Also known as calculi, gallstones and kidney stones are caused by a build up of mineral salts (most commonly calcium), and can cause extreme pain and discomfort as they attempt to pass out of the body.
Scientific research backs up the traditional use (and name) of this herb for its ability to prevent and eliminate these painful stones. The conventional approach to removal of stones usually involves shattering the stone using ESWL (Extracorporeal Shockwave Lithotripsy), however this can leave residual fragments which often require another treatment. New research, published in the medical journal "European Urology Supplements", assessed the benefit of taking an extract of Quebra Pedra following ESWL treatment. After six months the stone free rate in those treated with just ESWL was 80%, but for the patients taking Quebra Pedra during their recovery, the stone free rate was 97%. Concerning lower caliceal stones the stone free rate of those using the herb was 94.1% versus 64.28% among those who just had ESWL. The researchers concluded that its efficacy “together with the absolute lacking of side effects make this therapy suitable to improve overall outcomes of ureteral stones shock wave lithotripsy.”
The plant alkaloids in Quebra Pedra promote relaxation of the smooth muscle in the urinary and biliary tracts, making the task of eliminating the stones less painful. The same phytochemicals also impede the clumping together of calcium oxalate, preventing the formation of kidney stones altogether, making this herb an excellent preventative for people who are susceptible to them.
With natural diuretic properties, Quebra Pedra increases urine flow as well as creatine and sodium output. There is some evidence that creatine has a detrimental effect on the kidneys and that it can contribute to kidney stones in susceptible individuals.
Quebra Pedra has a similar effect on gallstones (although they are usually made of cholesterol). Gallstones are formed when too much cholesterol is stored in the gallbladder and not enough bile is produced to break it down. In a 2002 study, Indian researchers reported that Quebra Pedra increased bile acid secretion in the gallbladder and significantly lowered blood cholesterol levels in an animal model. The beneficial effect of lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels and increased bile secretion is thought to be responsible for the ability of this herb to prevent and eliminate gallstones.
Although the literal translation of Chanca Piedra is “stone breaker”, it effectively softens both kidney stones and gallstones for easy passage out of the body.
Quebra Pedra has been shown to protect the liver, due to the presence of the lignans phyllanthin and hypophyllanthin. Much research has been conducted on these two plant molecules, with many confirming their hepatoprotective effects. The cholesterol lowering effects of the herb again come into play for liver health – normalising a fatty liver.
A study undertaken by the Department of Chemistry, Bose Institute in India investigated the liver protecting action of Quebra Pedra against acetaminophen (paracetamol) toxicity. The results showed that a protein in Quebra Pedra protects liver tissues against oxidative stress, probably by increasing antioxidant defences.
There has been some promising research in this herbs ability to naturally treat liver infections such as Hepatitis B. In 2001 the Chinese published a study which compared 30 chronic Hepatitis B (HBV) patients taking a Quebra Pedra extract, to 25 patients taking interferon (the leading conventional drug used for HBV) for three months. Both treatments showed an equal effectiveness of 83%, however the Quebra Pedra group rated significantly higher in the normalisation of liver enzymes and recovery of liver function than the interferon-treated group.
Folklore and history
Quebra Pedra has a history of use stretching back to the ancient Incans and many other tribes of South America. Unsurprisingly it was used as a remedy for kidney stones way back then too. It was also employed as a remedy for stomach ache, urinary tract infections and to reduce malarial fevers.
Interestingly, these ancient tribes used Quebra Pedra only for its pharmaceutical properties, not as a plant teacher.
The Spanish name of this herb – Chanca Piedra – directly translates as “shatter stone” or “stone breaker”, alluding to its use by the Amazon peoples for its effectiveness in eliminating gallstones and kidney stones.
Quebra Pedra has a long and well documented history of traditional use by the herbal medicine systems of every country in which it grows. As well as being the favourite remedy to prevent and treat gall/kidney stones, it is used to promote digestion, expel worms, for bacterial infections and as a diuretic and mild laxative.
Quebra Pedra Tea
1 - 2 grams of dried herb per cup of boiling water. Leave to steep for 10 to 15 minutes.
Quebra Pedra Tincture
10 - 15 drops up to 3 times per day.
Plant chemicals in Quebra Pedra include; alkaloids, astragalin, brevifolin, carboxylic acids, corilagin, cymene, ellagic acid, ellagitannins, gallocatechins, geraniin, hypophyllanthin, lignans, lintetralins, lupeols, methyl salicylate, niranthin, nirtetralin, niruretin, nirurin, nirurine, niruriside, norsecurinines, phyllanthin, phyllanthine, phyllanthenol, phyllochrysine, phyltetralin, repandusinic acids, quercetin, quercetol, quercitrin, rutin, saponins, triacontanal, and tricontanol.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not use Quebra Pedra.
Do not take Quebra Pedra with lithium medication as it may decrease how well the body gets rid of lithium.
If you are taking diabetic medication, please consult your healthcare practitioner before taking Quebra Pedra.