Phyllanthus is the largest genus in the flowering plant family Phyllanthaceae. Estimates of the number species in this genus vary widely, from 750 to 1200. Phyllanthus has a remarkable diversity of growth forms including annual and perennial herbs, shrubs, climbers, floating aquatics, and pachycaulous succulents. Some have flattened leaflike stems called cladodes. It has a wide variety of floral morphologies and chromosome numbers and has one of the widest range of pollen types of any seed plant genus.

Despite their variety, almost all Phyllanthus species express a specific type of growth called “phyllanthoid branching” in which the vertical stems bear deciduous, floriferous (flower-bearing), plagiotropic (horizontal or oblique) stems. The leaves on the main (vertical) axes are reduced to scales called “cataphylls”, while leaves on the other axes develop normally. Phyllanthus is distributed in all tropical and subtropical regions on Earth. Leafflower is the common name for all Phyllanthus species.tation needed

The circumscription of this genus has been a cause of much confusion and disagreement. Molecular phylogenetic studies have shown that Phyllanthus is paraphyletic over Reverchonia, Glochidion, Sauropus, and Breynia. A recent revision of the family Phyllanthaceae has subsumed all four of these genera into Phyllanthus. This enlarged version of Phyllanthus might eventually be divided into smaller genera, but much more research will be needed before anyone knows how to do this. Progress continues to be made in this area. Also see Taxonomy of the Phyllanthaceae and Phyllanthaceae.

Medical interest

The herb Phyllanthus emblica has gained interest as a potential treatment for human bone disorders as well as diabetes patients.

Gaining attention for its potential effects against hepatitis B, research on Phyllanthus niruri has revealed possible antiviral activity also against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Phyllanthus plants have been used in folk medicine used to treat a wide number of diseases. In Indian Ayurvedic medicine, various herbaceous Phyllanthus species are known as bhuiamla, a name previously assigned to P. niruri only. Bhuiamla is prescribed for jaundice, gonorrhea and diabetes (internal use) as well as poultices, skin ulcer and other skin problems (external use). Infusions are made from young shoots as a treatment of chronic dysentery. Not many of these supposed benefits, however, is established with modern scientific research.

The bark of Phyllanthus muellerianus, commonly called “mbolongo” in Cameroon, is used by pygmies as a remedy for tetanus and wound infections.

Phyllanthus muellerianus extracts are antimicrobial. Phyllanthus niruri may possibly help prevent stone formation/urolithiasis. Phyllanthus amarus root and leaf extract showed significant hepatitis C antiviral activity. Phyllanthus species for patients with chronic hepatitis B virus infection have been assessed in clinical trials, but no consensus regarding their usefulness exists. Phyllanthus acidus (leaf) showed antiplasmodial activity against Plasmodium falciparum. Phyllanthus reticulatus leaves showed potential RNase H inhibition and protection against the viral cytopathic effects of HIV-1.

Leaves, roots, stem, bark and berries of this genus contain lignans (e.g. phyllanthin and hypophyllanthin) and a variety of other phytochemicals.

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