Sunday, July 27, 2008
Sampa-sampalukan (Phyllanthus niruri)
If you have liver issues, or just want to keep your debauchery in check, I suggest you go through your neighborhood wasteland and pick up a couple of whole sampa-sampalukan plants.
Called such because it resembles a young sampalok or tamarind tree, this plant is excellent for liver and kidney ailments. I can attest to its effectiveness in de-gunking the liver. It doesn't taste pleasant-- the bitterness can be a little too much for me. A decoction of the whole plant works for fevers as well. In some cases, it is used for malaria.
Perhaps the most delightful thing about sampa-sampalukan is the location of its seeds, which can be found when you turn the plant upside-down. They are little balls that go down between the leaves:
Some people say the plant originated in India, where it has been reported during the 1700s. Some claim it originated from the Philippines. Others posit that it arrived here via the Americas. In any case, these are the places where the it is frequently used, primarily for medicinal purposes.
All across the Philippines it is called various things: kurukalunggai, sususampalok, talikod in Bicolano, taltalikod in Ilokano, malakirum-kirum in Visayan, ngingihel in Ifugao, and San Pedro in some parts of the Visayas, obviously post-Hispanic. The names with talikod in them probably refer to the fact that you have to turn the leaf around to see the seeds.
In Peru it is known as chanca piedra, giving the imagery of breaking or crushing stones. In fact, this is what it does to deposits in the kidney and liver, making it a cheap and effective alternative to surgery. Brazil has quebra piedra, meaning essentially the same thing.
In Indian ayurveda, it is called bhumi amalki and administered as a laxative and an intestinal anaesthetic. Some parts of the subcontinent use it mostly for reproductive and genital disordersl like syphilis and gonorrhea.
It can be made into eyedrops. Caution must be exercised with large and concentrated doses, however-- the plant can also be used to poison fish!