Phyllanthus is a perennially growing herb that produces several yellow flowers and grows up to a height of two feet. Phyllanthus belongs to the genus of the spurge family, which includes more than 1600 dissimilar species of low-lying herbs, shrubs and trees. Stems of a number of species of this genus are flattened resembling leaves, while there are several others that have deciduous shoots bearing undersized leaves growing alternately on the stems.
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Phyllanthus Niruri is usually called the stonebreaker owing to the plants strong roots. This herb grows in the wild in tropical climatic regions, such as the Amazon rain forests, Bahamas, southern India and China. In fact, the herb is found growing in abundance almost like any weed. All parts of Phyllanthus Niruri possess therapeutic properties. Medicinally, this herb is used in the form of diuretic as well as an astringent. In places where the climatic conditions are arid, such as in Texas, Florida, Brazil and parts of India, the species Phyllanthus sellowianus and Phyllanthus amarus grows naturally. The appearance of these plants as well as their medicinal properties have a resemblance to Phyllanthus Niruri.
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The numerous species of the phyllanthus are used for an assortment of purposes. One of the species, P. acidus, bears pale yellow and green fruits which are used to prepare preserves. On the other hand, the leaves and barks of another species, P. emblica, also known as 'amla' or the Indian gooseberry enclose tannin and are useful for tanning and dyeing purposes. People in India used the dried fruits of P. ernblica to prepare ink, detergents as well as hair dyes. In addition, the fresh fruits of this species of phyllanthus, which have rich content of vitamin C, are also used in beverages and candies. It may, however, be noted that the plants belonging to the phyllanthus family are in no way related to what the Europeans know as gooseberry.
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Even Ayurvedic medicine, the ancient Indian herbal medical stream, has used several phyllanthus species for over 2,000 years. In effect, a number of species belonging to the phyllanthus family have been traditionally used to treat health conditions, such as dysentery, jaundice, diabetes, infections of the urinary tract as well as skin ulcers. The main elements enclosed by phyllanthus include alkaloids, lignans and bioflavonoids. In effect, it has been found that these constituents basically work on the liver and this corroborates the traditional use of the herb in treating jaundice. American scientist Baruch Blumberg, who won the Nobel Prize winner for Physiology in 1976, was attracted to the therapeutic properties of phyllanthus amarus. Blumberg and other scientists examined the uses of this species in preventing hepatitis B and invented a vaccine. More recently, Indian doctors and scientists too have developed a medication, which has been found to clear the body of hepatitis in numerous instances. Precisely speaking, phyllanthus slows down or restricts the development of cancer cells in the liver. In addition, this herb also possesses the potential to be an effective diuretic, hypotensive and hypoglycemic medications for treating diabetes.
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Phyllanthus niruri has an extended history in herbal medicine systems across the world. The entire herb as well as its aerial parts are used in several medications, primarily biliary (pertaining to the bile duct) and urinary. Some instances of the remedial use of this herb includes gallbladder and kidney stones, colds, hepatitis, flu, tuberculosis as well as a number of different viral infections. It has been proved that phyllanthus niruri is effective in treating liver ailments, such as liver cancer and jaundice. Occasionally, phyllanthus niruri is also recommended for treating bacterial infections, including prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland), cystitis (inflammation of the urinary bladder), and venereal disease (ailments originating from sexual intercourse) as well as infections of the urinary tract. In addition, this herb is useful in assisting in lessening symptoms of anemia, diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure).
Phyllanthus niruri is a familiar and extensively used herbal remedy that is known to possess analgesic (palliative), diuretic, stomachic, febrifugal, antispasmodic and cell protective properties. In addition, phyllanthus has the aptitude to facilitate in lessening the amount of hepatitis virus B present in the patient's blood stream. This herb is known to work by obstructing the DNA polymerase - an enzyme necessary for the hepatitis virus for replication/ reproduction. It may be noted that a species of this family, Phyllanthus urinaria is more effectual compared to the species Phyllanthus amarus.
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Significantly enough, juice extracted from the whole phyllanthus plant is used for therapeutic purpose. A paste prepared with the leaves of the herb is applied topically to heal skin disorders, ulcers and wounds. To treat fractures, a pulp of the leaves is blended with salt and applied externally - this is known to facilitate the healing process. Similarly, the juice extracted from the roots of the plant is blended with sugar and used to treat eye ailments.
Medications prepared with the herb are also used internally and they have been found to be helpful in treating health conditions, such as constipation, loss of appetite, hyperacidity as well as excessive thirst. Taking the herb internally also helps to alleviate dysentery and diarrhea. A decoction prepared with phyllanthus has been found to enhance the functioning of the liver and is also used as a blood purifier in hepato-splenomegaly commonly called HSM - a medical condition wherein both the liver and the spleen enlarge simultaneously. This herb works by soothing the 'pitta'.
Phyllanthus is also a beneficial herbal medication for women. The seeds of phyllanthus are used to effectively treat women's health problems, such as leucorrhea (discharge of white mucus substances from the vagina, which is usually a sign of an infection) and menorrhagia (too much menstrual discharge). In addition, the seeds of this plant are also beneficial for people suffering from chronic fever, urinary ailments and diabetes. Women suffering from menorrhagia may find relief when the fresh juice of the whole phyllanthus plant is ingested along with ghee. Taking a blend of phyllanthus, cinnamon, cardamom and amalaki powders is helpful in treating diabetes. Excessive thirst caused by the damage of the 'pitta' may be cured by taking a decoction of the phyllanthus in milk. In addition, this herb is also used as a common health tonic to cure physical weakness. This herb has a gentle diuretic activity and, hence, it is useful when used as an add-on medicine to treat dysuria (problematic or painful urination).
The other remedial uses of phyllanthus include prevention of ulcers, swellings, dyspepsia (indigestion), sores, ophthalmia (inflammation of the eye) as well as chronic dysentery. The whole phyllanthus plant is beneficial for treating dropsy (also known as edema), gonorrhea (an infectious inflammation of the vagina caused by the gonococcus) and different genito-urinary diseases of the same type. A poultice prepared with the leaves of the herb and mixed with salt helps to heal itching and other skin diseases.
Plants belonging to the genus phyllanthus are native to the central and southern regions of India and over the centuries they have been naturalized in many parts of the world. Currently, the herb is also grown in countries like China, the Philippines, Nigeria, Cuba and Guam.
Chemical analysis of the phyllanthus has revealed that the herb encloses limonine, kaempferol, cymene, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), alkaloids, geranin, phyllanthin and bioflavonoids.
Following researches, it has been established that the standard dosage of powdered form of phyllanthus should be taken in amounts ranging between 900 mg and 2,700 mg daily for a period of three months.
Herbal medications prepared with phyllanthus are safe and there has been no report of any side effect of using this medication. However, it is essential to use the herb as recommended.