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Phyllanthus

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Updated September 26, 2012

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Phyllanthus is a genus of plant long used in herbal medicine. Commonly used in ayurveda, species such as Phyllanthus amarus and Phyllanthus niruri are touted as natural remedies for a variety of health problems.

Uses for Phyllanthus

Plants of the Phyllanthus genus are said to help with a number of health conditions, including:

In addition, plants of the Phyllanthus genus are said to alleviate pain, improve liver health, and promote wound-healing.

Benefits of Phyllanthus

Preliminary studies suggest that plants of the Phyllanthus genus may contain many compounds with health-enhancing properties, including antioxidants, lignans (a type of phytoestrogen), and tannins (a class of substances found to reduce inflammation).

Although research on the health effects of plants of the Phyllanthus genus is very limited, there's some evidence that the Phyllanthus amarus and Phyllanthus niruri species may offer certain benefits. Here's a look at some key findings from the available research:

1) Phyllanthus and Liver Health

In laboratory research, scientists have found that certain species of Phyllanthus may help prevent liver damage. For instance, a 2012 study from Pharmaceutical Biology determined that extracts of Phyllanthus polyphyllus, Phyllanthus emblica, and Phyllanthus indofischeri had high levels of liver-protecting activity.

However, other research indicates that plants of the Phyllanthus genus may not be effective in treatment of hepatitis B infection (an inflammatory illness of the liver).

For example, a 2011 report from the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews analyzed the available clinical trials on the use of plants of the Phyllanthus genus in treatment of hepatitis B infection. Looking at 16 clinical trials (with a total of 1,326 patients), the report's authors found "no convincing evidence that phyllanthus, compared with placebo, benefits patients with chronic HBV infection." Still, the authors did determine that using extracts of plants of the Phyllanthus genus in combination with an antiviral drug may be better than the same antiviral drug alone in treatment of hepatitis B infection.

2) Phyllanthus and Kidney Stones

Phyllanthus niruri may help prevent the formation of kidney stones, according to an animal-based study published in BJU International in 2002.

In addition, a 2004 study from Urological Research found that patients treated with Phyllanthus niruri for three months experienced a greater reduction in urinary calcium (compared to patients given a placebo for the same time period). Looking at data on the study's 69 study participants (all of whom had a history of calcium stone formation), the study's authors suggest that intake of Phyllanthus niruri may help protect against kidney stones.

3) Phyllanthus and Cancer

For a study published in Phytotherapy Research in 2010, scientists tested the anti-cancer effects of Phyllanthus emblica. In a series of experiments on mice and on human cancer cell lines, they found that an extract of Phyllanthus emblica may help slow tumor growth and promote apoptosis (a type of programmed cell death essential for stopping the proliferation of cancer cells). However, there is currently a lack of clinical trials testing the effectiveness of any type of plant in the Phyllanthus genus in prevention or treatment of cancer.

Phyllanthus Side Effects and Safety Concerns

To date, little is known about the safety of long-term use of supplements containing extracts of plants of the Phyllanthus genus.

There's some concern that use of these supplements may increase the effects of certain medications (such as drugs used in the treatment of diabetes and high blood pressure). Therefore, it's important to consult a physician prior to taking supplements containing extracts of plants of the Phyllanthus genus in combination with other medications.

Sources

Bagalkotkar G, Sagineedu SR, Saad MS, Stanslas J. "Phytochemicals from Phyllanthus niruri Linn. and their pharmacological properties: a review." J Pharm Pharmacol. 2006 Dec;58(12):1559-70.

Calixto JB, Santos AR, Cechinel Filho V, Yunes RA. "A review of the plants of the genus Phyllanthus: their chemistry, pharmacology, and therapeutic potential." Med Res Rev. 1998 Jul;18(4):225-58.

Freitas AM, Schor N, Boim MA. "The effect of Phyllanthus niruri on urinary inhibitors of calcium oxalate crystallization and other factors associated with renal stone formation." BJU Int. 2002 Jun;89(9):829-34.

Ngamkitidechakul C, Jaijoy K, Hansakul P, Soonthornchareonnon N, Sireeratawong S. "Antitumour effects of Phyllanthus emblica L.: induction of cancer cell apoptosis and inhibition of in vivo tumour promotion and in vitro invasion of human cancer cells." Phytother Res. 2010 Sep;24(9):1405-13.

Nishiura JL, Campos AH, Boim MA, Heilberg IP, Schor N. "Phyllanthus niruri normalizes elevated urinary calcium levels in calcium stone forming (CSF) patients." Urol Res. 2004 Oct;32(5):362-6.

Patel JR, Tripathi P, Sharma V, Chauhan NS, Dixit VK. "Phyllanthus amarus: ethnomedicinal uses, phytochemistry and pharmacology: a review." J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Nov 18;138(2):286-313.

Srirama R, Deepak HB, Senthilkumar U, Ravikanth G, Gurumurthy BR, Shivanna MB, Chandrasekaran CV, Agarwal A, Shaanker RU. "Hepatoprotective activity of Indian Phyllanthus." Pharm Biol. 2012 Aug;50(8):948-53.

Xia Y, Luo H, Liu JP, Gluud C. "Phyllanthus species for chronic hepatitis B virus infection." Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Apr 13;(4):CD008960.

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