant women or women taking fertility-enhancing drugs should avoid chanca piedra. Traditionally, this plant was used for abortions. Although there is no clinical evidence, chanca piedra lowered both male and female fertility in mice [1, 162, 163, 164].
Consult your doctor before supplementing with chanca piedra if you are on medication. Chanca piedra (Phyllanthus amarus) inhibits the activity of the CYP540 family of liver enzymes that break down (or activate) drugs (CYP1A1, CYP1A2, CYP2D6, CYP2E1, CYP2B1/2, and CYP3A4). Inhibition of these enzymes may cause unpredictable drug interactions (e.g. with midazolam, some antidepressants, beta-blockers, statins, warfarin, and anti-seizure drugs) [165, 137, 166].
Additionally, chanca piedra may reduce blood sugar levels. Its combination with anti-diabetes therapies (e.g. glimepiride, insulin, rosiglitazone, tolbutamide) might cause excessive drops in blood sugar levels [57, 58, 59].
Limitations and Caveats
Studies about the benefits of the chanca piedra are limited; many are reviews and historical documents rather than clinical trials.
Furthermore, the few clinical trials that were carried out had a small number of participants and some of their findings are debatable.
Additional research on the benefits and side effects of chanca piedra should be encouraged.
Chanca Piedra Dosage & Supplementation
However, the preparation of these products varies from brand to brand. Some products may not be standardized.
For Kidney Stones and Liver Support
The dosage varied in studies and depends on the form of supplementation and the product.
- 1 – 2 capsules (400 – 500 mg chanca piedra extract per capsule) daily between meals or
- 30 – 60 drops (chanca piedra extract), 3 times a day, 30 minutes before meals or 2 hours after meals
For Other Health Benefits
For lowering blood pressure, 100 g of chanca piedra powder should be diluted in 2 L of water. It’s recommended to drink 500ml of the mixture daily, for one to 10 weeks .
For lowering blood sugar, you can dilute 12.5 g of chanca piedra powder in 100 ml of water; according to the clinical studies, you should drink this mix two times a day, for one to 10 weeks .
Most users were impressed with chanca piedra, as it dissolved their kidney stones or gallstones and relieved them from pain and discomfort. A few users reported slight diarrhea or dizziness after taking the supplement.
Buy Chanca Piedra
Chanca piedra is a medicinal herb used for over 2,000 years for a variety of diseases, including jaundice, kidney stones, gut disorders, and malaria. It is used by folk healers in the Amazon and Ayurvedic practitioners alike.
Clinical studies confirm its “stone-breaking” ability and also support its use for liver detox, viral hepatitis, diabetes, and infections. For kidney stones, chanca piedra is best taken as an extract at a dosage of 400-1000 mg/day.
Animal and cell-based studies reveal chanca piedra contains powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and antibacterial compounds. However, few clinical studies have been carried out. Based on the available evidence, this herb cannot be confidently recommended for most conditions.
Furthermore, chanca piedra is not safe for pregnant women and can interact with various drugs. Consult a healthcare professional before you use chanca piedra if you are taking medication.