Phyllanthus niruri: Keezhanelli

Family: Phyllanthaceae
Common name: Keezhanelli, Gale of the wind, Stone breaker, Seed under leaf

A tiny herb that usually grows to a height of 10-15 inches, Keezhanelli has been ascribed many medicinal properties. It used to grow in plenty in the wild, though, with urbanization, the plant is losing its natural habitat. Keezhanelli has a straight stem with bright green leaves branching to both side almost symmetrically.

The most striking feature are the fruits arranged in neat capsules underneath the leaves. Hence the name ‘keezhanelli’ which when roughly translated means ‘berries underneath’. These fruits are formed from whitish or pale green flowers formed beneath the leaves.

The plant is used in traditional medicine for liver ailments and jaundice, skin diseases. They are are used to stop bleeding from snake bites, to treat kidney stones, dysentery, anemia, bronchitis, diabetes – the list goes on. Medicines are usually prepared by powdering the plant, by boiling it in water or from the juice of the plant. The leaves contain an active ingredient ‘Phyllanthin’ which gives it a characteristic bitterness.

Propagation is from seeds.

Photo Courtesy: Paulsy Willy

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