What Is Chanca Piedra?

Traditional Remedy for Kidney Stones

Chanca Piedra tea, capsules, tablets, and liquid extract

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Chanca piedra (Phyllanthus niruri L.) is an herbal supplement from a tropical plant in the family Phyllanthaceae. The plant grows in the Amazon rainforest and other tropical areas of the world.  It's commonly known as the “stone breaker,” because it is said to be a natural remedy for kidney stones

There are many other touted benefits of chanca piedra. This includes 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.

This article discusses what chanca piedra is used for and possible side effects. It also covers who shouldn't take it and what to look for when buying it.

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 to 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

Some studies have looked at the effects of chanca piedra on different health conditions. However, these studies haven't produced the kind of evidence needed to validate any health claims at this time.

Chanca piedra is sold as an herbal supplement. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not allow manufacturers to claim benefits for the treatment of any health condition.

Kidney Stones

Some studies have looked at the effects of chanca piedra on 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 lower urinary oxalate and uric acid (waste products that exit the body via the urine). When oxalate or uric acid levels become too high, these high levels can lend themselves to the development of kidney stones.

In a 2010 study, chanca piedra was found to "interfere with many stages of [kidney] stone formation."

The study showed chanca piedra may work by relaxing the ureters (tubules in which urine and kidney stones are passed). This helps to expel the stone and its fragments after lithotripsy, which breaks up kidney stones with shock waves.

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Treating Kidney Stones

Digestive Health

A 2014 study found that chanca piedra had antimicrobial activity (the ability to kill or prevent microbes) against Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). H. pylori is an organism thought to play a major role in the development of digestive disorders, such as ulcers. It's also thought to increase the risk for stomach cancer.

The study also found chanca piedra didn't inhibit the growth of good bacteria in the gut (such as Lactobacillus acidophilus).

Hepatitis B

Studies have shown potential for chanca piedra to help treat liver disorders, including hepatitis B, a viral liver infection. 

In a 2016 review, 50% to 60% of hepatitis B patients taking chanca piedra showed reduced hepatitis B antigen, a sign of infection. Study authors said that the chanca piedra may be effective against hepatitis B by slowing the replication (growth) of the hepatitis B virus. 

More clinical research data is needed to definitively support these claims.

Recap

Studies have looked at the effects of chanca piedra on different health conditions. There's some evidence that it may help to reduce kidney stones, fight bacteria that causes ulcers, and slow hepatitis B virus growth. However, more research is needed to support any of these medical claims.

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 supplement should not be used because it may be harmful to a person. It can also mean 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. 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 cause 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 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 piedra 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 your 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, which prevent blood clots, 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 your blood pressure to be too low.

Recap

Talk with your doctor before using chanca piedra if you have a health condition or are taking any medications. Your doctor may advise you to avoid chanca piedra if you have diabetes, blood clotting disorders, or any upcoming scheduled surgical procedures.

Chanca piedra capsules

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak 

Dosage and Preparation

There isn't enough definitive research study evidence to show a precise, safe and effective dose of chanca piedra. However, the dosage used in studies ranged from 900 to 2,700mg each day.

The right dose of any supplement depends on many factors, including age, body weight, and overall health. For this reason, it's difficult for researchers to recommend one proper dosage to ensure safety and effectiveness.

Chanca piedra is available in many forms. These include:

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

What to Look For When Purchasing

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.

Because of this lack of regulation, the consumer must use caution when looking for a safe and effective product. 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.

Summary

Chanca piedra is a supplement that's thought to be a natural remedy for kidney stones, digestive problems, and other health conditions.

Some research shows it may help with reducing kidney stones, fighting bacteria that cause ulcers, and slowing hepatitis B infections. However, research is still limited, and more data is needed to support health claims.

A Word From Verywell

As with all herbal supplements, it's important to discuss the use of chanca piedra with your healthcare provider before taking it. That's especially true if you have a health condition or are taking any medications or other natural herbs or supplements.

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

    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.

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10 Sources
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