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What is Phyllanthus?

By A. Leverkuhn
Updated May 17, 2024
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Phyllanthus is a genus of the plant family phyllanthaceae. With over 1000 species according to some estimates, the phyllanthus genus includes a large array of plants, including shrubbery, some types of floating aquatics, climbers and other flowering plants. This type of plant is found in nearly all tropical and subtropical areas of the Earth, according to botanical experts. Its wide distribution and range of species has led to some confusion in classifying this type of plant.

The phyllanthus plant in some of its main manifestations is also commonly known as a gooseberry. Phyllanthus acuminatus is also called the Jamaican gooseberry. The caroliniensis variety is found in the Americas. Phyllanthus emblica, a world renowned form of the plant, is known as the Indian gooseberry, or in the native Hindi language as Amla.

Phyllanthus plants have been known to include some healing elements. In particular, phyllanthus emblica has been used in traditional medicines going back many centuries. There are still many who claim that it has some health value, including aiding digestion, battling a wide range of respiratory and other conditions, and even fighting cholesterol. Dietary supplements of the Indian variety of the gooseberry plant are sometimes sold under these kinds of claims.

Some forms of this "gooseberry" plant are also used in a culinary way. The Indian gooseberry mentioned previously has a berry that was traditionally pickled or cooked in South Indian cuisine. Phyllanthus acidus, also called the Malay gooseberry, Tahitian gooseberry, star gooseberry, or West India gooseberry, also produces berries that can be put into a beverage or otherwise consumed. This kind of berry has also been known to be put into jams and jellies.

The cultivation of these plants for culinary purposes is interesting because of their sour, bitter quality of the berries. Nevertheless, these are popularly harvested in some areas of the world. The plant, made into essential oils or a powder extract, can often be sold to those who believe in its medicinal qualities.

The use of these plants as herbal remedies is based on many factors, including the ability to diminish urinary calcium. The gooseberry plant also has an inherent value in terms of antioxidants, and is said to contribute to combating conditions like diabetes or even bone disorders. Some also claim that the plant can aid in things like reducing cough, stimulating hair growth, treating the eyes, and generally rejuvenating the body. As with any similar extract, talk to your medical doctor before embarking on a regimen that includes this naturally occurring substance.

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