Stonebreaker

Stonebreaker hails from both India and South America and has been long used for medicinal purposes. Learn more about its history, preparations, and how it earned its descriptive name.

Quick Facts
General Information
  • Common name(s)Stonebreaker, Phyllanthus, seed-under-leaf, gale of the wind, chancapiedra, quebra-pedra
  • Ayurvedic nameBhuiaonla
  • Scientific namePhyllantus niruri
  • Native regionSouth America, Indian Subcontinent
  • Main producer(s)India
  • Main Economic UseMedicinal
Stonebreaker

Stonebreaker, an herb native to India and South America that now grows from Brazil to Texas, has been a traditional mainstay in Ayurvedic medicine for more than two millennia, where it is used for ailments ranging from hiccups to leprosy. It is also a prominent herb in the Unani system of medicine, which applies it to wounds and sores and uses it for symptoms like jaundice. It gets its common name, stonebreaker – as well as the Spanish and Portuguese equivalents – from its use in treating kidney stones.

Medicinal and Nutritional Information

Quick Facts (Medicinal and Nutritional Information)
  • Medicinal actionAntilithic, Antiviral
  • Key constituentsPhyllanthin, nirtetralin
  • Ways to useCapsules, Decoctions, Hot infusions/tisanes
  • Medicinal rating(3) Reasonably useful plant
  • Safety rankingSafety undetermined
Stonebreaker Benefits

Health Benefits of Stonebreaker

Stonebreaker has been used traditionally in Ayurvedic medicine and is a hot subject of research today. More studies are needed to ascertain the extent of stonebreaker's effectiveness in people, but its antilithic and antiviral properties give it the following medicinal uses:

  • Dissolving kidney stones and gallstones. Living up to its name, stonebreaker aids the passage of stones and also prevents their formation.

  • Treating hepatitis B. Preliminary studies have shown that stonebreaker can stop this virus from replicating.

Additionally, stonebreaker can quell flare-ups of gout by reducing uric acid levels.

How It Works

Phyllanthin, the most studied compound in stonebreaker, has been observed to have hepatoprotective, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties. In addition, nirtetralin is thought to have antiviral action: studies show that it can inhibit replication of the hepatitis B virus and suppress its antigens, therefore enabling a speedier recovery. However, more research is needed before using nirtetralin to treat other viruses.

Stonebreaker extract helps prevent and treat kidney stones by interrupting various steps in the formation of stones, which are made of uric acid and minerals. The plant's lignans lower blood levels of uric acid, helping to prevent crystal formation. Stonebreaker also reduces crystal clumping and alters the structure and composition of the crystals. The anti-inflammatory activity of the plant can relax the urethra, aiding in the passage of stones.

While its lignans are thought to be mainly responsible for the plant's medicinal actions, stonebreaker also contains flavonoids, tannins, and alkaloids.

Herbs that also protect kidneys' health and improve urination are asparagus, parsley, and angelica.

Stonebreaker Side Effects

Stonebreaker is largely free of side effects. However, a closely-related species, P. amarus, may damage kidneys if used in the long term. Therefore, it is recommended to check with a physician before using stonebreaker.

How to Consume Stonebreaker

Stonebreaker is used chiefly for its medicinal properties, and it is not consumed as a food.

Natural Forms

  • Dried. The leaves and stems of stonebreaker can be used to prepare a variety of home remedies.

  • Infusion. Stonebreaker aereal parts can be brewed into a warm tisane to be taken throughout the day in order to reduce uric acid and prevent the formation of stones.

  • Decoction. When the leaves and stems of the plant are boiled, the concentrated liquid can be taken to aid the elimination of stones and manage the symptoms of gout.

Herbal Remedies & Supplements

  • Liquid extract. This is a concentrated form of stonebreaker that needs to be diluted in water in order to reap the protective benefits of the herb.

  • Capsules. Taking stonebreak in this supplemental form is widely preferred to obtain all its medicinal properties avoiding its naturally bitter flavor.

Buying

Natural Forms

In addition to the fact that it is not a food product, stonebreaker is only recently gaining Western attention. For this reason, the plant is most likely to be found in some ethnic markets. However, dried stonebreaker can be easily purchased from online retailers.

Herbal Remedies & Supplements

Liquid extracts and capsules of stonebreaker are can be found in specialized herbal stores or purchased through online retailer.

Growing

Quick Facts (Growing)
  • Life cycleAnnual
  • Harvested partsLeaves, Stem
  • Light requirementsPartial shade
  • Soil pH6.1 – 6.5 (Slightly acidic)
  • Growing habitatTropical rainforests
  • Plant spacing average0.4 m (1.31 ft)

Stonebreaker flourishes in tropical areas and produces beautiful foliage, but it can adapt to different types of soils and climate conditions.

Growing Guidelines

  • Stonebreaker plants grow well in slightly acidic, wet soils. Though the plant is hardy, adequate organic matter will ensure the nutrient content and soil structure required for proper development.

  • The plant's lateral leaves reach nearly five inches (12 cm) long, so it need to be spaced in rows, at distances of 16 inches (40 cm) between plants and 24 inches (60 cm) between rows.

  • Since stonebreaker grows well in tropical rainforests under partial shade conditions, it may do well in associative systems, such as agroforestry.

Additional Information

Quick Facts (Additional Information)
  • Other usesAnimal feed, Dye

Plant Biology

Stonebreaker can reach 12 - 24 inches (30 - 60 cm) in height. Its oblong, emerald leaves grow on angular steams, and it produces copious yellow-green flowers. The round fruit capsule it bears is small - almost stone-like in appearance - and yields three seeds.

  • Classification

    Stonebreaker (Phyllanthus niruri) belongs to the Phyllanthaceae family, which is represented by about 19 genera in several tropical environments, especially in the rainforest and the savanna. The genus Phyllanthus possess a great diversity that includes approximately 1,000 species of flowering plants.

  • Varieties and Subspecies of Stonebreaker

    Phyllanthus niruri is divided into two subspecies: P. niruri subsp. niruri and P. niruri subsp. lathryroides. In addition, the plant has over 20 botanical synonyms, though Phyllanthus niruri is the commonly accepted name. P. niruri's common names are also used to refer to a number of other plants in its genus, primarily P. amarus, P. fraternus, P. sellowianus, and P. urinaria. These relatives seem to share at least some of the same active compounds.

Economic Data

Stonebreaker grows freely in its native tropical zones, so there is no large-scale effort put forth towards its cultivation. In fact, it is considered a weed in some areas. There are no reliable sales or yield statistics on the plant, but there is a niche market for stonebreaker supplements in both India and northern South America. The majority of producers are located in India.

Other Uses

  • Dye. A decoction of the leaves and stem together can be used to dye cotton black.

  • Fishing. Stonebreaker is also used to help catch fish.

Bibliography

  • Germplasm Resources Information, Taxon: Phyllanthus niruri L., 2005
  • Phytotherapy Research, Lignans with anti-hepatitis B virus activities from Phyllanthus niruri L., 2012
  • International Brazilian Journal of Urology, Phyllanthus niruri as a promising alternative treatment for nephrolithiasis, 2010
  • Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Effects of an extract from Phyllanthus niruri on hepatitis B and woodchuck hepatitis viruses: in vitro and in vivo studies, 1987
  • North American Journal of Medical Sciences, Histological effects of chronic administration of Phyllanthus amarus on the kidney of adult Wistar rat, 2010
  • Journal of Urology, Can Phyllanthus niruri affect the efficacy of extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy for renal stones? A randomized, prospective, long-term study, 2006
  • Planta Medica, Antihyperuricemic lignans from the leaves of Phyllanthus niruri, 2006
  • Purdue University, Bhuiaonla (Phyllanthus niruri): A Useful Medicinal Weed, 2002
  • The Scientific World Journal, An Overview of Important Ethnomedicinal Herbs of Phyllanthus Species: Present Status and Future Prospects, 2014