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Phyllanthus nummulariifolius Poir.

Encycl. 5: 302 (1804).
Euphorbiaceae (APG: Phyllanthaceae)
Chromosome number
n = 13
Phyllanthus capillaris Schumach. & Thonn. (1827), Phyllanthus stuhlmannii Pax (1895).
Origin and geographic distribution
Phyllanthus nummulariifolius occurs throughout tropical Africa, except in the drier parts of the Sahel region and southern Africa. It also occurs throughout the Indian Ocean islands, as well as in South Africa and Egypt.
In Kenya a decoction of the plant is taken as an emetic and the crushed roots are taken against stomach-ache. The Kipsigi people of Kenya eat the boiled fruits against intestinal worms. The Haya people of Tanzania apply the leaves to suppurative swellings on the legs and to other inflammations. The Shambaa people use the leaves to treat asthma. In Uganda an infusion of the leaves is given to babies against colic and powdered leaves are sprinkled on wounds. An infusion of leaves and bark is taken against premature ejaculation and to treat morning sickness in early pregnancy. In Burundi a mixture of leaf sap of several plants, including Phyllanthus nummulariifolius, is used as eye drops, or a decoction of the leafy stems of a similar selection of plants is applied as an enema against eye diseases including cataract. The leaves are also used in mixture with other plants to treat general weakness, especially in pregnant women, diarrhoea and cough. Powdered leaves diluted with water are taken against chest problems. Leafy stems are applied against haemorrhoids. In the Comoros a decoction of the whole plant is drunk against high blood pressure in pregnant woman and oedema.
In Ethiopia the plant is used as an anthelmintic for horses.
In a test in DR Congo aqueous and alcoholic extracts of Phyllanthus nummulariifolius showed strong activity against the snails Biomphalaria pfeifferi and Lymnaea natalensis, both intermediate hosts of schistosomiasis and fascioliasis parasites.
Monoecious or dioecious erect or semi-scandent, annual or perennial herb or weak-stemmed sparingly branched shrub up to 50(–300) cm tall; stem often reddish at base, variously hairy with multicellular hairs; lateral leafy shoots (5–)10–15(–25) cm long. Leaves alternate, distichous, simple and entire; stipules linear-lanceolate, 1–1.5 mm long; petiole 0.5–1 mm long; blade almost orbicular to obovate or elliptical, 2–25 mm × 1–15 mm, usually glabrous, with 4–12 pairs of lateral veins. Inflorescence a fascicle in the upper leaf axils of lateral shoots, composed of a few male flowers and 1 female flower. Flowers unisexual, regular, 5(–6)-merous; perianth lobes c. 1 mm long; male flowers with pedicel 5–6 mm long, perianth lobes almost orbicular to obovate, cream-coloured or whitish with a green midrib, sometimes pink-tinged, disk glands 5, minute, free, stamens 5, free; female flowers with pedicel (5–)7–20 mm long, perianth lobes elliptical-ovate, yellowish green, often reddish- or brownish-tinged, disk c. 1 mm in diameter, flat, ovary superior, depressed globose, c. 1 mm in diameter, smooth, 3-celled, styles 3, free, c. 0.5 mm long, 2-fid at apex. Fruit a depressed globose 3-lobed fleshy berry, c. 1 mm × 2 mm, smooth, pale green, sometimes reddish-tinged, 6-seeded. Seeds c. 1 mm × 0.5 mm, trigonous, pale brown, with 10–12 rows of minute tubercles on one side and 9–10 concentric rows of tubercles on the other side.
Phyllanthus is a large genus comprising about 750 species in tropical and subtropical regions, with about 150 species in mainland tropical Africa and about 60 in Madagascar and the Indian Ocean islands.
Several other shrubby Phyllanthus spp. have medicinal uses in East and southern Africa. Phyllanthus fischeri Pax occurs from Ethiopia south to Tanzania. In Kenya the Nandi people take a fruit decoction to treat roundworms. In Tanzania a root decoction, mixed with roots of other plant species, is drunk to treat threatened abortion, female sterility and general malaise. Phyllanthus fischeri is considered a good forage for all livestock. The twigs are used as toothbrush. Phyllanthus hutchinsonianus S.Moore occurs in Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. In Tanzania the bitter leaves are eaten by women after childbirth as a stomach medicine. Phyllanthus sacleuxii Radcl.-Sm. (synonym: Phyllanthus mittenianus Hutch.) occurs in montane woodland of Kenya and Tanzania. In Kenya a leaf decoction is drunk to treat diarrhoea. Leaf sap is used as ear drops to treat otitis. It is listed as rare in Kenya on the IUCN Red List of threatened plants. Phyllanthus somalensis Hutch. occurs in Somalia and northern Kenya. In Somalia a root decoction is drunk to cure blood in the urine, including schistosomiasis. A root decoction or maceration is taken to treat bilharzia. In Kenya the leaves are suspected of poisoning livestock. An ethanol extract of the roots showed antibacterial activity in vitro. Phyllanthus volkensii Engl. occurs in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. In Uganda a leaf infusion is drunk to treat headache.
Phyllanthus nummulariifolius occurs in dense riverine forest, woodland, forest edges and grassland, often in seasonally wet and disturbed localities, but also in shallow pockets of soil on granite inselbergs in Acacia- Commiphora vegetation, up to 2100 m altitude.
Genetic resources and breeding
Phyllanthus nummulariifolius has a very wide area of distribution and there are no signs that its genetic variability is diminishing.
Phyllanthus nummulariifolius has many uses in local medicine, but virtually nothing is known concerning its chemistry and pharmacology. Therefore, more research is needed to evaluate its properties.
Major references
• Burkill, H.M., 1994. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 2, Families E–I. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 636 pp.
• Keay, R.W.J., 1958. Euphorbiaceae. In: Keay, R.W.J. (Editor). Flora of West Tropical Africa. Volume 1, part 2. 2nd Edition. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 364–423.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
• Radcliffe-Smith, A., 1996. Euphorbiaceae, subfamilies Phyllantoideae, Oldfieldioideae, Acalyphoideae, Crotonoideae and Euphorbioideae, tribe Hippomaneae. In: Pope, G.V. (Editor). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 9, part 4. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. pp. 1–337.
• Unander, D.W., Webster, G.L. & Blumberg, B.S., 1991. Uses and bioassays in Phyllanthus (Euphorbiaceae): a compilation. 2. The subgenus Phyllanthus. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 34: 97–133.
Other references
• Adjanohoun, E.J., Aké Assi, L., Ali Ahmed, Eymé, J., Guinko, S., Kayonga, A., Keita, A. & Lebras, M. (Editors), 1982. Médecine traditionelle et pharmacopée - Contribution aux études ethnobotaniques et floristiques aux Comores. Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique, Paris, France. 217 pp.
• Andrianaivoravelona, B.A., 2004. Etude systématique de Phyllanthus casticum Willemet et de Phyllanthus nummulariifolius Poiret (Euphorbiaceae) à Madagascar. Mémoire pour l’obtention du diplôme d’étude approfondie, Département de Biologie et Ecologie végétale, Faculté des Sciences, Université d’Antananarivo, Antananarivo, Madagascar. 71 pp.
• Baerts, M. & Lehmann, J., 2008. Phyllanthus nummulariifolius. [Internet] Prelude Medicinal Plants Database. Metafro-Infosys, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium Accessed May 2008.
• Chifundera, K., Baluku, B. & Mashimango, B., 1993. Phytochemical screening and molluscicidal potency of some Zairean medicinal plants. Pharmacological Research 28(4): 333–340.
• Hamill, F.A., Apio, S., Mubiru, N.K., Mosango, M., Bukenya-Ziraba, R., Maganyi, O.W. & Soejarto, D.D., 2000. Traditional herbal drugs of southern Uganda, 1. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 70: 281–300.
• Heine, B. & Heine, I., 1988. Plant concepts and plant use; an ethnobotanical survey of the semi-arid and arid lands of East Africa. Part 3. Rendille plants (Kenya). Cologne Development Studies 8. Breitenbach, Saarbrücken, Germany. 120 pp.
• Kokwaro, J.O., 1993. Medicinal plants of East Africa. 2nd Edition. Kenya Literature Bureau, Nairobi, Kenya. 401 pp.
• Macleod, A., 1998. A review of traditional anthelmintics for equines. M.Sc. Thesis. School of Agricultural and Forest Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor, United Kingdom. 54 pp.
• Tabuti, J.R.S., Lye, K.A. & Dhillion, S.S., 2003. Traditional herbal drugs of Bulamogi, Uganda: plants, use and administration. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 88: 19–44.
• Yamada, T., 1999. A report of the ethnobotany of the Nyindu in the eastern part of the former Zaire. African Study Monographs 20(1): 1–72.
L.P.A. Oyen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

G.H. Schmelzer
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
A. Gurib-Fakim
Faculty of Science, University of Mauritius, Réduit, Mauritius
Associate editors
C.H. Bosch
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
M.S.J. Simmonds
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AB, United Kingdom
R. Arroo
Leicester School of Pharmacy, Natural Products Research, De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester LE1 9BH, United Kingdom
A. de Ruijter
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
General editors
R.H.M.J. Lemmens
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
L.P.A. Oyen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article:
Oyen, L.P.A., 2008. Phyllanthus nummulariifolius Poir. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.