When it comes to health, the plant kingdom has a great deal to offer. Long before the advent of modern medicine, people identified plants for their health benefits and traditional systems of medicine continued to use them.
Phyllanthus nuri is one such plant with a very long history of use. It is commonly used by Ayurvedic practitioners as a remedy for liver conditions and a range of other common conditions.
What is Phyllanthus Niruri?
Phyllanthus niruri belongs to the Phyllanthus genus of plants which also includes Phyllanthus emblica. The plant is commonly known by various other names including Gale of the wind, Stonebreaker, Leafflower and Seed-under-leaf.
The plant grows in many tropical parts of the world as well as subtropical regions. Many parts of the plant including its leaves, root and stems are used to make medicine which is available in the form of capsules, tinctures and extracts. It is also commonly used to make a healthy tea or decoction.
The fresh leaves of the plant can also be applied topically in the form of a poultice to treat rashes, sores and other skin complaints.
Health Benefits of Phyllanthus
Gale of the wind has been used for traditionally for hundreds of years to treat a wide variety of conditions including liver disease, kidney issues and inflammation. A growing body of modern, scientific research appears to support many of these traditional uses.
The following are some of the main potential health benefits of the plant :
A number of studies have found that various species of Phyllanthus including Phyllanthus niruri and Phyllanthus emblica may have benefits for the liver by preventing inflammation of the liver protecting against liver disease.
A study, published in 2012, examined the hepoprotective effects of 11 phyllanthus species. The researchers found that three species of phyllanthus – Phyllanthus emblica, indofischeri and polyphyllus – had a significant protective effect on liver cells.
The laboratory study found that extracts from the plant helped protect these cells or hepatocytes from oxidative damage when they were exposed to toxic hydogen peroxide. (1)
The results of these in vitro studies appear to have been confirmed by several animal studies. In 2006, a study on mice found that the antioxidants present in phyllanthus niruri helped protect the liver against toxicity. (2)
A more recent animal study, published in 2017, added more support to these earlier findings. The researchers found that extracts of Phyllanthus niruri halted the progression of non – alcoholic fatty liver disease in rats and may also help treat atherosclerosis.
Both of these conditions are known to cause insulin resistance and the study found that extracts of the plant helped both decrease insulin resistance and the level of fatty acids present in the liver. In fact, not only did the extract help to normalize liver enzyme levels, it also eradicated scarring on the liver tissue.
The researchers attributed these effects to a the presence of phyllanthum – a polyphenol, unique to the plant. (3)
There have been claims that phyllanthus may also help against Hepatitis B – a viral form of hepatitis that can lead to long term liver damage and inflammation. Studies dating back to the 1990s have consistently suggested that extracts of this plant could help eradicate the disease and effectively cure people of this chronic infection. These lofty claims have been viewed with skepticism since chronic hepatitis B is considered incurable.
Most of these studies have drawn criticism because they included people with acute infections in their research. People recently affected with the acute form of hepatitis B typically recover spontaneously with around 90% experiencing total recovery without any treatment.
One study, published in 2010, looked at the effects of a herbal product containing phyllanthus niruri and 6 other herbs. The researchers found that those treated with the herbal extract recovered faster than those in the control group. They also reported various side effects including diarrhea and abdominal pain.(4)
However, a review, published in 2011, concluded that the studies provided no conclusive evidence that phyllanthus was any more effective than a placebo in treating patients with chronic hepatitis B. (5)
While studies suggest that phyllanthus has certain benefits for the liver, the claims that it can treat chronic hepatitis B are unproven.
Antioxidants are extremely important for your health. They help protect us against disease caused by oxidative stress known as free radical damage. Antioxidants can protect the cells and even reverse damage already done. By protecting the cells, antioxidants can help protect against a wide range of disease including serious diseases like heart disease and cancer.
According to one study, published in 2014, phyllanthus niruri leaf extract exhibited very powerful antioxidant activity in the laboratory. (6)
This antioxidant activity is likely responsible for many of the potential health benefits of the plant.
Phyllanthus niruri is well-known for its ability to treat kidney stones naturally.
According to a paper, published in 2010, a number of studies have consistently found the herb to be an excellent preventive treatment for kidney stones. (7)
Lithotripsy is a medical procedure which helps to break up any stones present in the urinary tract. According to research, the herb is an effective remedy because the herb helps to relax a person’s ureter, following lithotripsy.
Aside from aiding with treatment, the herb might also help prevent kidney stones from forming by preventing crystals responsible for stones from clumping and biding together.
Gale of the wind may also help prevent and treat inflammation naturally. Inflammation is responsible for a range of complications throughout the human body both as well as joint pain and certain skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis.
According to a recent study, published in 2017, phyllanthus niruri might help to reduce inflammation and protect against gastric ulcers. The researchers induced inflammation by injecting carageenan into rat’s paws. They animals were then treated with an extract of the herb. The researchers found that the herb helped reduce inflammation significantly. (8)
The results of this study were promising. However, up to now, very little research has been done into the anti-inflammatory benefits of the herb and more research is necessary to evaluate its effects on humans and for specific inflammatory ailments.
Several studies have found that phyllanthus niruri had certain antimicrobial effects including antibacterial properties.
One study, published in 2012, found that the herb was effective against helicobacter pylori. The researchers also noted that phyllanthus niruri did not harm tor disturb the balance of the beneficial bacteria that inhabits the gut. (9)
H.pylori bacteria is generally found in the human digestive tract and is typically harmless. However, the bacteria can cause infection leading to further complications including abdominal pain, nausea and peptic ulcers.
According to research, phyllanthus niruri may also protect against gastric ulcers. The same 2017 study that evaluated the anti-inflammatory effect of the herb also found that an extract of the herb protected against ulcers.
The researchers believe the herb helps reduce the secretion of gastric acid while its anti-inflammatory effects also helped protect against ulcers. (8)
When it comes to cancer prevention or finding an effective treatment for the disease, researchers have evaluated the potential of a wide range of plants and herbs. According to some studies, phyllanthus niruri as well as other plants belonginf to the phyllanthus genus might be beneficial.
One study, published in 2011, found that several phyllanthus species including phyllanthus niruri, might help protect against the spread of breast and lung cancer. According to the laboratory study, the herb had metastatic effectsagainst human lung and breast cancer cells. (10)
Another study, published in the following year, looked at the effects of phyllanthus niruri on liver and colorectal cancer cell lines. The researchers found that the herb helped to slow down the growth of cancer cells and promoted the death of cancer cells or apoptosis. (11)
These studies are promising but a lot more research is necessary before we can say for certain that the herb is an effective treatment for the disease.
Other Potential Benefits
As well as the uses we have already mentioned, phyllanthus noruri has also been used traditionally for various other conditions. However, we do not have any scientific research to support the use of the herb for these ailments. Nevertheless, the herb has been used traditionally and is sometimes still used to treat the following conditions :
- urinary tract infections
- bladder infections
- heavy bleeding during menstruation
- inflammatory skin conditions