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Phyllanthus – The Liver Protector and “Stone Breaker”

By Godwin Ihesie

The liver is one of the most vital organs of the body. No one can survive without the liver. It is the body’s chemical factory where many of the life-sustaining substances are manufactured. The liver performs more than 500 different functions (though, some of its other activities are yet to be discovered). All the internal organs in the human body work harmoniously as a team; and in Chinese medicine, the liver is regarded as the “general,” and also, it is considered as the body’s Environmental Protection Agency which monitors the cleanliness and the quality of the internal environment.

Among other numerous activities, the liver keeps the blood clean by removing all kinds of impurities and toxins that can chronically irritate body cells. Abnormal changes may occur in the cell’s cytoplasm and the DNA as a result of irritation, and these often initiate growths (benign or malignant). If the liver becomes sluggish in its activities, toxins may build up in tissues, and body fats and estrogen may accumulate giving rise to all kinds of health problems, promotion of growths (both benign and malignant), hormonal imbalance that can result in menstrual disorders, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), scanty menstrual flow, male and female reproductive insufficiencies, cardiovascular problems like hypertension, stroke, chronic allergic reactions, etc.

It is now known that most of our common degenerative diseases stem from “poisoned blood” and the insufficient activities of this main organ of detoxification (the liver). Therefore, to attain and maintain radiant health at all times, the liver has to be cared for and well protected. Phyllanthus is one of the herbs that are available in nature which acts as a liver cleanser and liver protector.

Let’s examine this wonderful herb:

Botanically, phyllanthus is known as (Phyllanthus nuriri), formerly called Phyllanthus amarus.

Phyllanthus nuriri is very similar to another species of phyllanthus called Phyllanthus urinaria. It belongs to the family of plants known as Euphorbiaceae or Phyllanthaceae


Phyllanthus niruri in English language is commonly called Stone Breaker, Shatterstone, Gulf Leafflower, Child Pick-a-back,  Chanca piedra, Black Catnip, etc.

In Igbo dialect, it is called “enyikwonwa” or “Ngwu” while the Yorubas know it as “Enyibisowo”. The people of the Niger Delta, especially the Urhobos, call it “Iyeke.”


Phyllanthus is a herb found in many parts of the world. It grows annually up to 60 cm tall, mainly on the roadside, near dwelling places and abandoned and uncompleted buildings, gardens, etc. One of its most distinguishing characteristics is that the fruits/seeds are under the leaves. In fact, Phyllanthus means “leaf and flower” because the flower and the fruit seem to become one with the leaf.


Analyses have shown that the leaves are composed of “Bitter Principles,” alkaloids, saponins, bioflavonoids, quercitin, carboxylic acids, etc.


All parts of the herb (root, leaves, fruits and whole plant) are used for their therapeutic effects, and prepared as: Fresh juice, weak decoction (10 g to 1 liter of water), standard herb infusion (2 – 3 cups daily), powder (2-3 g in tablets or capsules twice daily), and as poultice. Alcoholic tincture of the herb is not usually recommended because some of the phytochemicals are easily damaged by alcohol.

Phyllanthus has been found to exhibit the following therapeutic properties:

Hepatoprotective (liver protector), Antihepatotoxic, Hepatotonic, Antioxidant, Antimutagenic, Anticancer,  Antileukemic, Immune stimulating, Anti-viral, HIV-RT- Inhibitor, Cholagogue, Diuretic, Antilithic (eliminates kidney stones), Antimalarial, Astringent, Aperitif, Bitter, Carminative, Laxative, Stomachic, Digestive , Vermifuge, Anti-inflammatory, Antibacterial, Antiseptic, Hypoglycemic, Hypotensive, Lowers cholesterol, Emmenagogue, Lactagogue, etc.

Uses of Phyllanthus

Liver and Gallbladder Disorders:

Phyllanthus detoxifies, tones, fortifies, strengthens and protects the liver and liver tissues and helps stimulate the regenerative ability of the liver. It is an effective antimutagenic ((protects and prevents liver cells from malignant degeneration).

“Stonebreaker” is one of the herbs used in the treatment of all kinds of liver disorders: jaundice, enlargement of the liver and the spleen (hepato-splenomegaly), tumours, chronic hepatitis B including the carriers of Hepatitis B virus (it decreases the amount of this virus in the bloodstream), hepatitis A and C, herpes, HIV and immune dysfunctions. Phyllanthus is an immune system stimulator.

Studies have shown that Phyllanthus effectively blocks DNA polymerase, the enzyme needed for the hepatitis B virus to replicate.

In the treatment of liver disorders, phyllanthus can be used as a single herb. However, for quicker result and synergy, some practitioners may combine it with Phyllantus urinaria.

Phyllanthus increases bile production and enhances the functional activities the gallbladder. It is very helpful in the treatment of gallbladder stones.

Kidney and Genito-urinary Problems:

Kidney stones are sometimes called renal calculi (singular: calculus). They are hard, crystalline mineral materials that formed within the kidney (nephrolithiasis), or in the urinary tract or in the ureters. Kidney stones are often a common cause of severe pain in the abdomen or groin in and blood in the urine (hematuria).  

Kidney stones are formed when the minerals, salts and other substances that are usually found in the urine, aggregate and crystallize – due to dehydration resulting from inadequate water intake and strenuous exercises.

Excessive consumption of refined sugar, white flour products, fizzy drinks, table salt, animal proteins, foods contaminated with chemical additives and colourings, herbicides, pesticides, insecticides and oxalate-containing foods (such as spinach, rhubarb, sweet potatoes, peanuts, etc,), some medications, excessive vitamin D supplementation, etc, can increase some individual’s susceptibility to kidney stone formation.

An oral intake of the fresh juice extracted from the entire Phyllanthus herb or the decoction or the infusion prepared with the plant has been known to be effective in the treatment of:

  1. Renal calculi (kidney stones): Phyllanthus is called “stone breaker” because of its strong antilithic (stone breaking) activity. A mixture of Phyllanthus, Corn silk and Lemon juice taken as infusion enhances the stone breaking action of the herb.
  2. Renal colic or painful kidneys.
  3. Excessive uric acid (gout), albuminuria.
  4. Genito urinary disorders, bladder stones, cystitis, urinary tract infections, prostatitis, etc.
  5. Phyllanthus acts as a diuretic and has been useful in clearing any obstruction along the entire genitor-urinary system.

Other Uses of Phyllanthus

Phyllanthus has been found to be very useful in the treatment of the following conditions:

Sexually transmitted infections (gonorrhea, syphilis), vaginitis, menstrual problems, miscarriage, gout (uric acid excess), arthritis, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, high blood cholesterol, malaria, alcoholism, bronchitis, cough,  asthma, dysentery, dyspepsia, constipation, chronic dysentery, gastritis, typhoid, skin problems :warts, ringworm, scabies, itchiness,  bruises, cuts, etc.