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Chanca piedra  RSS feed

 
John Elliott
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Do you curse this weed?



Chamber bitter, chanca piedra, mimosaweed, the scientific name is Phyllanthus urinaria.

Urinaria not as in "piss on this damn weed" but as in "you got urinary problems, make a tea from this". The "chanca piedra" name is a mix of Quechua and Spanish meaning "stone breaker". From Incan times, this weed was known as a remedy for kidney stones. It's also known in Indian Ayurvedic medicine and in Chinese traditional medicine.

With all this folklore from around the world, there are scientists who decided to check it out and see if it was hype or for real. Not only have they verified its kidney stone efficacy (seems to relax the ureters so that stones pass easily), but they have also discovered anti-viral and anti-cancer properties. Quite a nice resume for a lowly weed! Don't take my word for it, go check it out on Google Scholar with the scientific name in the search box. But don't expect Merck or GlaxoSmithKline to package this up in pill form -- they can't make any money on it because they can't patent it.

I have a bumper crop of it all over the yard this year, so besides feeding it to the chickens, I also pick some nice specimens to dry for making tea. I make a blend of 1/3 chanca piedra, 1/3 chamomile, and 1/3 lemon grass and it makes a nice bedtime tea.
 
Steven Feil
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Annual?
Perennial?
Growing zones?

Just looked in Moore's Mountain West herb book and seems it is found East of the continental divide.
 
John Elliott
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Steven Feil wrote:Annual?
Perennial?
Growing zones?

Just looked in Moore's Mountain West herb book and seems it is found East of the continental divide.


Annual here in Georgia (zone 9). It is a tropical plant with worldwide distribution (India, southern China, the Amazon), and what makes it a stubborn weed are those balls on the underside of the leaves. Those aren't seeds, but seed pods. So what looks like tens of seeds on the underside of a frond is actually hundreds. It's very well established on my property and would be next to impossible to eradicate. It needs tropical type soil temperature (>70F) to get going in the spring, then it takes off and will keep going until the first frost.
 
Celia Revel
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Seems like anything grown in the steamy, warm South becomes a monster with very little help. I have some seeds that start with the letter K; it's a five letter word, though in the South they consider it a four letter word. I have about four of them I purchased from India that were labeled "beads." I'm scared to death to plant them now knowing what I know, even though I live in a mediterranean climate.
 
John Polk
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I see that there is a 'close cousin' with the same name(s) and claims: P. niruri

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00240-004-0432-8

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John Elliott
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Time to reactivate this thread for two reasons: (1) it's high season to collect and dry chanca piedra for making herb tea and (2) it's high season for kidney stones. Some epidemiologists speculate that people don't drink enough in the summer to keep the kidneys properly flushed, and that is why late summer is when kidney stone problems show up.

Late summer is also when a lot of other herbs are ready to collect and dry. What's going in your favorite tea mix?
 
Joy Oasis
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John Elliott wrote:Do you curse this weed?


No, I curse, that I can't find the seeds. Would you mind sharing some? I would gladly pay for shipping. I found out about it, when I was searching, how to prevent guinea pig bladder stones, that they seem to be prone to. I feed my just hay and greens (no pellets), so they will probably be less prone, but still would be great to feed them some chanca piedra to be sure. And it turns out, it is a great herb for people too!
 
John Elliott
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Joy Oasis wrote:
No, I curse, that I can't find the seeds. Would you mind sharing some? I would gladly pay for shipping. I found out about it, when I was searching, how to prevent guinea pig bladder stones, that they seem to be prone to. I feed my just hay and greens (no pellets), so they will probably be less prone, but still would be great to feed them some chanca piedra to be sure. And it turns out, it is a great herb for people too!


The seeds are in the little ball under each leaf. That ball is not one seed, but a seed pod full of seeds the size of poppy seeds (small). Now that the weather is turning warm, it's popping up all over the place here. Send me a PM with your address and I can send you some for your pigs. By the time the envelope gets to you, the seed pods will have burst open and you will have lots of seed in the bottom of the envelope.
 
Joy Oasis
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John Elliott wrote: That ball is not one seed, but a seed pod full of seeds the size of poppy seeds (small). Now that the weather is turning warm, it's popping up all over the place here. Send me a PM with your address and I can send you some for your pigs. By the time the envelope gets to you, the seed pods will have burst open and you will have lots of seed in the bottom of the envelope.

Thank you so much, John. My pigs will wheek happily.
 
Joy Oasis
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I tried 3 times, but they didn't germinate. But I happen to see some plants on ebay, so now I have my own Chanca Piedra. John, I am wondering, when is the best time to harvest it? Before they form seed balls or after?
 
John Elliott
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Joy Oasis wrote: I am wondering, when is the best time to harvest it? Before they form seed balls or after?


It doesn't have to get very big before it starts forming seed balls (maybe 4 or 5 branches), and then it will continue producing seed balls until a frost kills it. So if it is any size at all, you are going to be harvesting it after the seed balls form.

I think why you may have germination problems is because of moisture. It has very shallow, very fibrous roots, and is very sensitive to drying out. The trick here is to start it in a pot that is not very tall, and set the pot in a saucer of water that you never let dry out. It also doesn't get going until the soil temperature is above 80F, so if you get too many cool ocean breezes, the night time chill may be slowing down the germination. Keep them warm and wet, and you may yet have some success.
 
Joy Oasis
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It was wet all the time, but our weather is mild. Hmm, then I could have started them with heating pad underneath...Oh well. But we made some tea with plant part you sent. Thank you, John. So basically you harvest whenever, right? Can we harvest just part, in essence pruning it?
 
Sue Ellen Mcgoey
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I have a bumper crop this year,open to trades,or you can have 6 plants by prioity mail for 12$
Email if anyone wants to trade or purchase
100% organically grown on my farm last 15 years
No Chemicals
sunny126@mail.com
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Joy Oasis
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My Chanca Piedra is growing nicely, and I add it to my teas and give some to my guinea pigs fresh to prevent kidney stones. I also found out it is good for pain as well. As far as kidney stone prevention goes, chayote leaves, horsetail and Queen's Crepe Myrtle help with that as well. And they all taste good -gentle taste just as Chanca Piedra.
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