The Health Benefits of Chanca Piedra

Traditional Remedy for Kidney Stones

Chanca piedra (Phyllanthus niruri L.) is an herbal supplement, commonly known as the “stone breaker,” because it is said to be a natural remedy for kidney stones. Chanca piedra is a tropical plant in the family Phyllanthaceae. The plant grows in the Amazon rainforest and other tropical areas of the world. There are many other touted benefits of chanca piedra, including the treatment of hepatitis B, diabetes, malaria, pain relief, and digestive problems. However, it is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of any condition.

Also Known As

Other names for chanca piedra include:

  • Gale of the wind
  • Stonebreaker
  • Seed-under-leaf
  • Amli
  • Bhumyamalaki
  • Carry-me-seed
  • Casse-Pierre
  • Chanca-piedra blanca
  • Chance Pierre
  • Creole senna
  • Daun marisan

Health Benefits

In traditional medicine, chanca piedra is believed by some be beneficial for various conditions such as:

  • Constipation
  • Sore throat/swollen tonsils
  • Stomach upset
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney stones
  • Gallstones
  • Anemia
  • Hepatitis
  • Asthma
  • Tuberculosis
  • Infections (including sexually transmitted infections)
  • Fluid retention

Chanca piedra is sold as an herbal supplement. Manufacturers are not allowed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to claim benefits in the treatment of any health condition.

Studies

Some studies have produced evidence that chanca piedra has effects on the body. However, these have not produced the kind of evidence needed to validate any health claims at this time.

Chanca Piedra for Kidney Stones
A 2018 study involved 56 people with kidney stones who were given chanca piedra. After 12 weeks, ultrasound assessments were conducted to evaluate the effect of chanca piedra in reducing the stones. Chanca piedra was found to be safe when taken by mouth; the herbal supplement did not cause any significant side effects. In addition, chanca piedra was found to lower urinary oxalate and uric acid (waste products that exit the body via the urine) levels. The study authors concluded that chanca piedre “caused a significant decrease in urinary oxalate and uric acid in patients with hyperoxaluria [an increase in oxalate levels in the urine] and hyperuricosuria [excessive amounts of uric acid in the urine]. The consumption of P.niruri [chanca piedra] contributed to the elimination of urinary calculi [kidney stones].”

When oxalate or uric acid levels become too high, these high levels can lend themselves to the development of kidney stones. There are several types of kidney stones, each has a different cause and requires a different type of treatment. Uric acid kidney stones and oxalate kidney stones are just two types of these stones.

Antimicrobial Activity

In a 2014 study, chanca piedra was found to have antimicrobial activity (the ability to kill or inhibit microbes) against Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). H. pylori is an organism that is thought to play a major role in the development of digestive disorders (such as ulcers) as well as causing an increased risk for stomach cancer. The study also found that chanca piedra did not inhibit the growth of good bacteria in the gut (such as Lactobacillus acidophilus).

Hepatitis B Treatment

Studies have shown a very strong potential for P. niruri (chanca piedra) to be used in the treatment of liver disorders, and in antiviral therapy. A 2016 review noted studies in which 50% to 60% of people with hepatitis B who were administered chanca piedra showed a reduction in hepatitis B antigen. Study authors surmised that the chanca piedra may be effective against hepatitis B by inhibiting the replication (growth) of the hepatitis B virus. But more clinical research data is needed to definitively support these claims.

How Does it Work?

In a 2010 study, chanca piedra was found to "interfere with many stages of [kidney] stone formation." The study showed that chanca piedra may work by relaxing the ureters (the tubules in which urine, as well as kidney stones are passed) helping to expel the stone and its fragments after lithotripsy.

Possible Side Effects

There are no well-known, serious side effects that have been noted from the use of chanca piedra. There may be some mild side effects, such as diarrhea or stomach upset. However, chanca piedra has not been proven safe for children or breastfeeding or pregnant women.

Contraindications

A contraindication is a specific scenario in which a procedure, a drug, or natural or herbal supplement, should not be used because it may be harmful to a person. One type of contraindication restricts a drug, supplement or procedure from being used altogether. The other type indicates that caution should be used when two specific drugs or supplements are used together.

Medical Conditions

It's important to use chanca piedra supplements with caution and be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before using the herbal supplement if you have any health conditions, including:

  • Diabetes (chanca piedra is thought to lower blood sugar)
  • Blood clotting disorders (chanca piedra may slow down blood clotting, increasing the risk of bleeding in those with clotting disorders)
  • Upcoming scheduled surgical procedures (chanca piedra may slow down blood clotting, causing an increased risk for bleeding after surgery. Discontinue use of chanca piedra at least two weeks before a planned surgical procedure)

Medications
If you are taking prescription medications, be sure to consult with your healthcare provider before taking chanca piedra; specific contraindications involving prescription medications and chanca piedra contraindications include:

  • Lithium: Chanca piedra may act as a diuretic (water pill) which may impact how efficiently the body gets rid of lithium. This could adversely affect therapeutic levels of lithium; ask your healthcare provider if the lithium dosage should be adjusted.
  • Antidiabetic medications (including insulin and oral medications such as DiaBeta, and Diabinese Orinase) Chanca peidra is thought to lower blood sugar levels. When taking antidiabetic medications, blood sugar levels may be too low.
  • Antihypertensive medication (such as Vasotec, Norvasc or HydroDIURIL) Chanca piedra may also lower blood pressure, taking medications that lower blood pressure along with chanca piedra may cause the blood pressure to be too low.
  • Anticoagulant medications (such as aspirin, Coumadin, Ticlid or Plavix) chanca piedra may slow blood clotting; when taken along with anticoagulants, there may be an increased risk of bleeding.
  • Diuretics (water pills, such as Lasix or Diuril): Chanca piedra causes the body to lose water. When taken in combination with water pills, chanca piedra could cause the blood pressure to be too low.

Dosage and Preparation

Although there is not enough definitive research study evidence to show a precise, safe and effective dose of chanca piedra, the dosage used in studies ranged from 900 to 2,700 mg each day.

Note, it’s important to understand that the right dose of any herbal preparation, or medication depends on many factors (such as a person’s age, body weight, overall health and more). For this reason, the evidence to back up the proper dosage to ensure the herbal preparation’s safety and effectiveness in individual situations is lacking.

Preparations of Chanca Piedra

Chanca piedra is available in many forms. These include:

  • Herbal tea
  • Extracts (in liquid)
  • Capsules
  • Tablets

What to Look For

Herbal supplements are not regulated by government agencies such as the FDA. The FDA oversees the safety and efficacy of prescription and over-the-counter medications. Lack of regulation means that the consumer must know what to look for to ensure a safe and effective product is used. If possible, select an herbal supplement that is wild-harvested, natural, and certified organic. Look for products that are certified by third party agencies such as the U.S. Pharmacopeia, NSF International or ConsumerLab.com. These are agencies that evaluate products and report on the safety, purity, and potency of herbal and natural products.

Other Questions

Is it possible to reduce the risk of getting calcium oxalate stones?
There are various diets for the prevention of different types of kidney stones. The National Institutes of Health notes that the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet can reduce the risk of kidney stones. Here are some basic guidelines:

  • Drink plenty of water (and other fluids)
  • Limit caffeinated beverages
  • Lower the level of salt intake in the diet
  • Limit animal protein intake
  • Eliminate refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup
  • Men should avoid vitamin C supplements

For prevention of oxalate stones, restrict concentrated fruit juices, beets, spinach, and rhubarb, tea, dark green vegetables, beer and chocolate (these are foods high in oxalates)

Note, when eating oxalate-rich foods, eat or drink those that are rich in calcium, when oxalate and calcium combine in the stomach, there is a lower incidence of forming oxalate stones.

What should I eat to lower the risk of uric acid stones?

To prevent uric acid kidney stones, reduce the amount of meat, eggs, fish, and poultry you eat; try to get more of your daily protein from vegetable sources.

Why do animal sources of protein increase the risk of kidney stones?

Eating too much animal protein increases levels of uric acid and lowers citrate in the urine. Citrate is a chemical that helps prevent kidney stones from developing.

A Word From Verywell

Although there are some promising study data available on the safety and effectiveness of chanca piedra, it’s important to note that there is not enough evidence to definitively deem the herbal supplement as safe or effective. As with all other herbal supplements, its vital to discuss the use of chanca piedra with your healthcare provider before taking it, particularly if you have a health condition or are taking prescription medications, over-the-counter medications or other natural herbs or supplements.

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Article Sources
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