Malaysian Herbal Monograph

Dukung Anak Herb

Phyllanthus niruri L.


Figure 1 : P. niruri. (a) Whole plant; (b) cultivated plant; (c) aerial and root parts of plant; (d) leaflets, inflorescence and fruits. (Photos courtesy of Thiyagu, MARDI, 2012)


Dukung anak herb consists of the dried aerial part of P. niruri L.




Dukung anak, dukong-dukong anak, amin buah, rami buah, turi hutan (Malay); zhen chu cao, ye xia zhu (Chinese); keelaanelli (Tamil); child pick-a-back (English) [ 1 , 2 ].


Dukung anak is light green in colour with slight odour and bitter taste.


Plant Morphology

P. niruri is a small erect annual herb growing up to 30-60 cm in height with a slim, round or angular, smooth and light green stem; the branches are spreading and close-set with pinnate compound leaves. The leaflets are green, entire and alternately arranged with an elliptic-oblong or elliptical blade, 5-20 mm long and 2-3 mm wide. The flowers are found at the underside of leaf rachis, very numerous, small, yellow, pale green or greenish white, which are often flushed in red; monoecious with 1-3 male/staminate flowers, and solitary female/pistillate flowers borne axillary and 6 sepals. Fruits capsule, very small, green, globose, smooth containing seeds and on the underside of leaf rachis. Seeds pale brown with 6-7 straight longitudinal ribs on the back [ 3 , 4 , 5 ].


The powder consists of fragment of leaf epidermis that composed of cells with sinuous walls and anisocytic stomata, palisade cells, parenchyma cells prismatic and rosette-shaped calcium oxalate crystals, spiral vessels and fragments of epicarp and seeds coat.

Figure 2 : Microscopic characters of P. niruri powder. (a) Rosette crystals of calcium oxalate (magnification 400X); (b) spiral vessels (magnification 400X); (c) fragment of epicarp (magnification 400X); (d) parenchyma cells (magnification 400X).

Colour Tests

Observed colour of solution after treatment with various reagents:

HCl (conc)Green 
NaOH (5%)Brown
KOH (5%)Brown
FeCI3Green to dark green

Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC)

Figure 3 : TLC profiles of corilagin (S) and methanol extract of P. niruri herb (L) observed under (a) UV at 254 nm (b) visible light spray

Test Solutions Weigh about 0.5 g of of P. niruri dried herb powder in a 50 mL screw-capped conical flask and add 10 mL of methanol into the flask. Sonicate the mixture for 15 min. Filter and use the filtrate as test solution.
Standard solution Dissolve 5.0 mg corilagin standard in 10 mL methanol to give 500 µg/mL.
Stationary Phase HPTLC Silica gel 60 F254, 5 x 10 cm
Mobile phase Ethyl acetate-glacial acetic acid-formic acid-water, 25:3:3:5 (v/v)
  1. Corilagin standard solution (S); 2 µL, as a band

  2. Methanol extracts of P. niruri herb (L); 2 µL, as a band

Development distance 8 cm
Drying Air drying
  1. UV 254 nm
  2. Visible light after spray with 3% ferric chloride in ethanol

High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC)

Test solution Extract about 2.0 g of P. niruri dried herb powder in a 50 mL screw-capped conical flask and add 20 mL of ethanol. Shake the mixture for 15 min and filter. Evaporate the filtrate to dryness over a water bath. Reconstitute the dried extract with 0.5 mL of methanol. Filter the solution through a 0.45 µm syringe filter and inject the filtrate into the HPLC column.
Standard solution Dissolve 2.0 mg of corilagin standard in 20 mL of methanol to give a 100 µg/mL solution.
Chromatographic system

Detector: UV 270 nm
Column: C18  (5 µm, 4.6 mm I.D x 250 mm)
Column oven temperature: 35°C
Flow rate: 1.2 mL/min
Injection volume: 10 µL

Mobile Phase (gradient mode)

Run Time


A – 0.1% formic acid in water

B – Acetonitrile (%)













System suitability requirement

Perform at least five replicate injections of the corilagin standard solution (100 µg/mL). The requirements of the system suitability parameters are as follow:

  1. Symmetry factor (As) is not more than 1.5.
  2. Percentage of relative standard deviation (RSD) of the retention time (tr) for  corilagin is not more than 2.0%.
Acceptance criteria
  1. Retention time (tr) of corilagin in the test solution is similar to the  (tr) of the standard solution.
  2. The ultraviolet (UV) spectrum of corilagin in the test solution is similar  to the UV spectrum of the standard solution (optional supportive data).

Figure 4 : HPLC chromatogram of corilagin standard solution (100 µg/mL) at tr = 18.030 min


Figure 5 : HPLC chromatogram of ethanol extract of P. niruri herb showing a peak corresponding to corilagin (tr = 18.149 min)

dukung anak 30072013

Figure 6 : UV spectrum of corilagin standard solution (100 µg/mL) and ethanol extract of P. niruri herb


Foreign Matter
Not more than 2%
Ash Contents
Total ash Not more than 9%
Acid-insoluble ash Not more than 2%
Loss on Drying
Not more than 10%
Extractive Values
Water-soluble extracts
Hot method Not less than 21%
Cold method Not less than 14%
Ethanol-soluble extracts
Hot method Not less than 13%
Cold method Not less than 7%


Heavy Metals
Arsenic Not more than 5.0 mg/kg
Mercury Not more than 0.5 mg/kg
Lead Not more than 10.0 mg/kg
Cadmium Not more than 0.3 mg/kg
Microbial Limits
Total bacterial count Not more than 105 cfu/g
Total yeast and mould count Not more than 104 cfu/g
Bile-tolerant gram negative Not more than 104 cfu/g
Specific Pathogens
Salmonella spp. Absent in 25 g
Escherichia coli Absent in 1 g
Staphylococcus aureus Absent in 1 g
Pseudomonas aeruginosa Absent in 1 g


Aqueous extract of the whole plant has been reported to contain phenolics (e.g. 1-O-galloyl-6-O-luteoyl-α-D-glucose, β-glucogallin, quercetin 3-O-β-D-glucopyranosyl-(2→1)-O-β-D-xylopyranoside and gallic acid), β-sitosterol, acidic arabinogalactan and repandusinic acid A monosodium salt [ 6 , 7 , 8 ].

Aqueous potassium hydroxide extract yielded xylans (e.g. linear β-(1→4)-linked xylan and complex acidic heteroxylan with a (1→4)-linked β-Xylp main chain substituted by rhamnose, arabinose and 4-O-methylglucuronic acid side chains) [ 9 ].

Ethanolic (70%) extract has been found to contain phenolics (e.g. ellagic acid, brevifolin carboxylic acid, ethyl bervifolin carboxylate and niruriflavone), while the hydroalcoholic extract contained quercetin, rutin and gallic acid [ 10 , 11 , 12 ]. The ethanolic (30%) extract had corilagin, gallic acid, geraniin and ellagic acid [ 13 ].

Butanol extract had geraniin, whereas the hexane extract of whole plant contained lignans (e.g. phyllanthin and hypophyllantin), flavonoids (e.g. 8-(3-methyl-but-2-enyl)-2-phenyl chroman-4-one and 2-(4-hydroxyphenyl)-8-(3-methyl-but-2-enyl)-chroman-4-one), long chain hydrocarbons (e.g. triacontanal and tricontanol) and an alkaloid (e.g. ent-norsecurinine) [ 14 , 15 , 16 , 17 ].


Uses described in folk medicine, not supported  by experimental or clinical data

P. niruri is traditionally used for jaundice, dysentery, dropsy, gonorrhoea, menorrhagia, mild fever, stomach-ache, children’s coughs, diarrhoea, kidney trouble, syphilis, emmenagogue, after a miscarriage and during confinement, sores and used as poultices for skin complaints, including caterpillar itch [ 1 ]. It is also used as diuretic for urinary calculus and for diarrhea, anorexia and hepatitis [ 18 , 19 ].

Biological and pharmacological activities supported by experimental data

Hepatoprotective activity
Aqueous extract of P. niruri young leaves and stem at dose of 50 and 100 mg/kg body weight twice a day for 1 week when administered intraperitoneally and orally to nimesulide-induced hepatic damage in male Swiss Albino mice restored the superoxide dismutase and catalase level and the non-protein thiol glutathione as well as enhance lipid peroxidation [ 20 ].

Fresh young leaves and stem of P. niruri at a dose of 5 mg/kg body weight for 7 days when administered intraperitoneally to nimesulide-induced hepatic damage in male Swiss albino mice has hepatoprotective action against nimesulide-induced oxidative stress due to its antioxidant properties [ 21 ].

Antilithic activity
Aqueous extract of P. niruri whole plant (1.25 mg/mL/day) administered orally to urolithiasis-induced adult male Wistar rats for a duration of 42 days significantly inhibited matrix calculus growth (p < 0.05) and reduced the number of stone satellites (p < 0.05) [ 22 ].

Aqueous extract of P. niruri whole plant (20 µg/g body weight/day) when given orally to adult male Wistar rats for a duration of 50 days has been shown to interfere in the growth and aggregation of calcium oxalate [ 23 ].

Clinical studies

A total of 69 calcium stone forming (CSF) patients which consist of 39 males and 30 females were treated with 450 mg of capsulated P. niruri whereby its water extract was found to reduce urinary calcium in hypercalciuria patients after 3 months treatment [ 24 ].


Preclinical studies (Toxicology studies)

Acute toxicity
Oral single dose acute toxicity study on female Sprague Dawley rats (aged between 8 and 12 weeks old) using aqueous mixture of P. niruri whole plant showed no toxic effects on the parameters observed, including behaviours, body weight, food and water intake. All rats were observed for 14 days prior to necropsy. No death was found throughout the study period. Necropsy revealed no significant abnormality. No-observed-adverse-effect level (NOAEL) is more than 2,000 mg/kg body weight [ 25 ].

Others (Adverse reaction, contraindication, side effect, warning, precaution)

Discontinue if allergy occurs.


As decoction: 15-30 g of P. niruri herb in 250 mL of water 2-3 times per day [ 19 ].


Store below 30°C. Protect from light and moisture.


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