Phyllanthus amarus (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Phyllanthus amarus Schum.

Protologue: Kongel. Danske Vidensk. Selslk. Skr., Naturvidensk. Math. Afh. 4: 195 (1829).


  • Phyllanthus swarzii Kostel. (1836),
  • Phyllanthus nanus Hook.f. (1887),
  • Phyllanthus niruri auct. non L.

Vernacular names

  • Herbe au chagrin (Fr)
  • Indonesia: memeniran (Sundanese), meniran (Javanese), gosau ma dungi (Ternate)
  • Malaysia: dukong anak, dukong-dukong anak, rami buah (Peninsular)
  • Papua New Guinea: manjinimbi (Kanganaman, Sepik)
  • Philippines: kurukalunggai (Bikol), sampasampalukan (Tagalog), san pedro (Bisaya)
  • Cambodia: préâk phlè (Battambang)
  • Thailand: luuk tai bai (central), ma khaam pom din (northern), yaa tai bai (general)
  • Vietnam: cây chó dẻ, diệp hạ châu.


P. amarus is native to the Americas, but now a pantropical weed. It is found throughout Malesia, though not yet reported from Sulawesi.


From Hainan to Indonesia a decoction or tea is drunk as a diuretic to treat kidney and liver trouble, colic and venereal diseases. It is credited with expectorant (children's coughs), febrifuge, emmenagogue and antidiarrhetic properties. The pounded plants are applied externally on contusions and skin complaints. A decoction of the whole plant is used as a stomach tonic. In Papua New Guinea, a cooled tisane of the whole plant is used to treat headache or migraine. In India, leaves and fruits of P. amarus are ground into a paste with buttermilk, garlic and peppers, and given orally for seven days to treat jaundice. According to Ayurvedic medicine P. amarus has astringent, deobstruent and antiseptic properties, and is furthermore used to treat dyspepsia, dysentery, dropsy, diseases of the urogenital system, gonorrhoea and diabetes. In the form of a poultice with rice water, P. amarus is used on oedematous swellings and ulcers. South-American uses include the treatment of malaria, kidney and bladder stones and urinary disorders in general, whereas the plant is also reported to induce abortion. Traditional healers in Tanga (north-eastern Tanzania) use an aqueous extract of aerial parts of P. amarus for the management of diabetes mellitus that is not insulin-dependent. In Nigeria, an aqueous extract of dried plant material is used against diarrhoea. Leaves are chewed against persistent coughs and used to soothe stomach-ache. In the West Indies, P. amarus is applied to treat childhood intestinal worms and on the Cook Islands (Rarotonga) to treat earache.


  • A monoecious, annual, erect, glabrous herb up to 60 cm tall with phyllanthoid branching; cataphylls subulate, with triangular stipules often turning black; deciduous branchlets 4-12 cm long, with about 15-30 leaves.
  • Leaves subsessile, elliptical-oblong, 5-11 mm × 3-6 mm, obtuse to rounded at base, obtuse or rounded and often apiculate at apex, stipules ovate-lanceolate to lanceolate; proximal (1-)2 axils of deciduous branchlets with cymules of (1-)2 male flowers, all succeeding axils consisting of 1 male and 1 female flower.
  • Flowers pale green, often flushed with red, with 5(-6) calyx lobes with scarious margins; male flowers with 5 disk segments, stamens (2-)3, filaments completely connate, anthers free, dehiscing obliquely to horizontally; female flowers shortly pedicellate, disk deeply 5-lobed to laciniate, styles free, very shallowly bifid.
  • Fruit an oblate capsule, 1.8-2.5 mm in diameter, obtusely trigonous, smooth.
  • Seeds longitudinally ribbed on the back.

P. amarus is the commonest species of the genus and occurs as a weed of open ground, waste places, grassy scrub and dry deciduous forest, usually on humid, sandy soils, up to 1000 m altitude.

Selected sources

97, 192, 202, 225, 580, 597, 838, 949, 982, 1035, 1126, 1128, 1135, 1178, 1193, 1380, 1555, 1556.

Main genus page


F.L. van Holthoon