Chanca piedra is a plant with a history of use in traditional medicine. There is some interest in using chanca piedra to break down kidney stones and gallstones, though scientific evidence is lacking on its effectiveness.
Phyllanthus niruriis a perennial shrub that grows throughout tropical and subtropical regions. Chanca piedra is the Spanish name for P. niruri native to South America. It roughly translates as “stone breaker.” The shrub has many other common names, depending on its location.
In some traditional medicine systems, practitioners use chanca piedra as an herbal remedy for stones in the body, such as kidney stones, bladder stones, and gallstones.
This article examines the uses of chanca piedra and whether there is any scientific evidence that it helps gallstones. It also discusses the possible benefits and side effects of chanca piedra.
Traditional medicine systems worldwide mention a variety of uses for P. niruri, including for:
In Brazil, where the plant is known as chanca piedra, people consider P. niruri preparations as folk remedies for kidney and bladder stones.
Other traditional medicine systems, such as Unani and Ayurvedic medicine, use the leaves and fruit from P. niruri to treat gallstones. Peruvian traditional medicine also uses P. niruri for gallstones by preparing a hot water extract of the whole plant and taking it orally.
P. niruri is commercially available as chanca piedra supplements that contain elements from the entire plant, including the stems, leaves, and flowers. It is available in:
- liquid extracts
Practitioners may claim chanca piedra supplements can help various ailments. However, very little scientific evidence supports its therapeutic use. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved chanca piedra to treat any condition.
Gallstones are small, hardened deposits of digestive fluid that form in the gallbladder. They are typically composed of cholesterol or bilirubin and range in size and quantity. Most people with gallstones do not experience symptoms or need treatment. However, they may require medication or surgery if they experience complications.
There is no scientific evidence suggesting that chanca piedra treats gallstones. However, some research has examined using chanca piedra to break up kidney stones, which may work similarly for gallstones.
A 2018 clinical study evaluated the effect of chanca piedra on 56 people with kidney stones over 12 weeks. The study found that chanca piedra reduced the size of kidney stones and contributed to the elimination of kidney stones that were smaller than 10 millimeters (mm).
Currently, insufficient evidence supports chanca piedra as having significant health benefits. However, according to some claims, chanca piedra may help with the following conditions:
People commonly consider chanca piedra as a potential cure for kidney stones — hence earning the name “stone breaker.”
Treatment for kidney stones aims to raise urine citrate levels to prevent calcium stones and increase urine pH, making it more alkaline, to prevent uric acid and cystine stones.
Chanca piedra has alkalizing properties, so it may help to prevent acidic kidney stones. The supplement is a less expensive over-the-counter alternative to prescription alkali citrate, such as potassium citrate, which doctors commonly use to prevent acidic kidney stones.
Learn more about kidney stones here.
Gout occurs when there is
According to the same 2016 review, a few animal studies have shown that chanca piedra reduces uric acid levels in animals with excess uric acid. However, there is little evidence that it would help treat people with gout.
There are several types of liver disease. Some of them, such as hepatitis,
Some research from 2017 indicates that chanca piedra exhibits anti-HBV activity, slowing its replication. However, most studies have been test-tube and animal-based, according to the 2016 review mentioned previously. There would need to be extensive research on humans to support these claims.
A 2018 randomized controlled trial comparing the effects of chanca piedra and a placebo on people with chronic HBV infection found that neither treatment significantly affected the virus.
Learn more about liver disease here.
High fasting blood sugar levels are one of the main signs of diabetes. Animal studies suggest that chanca piedra may improve fasting blood sugar, per the 2016 review mentioned earlier. However, it may not have the same effect on humans.
Researchers need to conduct extensive studies in humans before doctors can recommend using chanca piedra for diabetes management.
Learn more about diabetes here.
Helicobacter pylori are a type of bacteria that are a common cause of digestive disorders, such as gastritis and stomach ulcers, and may
A 2014 review indicates that chanca piedra can eliminate or prevent H. pylori in test tube studies. However, this does not mean the supplement will be effective in digestive disorders in humans.
As with any supplement, chanca piedra may have side effects for some people, including the risk of an allergic reaction.
A 2018 study on the use of chanca piedra in people with kidney stones noted side effects such as:
- abdominal pain
- painful urination
- blood in urine
The study also observed a significant rise in urine potassium levels. High potassium levels may cause side effects such as muscle weakness, numbness or tingling, and severe heart problems.
Little information about chanca piedra use during pregnancy and for children or older adults is available. A person should speak with a healthcare professional before taking chanca piedra for a specific ailment, particularly if they have prescription medications.
A person should speak with a healthcare professional to ensure the correct type and dosage before taking supplements.
There is insufficient research on chanca piedra to confirm safe and accurate dosing. The FDA does not regulate supplements in the same way as pharmaceutical drugs. This means that manufacturers do not have to demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of a product before they produce and sell it.
Still, people should limit the amount of chanca piedra they take to the daily dose on the supplement label. Reviewing the supplement label with a healthcare professional can help highlight any possible interactions with foods and other medications.
Chanca piedra is a supplement containing the plant P. niruri. Many traditional medicine systems use chanca piedra for numerous ailments.
Chanca piedra roughly translates to “stone breaker” and is commonly associated with breaking down kidney stones. Some studies show that P. niruri extracts decrease kidney stone size and eliminate small kidney stones. However, there is little research into the effectiveness of chanca piedra for kidney stones and even less for other conditions.
No evidence indicates that chanca piedra can treat gallstones. However, it may affect gallstones in a similar way to kidney stones. Researchers need to conduct more studies investigating the safety and usefulness of chanca piedra before doctors can recommend it to treat gallstones or any other condition.
Consider speaking with a physician and certificate herbalist to learn more about chanca piedra.