Fatty liver affects an estimated 40% of Americans. In the United States, fatty liver disease is the fifth leading cause of liver failure.
In Asia, fatty liver disease is less common. According to a Hong Kong study, the Asian weed chamberbitter (Phyllanthus urinaria) may help treat or prevent fatty liver disease.
Fatty liver has been linked to:
• high cholesterol
• cirrhosis of the liver
• liver cancer
The clinical term for fatty liver is nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which includes nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Anyone is at risk for NAFLD, but the disease occurs most often in people with diabetes, and those suffering from obesity.
What is Chamberbitter?
Native to Asia, chamberbitter grows well in other tropical and subtropical regions. Chamberbitter is also used for medicinal purposes in South America. In the United States, chamberbitter is found in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, New Mexico, South Carolina and Texas.
Chamberbitter is a mid-sized shrub plant, maturing at about two feet high. The small, alternate leaves are wider at the tip than the base, and curl away when touched. Tiny green-white flowers appear at the axiles of the leaves, where seed capsules also form.
The plant stems are hardy, red and upright. Little round, smooth red-green fruits cling to the underside of the stems. Chamberbitter likes sandy loam soil and full to partial sunlight, but will also tolerate shade.
Due to its high number of seeds and tolerance to weather and pests, chamberbitter grows prolifically. In Asia and other parts of the world, chamberbitter is considered an invasive weed.
Chamberbitter is also known as gripewood. In the Andes, the name for chamberbitter is Chanca Piedra, or kidney stone breaker.
The medicinal properties of chamberbitter include:
• anti-hepatotoxic (prevents liver damage)
For almost two thousand years, herbal healers in Asia and South America have used chamberbitter to cure a variety of maladies. In traditional medicine, chamberbitter is commonly used to treat:
• liver disorders
• kidney stones
• bladder inflammation
• urinary tract infection
• pain and inflammation
The leaves of chamberbitter can be crushed and used topically. Applied as a healing poultice, chamberbitter can help treat:
• skin ulcers
• tenderness and swelling
• skin itch
• pain and inflammation
Chamberbitter is also beneficial in treating chronic hepatitis B. Chamberbitter inhibits the action of DNA polymerase, a viral protein of the hepatitis B virus. The enzyme DNA polymerase helps the virus reproduce.
Chamberbitter may not be easy to find in health food stores, but if you live in the southern United States, you might find a few of these weeds growing outside your door. Steep a handful of dried chamberbitter leaves in just-boiled water to make a healing tea.
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