by Kimberly Allen, RN
Chanca piedra is a well known and popular herb that is indigenous to the Amazon rainforest and parts of India. It has been used for it’s medicinal benefits for years in every country it grows in. Chanca piedra, also known as Phyllanthus niruri, is most commonly known for it’s use in treating kidney stones and gallstones as well as promoting liver health. However, research has shown that this medicinal herb has a wide range of benefits.
Clinical trials in India have shown that diabetics that took chanca piedra for a week significantly lowered their blood sugar . As significant as that is it’s the ability to prevent long term complications of diabetes, especially those issues involving the eyes, nerve tissue and brain. Researchers in Japan discovered that chanca piedra contains properties called aldactose reductase inhibitors which prevents the enzyme aldose reductase in nerve tissue from converting glucose to the nerve toxin sorbitol. this in turn prevents nerve damage.
Researchers in Japan have also discovered compounds in chanca piedra that act like ACE inhibitors. ACE or angiotensi-converting enzyme inhibitors are used to treat primary hypertension. When there is an excess of sodium in your blood it signals the kidneys to produce the enzyme angiotensin II. Angiotensin II causes the walls of your blood vessels to narrow or constrict, in turn raising your blood pressure. The ACE inhibitor properties in chanca piedra reverses this effect. Chanca piedra has also been shown to have significant antioxidant activity due to the rich phenolic content of the herb. These properties are also significantly beneficial in maintaining optimal blood sugar and blood pressure levels.
Chanca piedra is also used for it’s powerful analgesic properties. Researchers in Brazil found strong, long lasting analgesic properties in the leaves, stems and roots of the chanca piedra herb. In the study the herbal extract was shown to be three times stronger than morphine and four time stronger than indomethacin. Researchers have isolated several different compounds in this herb including flavanoids like quercitin and rutin as well as tannins and benzenoids all of which exhibit analgesic benefits.
Probably one of the most significant discoveries came in the 1980’s when researchers discovered the antiviral properties in chanca piedra. Clinical trials done with children that had infectious hepatitis were given an Indian drug that contained chanca piedra as the main ingredient. In the study, the hepatitis B was eliminated in 3 to 6 weeks. Further research on it’s antiviral effects done between 1990-1995 also demonstrated that chanca piedra does have antiviral activity against hepatitis B and is considered the most effective non-toxic, natural remedy for hepatitis B. This is a significant discovery when you consider that there are approximately 73,000 new cases of hepatitis B diagnosed every year in the US. Hepatitis B is a very disabling disease in it’s acute phase, however, it also tends to stay in your body contributing to other diseases of the liver years later including liver cancer. According to the CDC as many as 4,000 deaths from cirrhosis and 1,000 from liver cancer that occur every year in the US are related to hepatitis B infections.
There has also recently been research into the effectiveness of the antiviral properties of chanca piedra in HIV. In 2003, a German research group published a study with chanca piedra and it’s effectiveness in treating HIV found that it was approximately 75% effective at inhibiting the virus.
Chanca piedra is a highly beneficial medicinal plant that has great potential and deserves much more research. Some researchers have suggested in the future studying it’s effectiveness in treating Lyme disease.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.