Erva Tostao is reputed to be a hepatonic, antilithic, heptoprotective, diuretic,and a menstrual stimulantERVA TOSTAO

Family: Nyctaginaceae

Genus: Boerhaavia

Species: diffusa, hirsuta

Synonyms: Boerhavia adscendens, B. caribaea, B. coccinea, B. erecta, B. paniculata, B. repens, B.viscosa

Common Names: Erva tostão, erva toustao, pega-pinto, hog weed, pig weed, atikamaamidi, biskhapra, djambo, etiponia, fowl’s lice, ganda’dar, ghetuli, katkatud, mahenshi, mamauri, ndandalida, oulouni niabo, paanbalibis, patal-jarh, pitasudu-pala, punar-nava, punerva, punarnava, purnoi, samdelma, san sant, santh, santi, satadi thikedi, satodi, spreading hog weed, tellaaku, thazhuthama, thikri, touri-touri, tshrana

Price: £22.50 – 1lb / 454 gm Bag

Part Used: whole herb, roots

From The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs:

Main Actions Other Actions Standard Dosage
  • protects liver
  • detoxifies
Leaves, Root
  • supports liver
  • expels worms
Decoction: 1 cup 1-3
  • reduces inflammation
  • increases bile
times daily
  • relieves pain
  • cleanses blood
Tincture: 2 ml 1-3 times daily
  • reduces spasms
  • stops convulsions
Capsules: 500 mg – 1 g 1-3
  • supports kidneys
  • kills bacteria
times daily
  • increases urination
  • kills amebas
  • stops bleeding
  • kills viruses
  • lowers blood pressure
  • detoxifies
  • mildly laxative
  • stimulates milk flow
  • kills parasites

Erva tostão is a vigorous, low-growing, spreading vine with a long, tuberous tap root. It produces yellow and white flowers and is sometimes considered an invasive weed. It can be found in many tropical and warm-climate countries. Indigenous to Brazil, it is found in abundance along roadsides and in the forests in and near São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Minas Gerais. Erva tostão is also indigenous to India, where it is found in abundance in the warmer parts of the country. Erva tostão is called punarnava in India, where it has a long history of use by indigenous and tribal people and in Ayurvedic herbal medicine systems.


The roots of erva tostão have held an important place in herbal medicine in both Brazil and India for many years. G. L. Cruz, one of Brazil’s leading medical herbalists, reports erva tostão is “a plant medicine of great importance, extraordinarily beneficial in the treatment of liver disorders.” It is employed in Brazilian herbal medicine to stimulate the emptying of the gallbladder, as a diuretic, for all types of liver disorders (including jaundice and hepatitis), gallbladder pain and stones, urinary tract disorders, renal disorders, kidney stones, cystitis, and nephritis. In Ayurvedic herbal medicine systems in India, the roots are employed as a diuretic, digestive aid, laxative, and menstrual promoter and to treat gonorrhea, internal inflammation of all kinds, edema, jaundice, menstrual problems, anemia, and liver, gallbladder, and kidney disorders. Throughout the tropics, erva tostão is considered an excellent natural remedy for guinea worms — a bothersome tropical parasite that lays its eggs underneath the skin of humans and livestock; the eggs later hatch into larvae or worms that eat the underlying tissue. The roots of the plant are normally softened in boiling water and then mashed up and applied as a paste or poultice to the affected areas to kill the worms and expel them from the skin.


Novel plant chemicals have been found in erva tostão, including flavonoids, steroids, and alkaloids, many of which drive its documented biological activities. The novel alkaloids found in erva tostão have been documented with immune modulating effects. In one study, the alkaloid fraction of the root evidenced a dramatic effect in reducing an elevation of cortisol levels under stressful conditions (cortisol is an inflammatory chemical produced in the body in an immune response). Simultaneously, the alkaloids (and a whole root extract) also prevented a drop in immune system performance indicating an adaptogenic immune modulation activity, which might suggest it could be helpful in preventing adrenal exhaustion.

The main plant chemicals in this plant include: alanine, arachidic acid, aspartic acid, behenic acid, boeravinone A thru F, boerhaavic acid, borhavine, borhavone, campesterol, daucosterol, ecdysone, flavones, galactose, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, hentriacontane, heptadecyclic acid, histidine, hypoxanthine, liriodendrin, oleaic acid, oxalic acid, palmitic acid, proline, punarnavine, serine, sitosterols, stearic acid, stigmasterol, syringaresinol, threonine, triacontan, ursolic acid, and valine.


Erva tostão has long been used in traditional medicine systems as a diuretic (to increase urination) for many types of kidney and urinary disorders. The diuretic action of erva tostão has been studied and validated by scientists in several studies. Researchers showed that low dosages (10–300 mg per kg of body weight) produced strong diuretic effects, while higher dosages (more than 300 mg/kg) produced the opposite effect—reducing urine output. Later research verified these diuretic and antidiuretic properties, as well as the beneficial kidney and renal effects of erva tostão in animals and humans. Research indicates that a root extract can increase urine output by as much as 100 percent in a twenty-four-hour period at dosages as low as 10 mg per kg of body weight.

The worldwide use of erva tostão for various liver complaints and disorders was validated in three separate studies. These indicated that a root extract provided beneficial effects in animals by protecting the liver from numerous introduced toxins and even repairing chemical-induced liver and kidney damage. In other clinical studies with animals, erva tostão extracts demonstrated smooth muscle and skeletal muscle stimulant activities in frogs and guinea pigs; anti-inflammatory actions in rats; hypotensive actions in dogs as well as in vitro hypotensive actions; antispasmodic actions in frogs and guinea pigs; analgesic activities in mice; and antiamebic actions in rats. In two studies with monkeys, a root extract was reported to reduce bleeding and uterine hemorrhaging commonly associated with wearing contraceptive IUDs. The traditional use of erva tostão for convulsions was verified by scientists in two studies, demonstrating that a root extract provided anticonvulsant actions in mice. In vitro testing of erva tostão confirmed its antibacterial properties against gonorrhea (another traditional use), as well as Bacillus, Pseudomonas, Salmonella and Staphylococcus. It was also shown to possess antiviral actions against several viral plant pathogens.


Many of these animal studies help to explain erva tostão’s long history of different uses in natural medicine. Clearly, it has played an important role in the herbal practitioner’s medicine chest of natural remedies for many maladies in both South America and India. It is an effective natural remedy, especially for the liver and kidneys, which is deserving of much more attention and use here in the United States. Several research groups studying various biological activities of erva tostão have shown the safety of the plant — indicating no toxicity of root and leaf extracts taken orally by mice at up to 5 g per kg of body weight. Another group of scientists studied the effects of erva tostão on pregnant rats and reported that it had no abortive effects and no embryotoxic or teratogenic (fetal death or birth defect) activity.

Main Preparation Method: decoction or capsulesMain Actions (in order):
hepatotonic (tones, balances, strengthens the liver), antilithic (prevents or eliminates kidney stones), hepatoprotective (liver protector), diuretic, menstrual stimulantMain Uses: 

  1. for liver disorders (jaundice, hepatitis, cirrhosis, anemia, flukes, detoxification, chemical injury, etc)
  2. for gallbladder disorders (stones, sluggish function, low bile production, emptying, and detoxification)
  3. for kidney and urinary tract disorders (stones, nephritis, urethritis, infections, renal insufficiency/injury, etc)
  4. for menstrual disorders (pain, cramps, excessive bleeding, uterine spasms, water retention)
  5. to tone, balance, and strengthen the adrenals (and for adrenal exhaustion and excess cortisol production

Properties/Actions Documented by Research:
ACE-inhibitor (typically lowers blood pressure), analgesic (pain-reliever), anti-inflammatory, antiamebic, antibacterial, anticonvulsant, antihemorrhagic (reduces bleeding), antispasmodic, antiviral, liver and gallbladder bile stimulant, diuretic, hepatoprotective (liver protector), hepatotonic (tones, balances, strengthens the liver), hypotensive (lowers blood pressure), immune modulator (selectively lowers overactive immune cells)Other Properties/Actions Documented by Traditional Use:
antihistamine, antilithic (prevents or eliminates kidney stones), aperient (mild laxative), blood cleanser, cardiotonic (tones, balances, strengthens the heart), carminative (expels gas), detoxifier, digestive stimulant, kidney tonic (tones, balances, strengthens the kidneys), lactagogue (promotes milk flow), menstrual stimulant, uterine stimulant, vermifuge (expels worms)

Cautions: It is contraindicated in some heart diseases; it has hypotensive (lowers blood pressure), cardiac depressant, and ACE-inhibitor effects.







Traditional Preparation: For a general liver tonic, 1 cup of a whole herb or root decoction or 2 ml of a 4:1 tincture is taken once daily. This same dosage is taken two to three times daily for various liver and kidney disorders. For a natural diuretic, 500 mg of the root in capsules or tablets can be taken twice daily. As a menstrual aid (to reduce menstrual pain, cramping, and excessive bleeding) 1 cup of a whole herb or root decoction or 1–2 g in tablets or capsules can be taken two to three times daily as needed. See Traditional Herbal Remedies Preparation Methods page if necessary for definitions.


Both in vivo and in vitro studies have demonstrated the hypotensive properties of erva tostão. Those with heart problems such as low blood pressure, or those taking medications to lower their blood pressure should not use this plant without the advice and supervision of a qualified health care practitioner as blood pressure levels should be monitored closely.

This herb has also demonstrated myocardial depressant activity and should therefore not be taken by anyone with heart failure or those taking heart depressant medications unless under the direction and care of a qualified health care practitioner.

Drug Interactions: Erva tostão may interfere with prescription diuretics and may potentiate cardiac depressant medications. Erva tostão has been documented in one in vitro study to have angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibition action. Therefore, this plant may potentiate ACE inhibitor drugs for high blood pressure.

In one study, an oral dosage of 500 mg/kg (leaf extract) in mice inhibited barbiturates and decreased sleeping time. Therefore, the use of this plant may decrease the effect of barbiturates.

Brazil for albuminuria, beri-beri, bile insufficiency, cystitis, edema, gallbladder problems, gallstones, gonorrhea, guinea worms, hepatitis, hypertension, jaundice, kidney disorders, kidney stones, liver disorders, liver support, nephritis, renal disorders, sclerosis (liver), snakebite, spleen (enlarged), urinary disorders, urinary retention
Guatemala for erysipelas, guinea worms
India for abdominal pain, anemia, ascites, asthma, blood purification, cancer, cataracts, childbirth, cholera, constipation, cough, debility, digestive sluggishness, dropsy, dyspepsia, edema, eye problems, fever, gonorrhea, guinea worms, heart ailments, heart disease, hemorrhages (childbirth), hemorrhages (thoracic), hemorrhoids, inflammation (internal), internal parasites, jaundice, kidney disorders, kidney stones, lactation aid, liver disorders, liver support, menstrual disorders, renal insufficiency, rheumatism, snakebite, spleen (enlarged), urinary disorders, weakness, and as a diuretic and expectorant
Iran for edema, gonorrhea, hives, intestinal gas, jaundice, joint pain, lumbago, nephritis, and as an appetite stimulant, diuretic and expectorant
Nigeria for abscesses, asthma, boils, convulsions, epilepsy, fever, guinea worms, and as an expectorant and laxative
West Africa for abortion, guinea worms, menstrual irregularities, and as an aphrodisiac
Elsewhere for childbirth, guinea worms, jaundice, sterility, yaws


The above text has been printed from The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs by Leslie Taylor, copyrighted © 2005

All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system, including websites, without written permission.

A complete Technical Data Report is available for this plant.

† The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information contained in this plant database file is intended for education, entertainment and information purposes only. This information is not intended to be used to diagnose, prescribe or replace proper medical care. The plant described herein is not intended to treat, cure, diagnose, mitigate or prevent any disease. Please refer to our Conditions of Use for using this plant database file and web site.

Third-Party Research on Erva Tostâo

All available third-party research on erva tostâo can be found at PubMed. A partial listing of the third-party published research on erva tostâo is shown below:

Liver Protective Actions:

Rawat, A. K., et al. “Hepatoprotective activity of Boerhaavia diffusa L. roots—a popular Indian ethnomedicine.” J. Ethnopharmacol. 1997; 56(1): 61–66.

Chandan, B. K., et al. “Boerhaavia diffusa: a study of its hepatoprotective activity.” J. Ethnopharmacol. 1991; 31(3): 299–307.

Diuretic & Kidney Protective Actions:

Rawat, A. K., et al. “Hepatoprotective activity of Boerhaavia diffusa L. roots—a popular Indian ethnomedicine.” J. Ethnopharmacol. 1997; 56(1): 61–66.

Devi, M. V., et al. “Effect of Phyllanthus niruri on the diuretic activity of punarnava tablets.” J. Res. Edu. Ind. Med. 1986; 5(1): 11–12.

Mishra, J. P., et al. “Studies on the effect of indigenous drug Boerhaavia diffusa Rom. on kidney regeneration.” Indian J. Pharmacy 1980; 12: 59.

Mudgal, V. “Studies on medicinal properties of Convolvulus pluricaulis and Boerhaavia diffusa.” Planta Med. 1975; 28: 62.

Gaitonde, B. B., et al. “Diuretic activity of punarnava (Boerhaavia diffusa).” Bull. Haffkine Inst. 1974; 2: 24.

Chowdhury, A., et al. “Boerhaavia diffusa: effect on diuresis and some renal enzymes.” Ann. Biochem. Exp. Med. 1955; 15: 119–26.

Singh, R. P., et al. “Recent approach in clinical and experimental evaluation of diuretic action of punarnava (B. diffusa) with special reference to nephrotic syndrome.” J. Res. Edu. Ind. Med. 1955; 7(1): 29-35.

Anti-hemorrhaging Actions:

Barthwal, M., et al. “Management of IUD-associated menorrhagia in female rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta).” Adv. Contracept. 1991; 7(1): 67–76.

Barthwal, M., et al. “Histologic studies on endometrium of menstruating monkeys wearing IUDS: comparative evaluation of drugs.” Adv. Contracept. 1990; 6(2): 113–24.

Antimicrobial Actions:

Hilou, A., et al. “In vivo antimalarial activities of extracts from Amaranthus spinosus L. and Boerhaavia erecta L. in mice.” J. Ethnopharmacol. 2006 Jan; 103(2): 236-40.

Agrawal, A., et al. “Inhibitory effect of the plant Boerhavia diffusa L. against the dermatophytic fungus Microsporum fulvum.” J. Environ. Biol. 2004 Jul; 25(3): 307-11.

Agrawal, A., et al. “Antifungal activity of Boerhavia diffusa against some dermatophytic species of Microsporum.” Hindustan Antibiot. Bull. 2003 Feb-2004 Nov; 45-46(1-4): 1-4.

Perumal, S. R., et al. “Ethnomedicinal plants from India.” J. Ethnopharmacol. 1999; 66(2): 235–40.

Qureshi S, et al. “In vitro evaluation of inhibitory nature of extracts of 18-plant species of Chhindwara against 3-keratinophilic fungi.” Hindustan. Antibiot. Bull. 1997 Feb-Nov; 39(1-4): 56-60.

Sohni, Y., et al. “The antiamoebic effect of a crude drug formulation of herbal extracts against Entamoeba histolytica in vitro and in vivo.” J. Ethnopharmacol. 1995; 45(1): 43–52.

Olukoya, D., et al. “Antibacterial activity of some medicinal plants from Nigeria.” J. Ethnopharmacol. 1993; 39(1): 69–72.

Awasthi, L. P., et al. “Effect of root extract from Boerhaavia diffusa L., containing an antiviral principle upon plaque formation of RNA bacteriophages.” Zentralbl. Mikrobiol. 1986; 141(5): 415-9.

Aynehchi, Y. “Screening of Iranian plants for antimicrobial activity.” Acta Pharm. Suecica. 1982; 19(4): 303–8.

Verma, H., et al. “Antiviral activity of Boerhaavia diffusa root extract and physical properties of the virus inhibitor.” Can. J. Bot. 1979; 57: 926–32.

Anticonvulsant, Antispasmodic & Pain-Relieving Actions:

Borrelli, F., et al. “Spasmolytic effects of nonprenylated rotenoid constituents of Boerhaavia diffusa roots.” J. Nat. Prod. 2006; 69(6): 903-6.

Borrelli, F., et al. “Isolation of new rotenoids from Boerhaavia diffusa and evaluation of their effect on intestinal motility.” Planta Med. 2005; 71(10): 928-32.

Hiruma-Lima, C. A., et al. “The juice of fresh leaves of Boerhaavia diffusa L. (Nyctaginaceae) markedly reduces pain in mice.” J. Ethnopharmacol. 2000; 71(1–2): 267–74.

Akah, P., et al. “Nigerian plants with anti-convulsant property.” Fitoterapia 1993; 64(1): 42–44.

Adesina, S. “Anticonvulsant properties of the roots of Boerhaavia diffusa.” Q. J. Crude Drug Res. 1979; 17: 84–86.

Dhar, M., et al. “Screening of Indian plants for biological activity: Part I.” Indian J. Exp. Biol. 1968; 6: 232–47.

Cytotoxic & Anticancerous Actions:

Leyon, P. V., et al. “Inhibitory effect of Boerhaavia diffusa on experimental metastasis by B16F10 melanoma in C57BL/6 mice.” Life Sci. 2005 Feb; 76(12): 1339-49.

Bharali, R., et al. “Chemopreventive action of Boerhaavia diffusa on DMBA-induced skin carcinogenesis in mice.” Indian J. Physiol. Pharmacol. 2003 Oct; 47(4): 459-64.

Mehrotra, S., et al. “Antilymphoproliferative activity of ethanolic extract of Boerhaavia diffusa roots.” Exp. Mol. Pathol. 2002 Jun; 72(3): 236-42.

Antidiabetic & Hypoglycemic Actions:

Gholap, S., et al. “Hypoglycaemic effects of some plant extracts are possibly mediated through inhibition in corticosteroid concentration.” Pharmazie. 2004; 59(11): 876-8.

Satheesh, M. A., et al. “Antioxidant effect of Boerhavia diffusa L. in tissues of alloxan induced diabetic rats.” Indian J. Exp. Biol. 2004; 42(10): 989-92.

Pari, L., et al. “Antidiabetic effect of Boerhavia diffusa: effect on serum and tissue lipids in experimental diabetes.” J. Med. Food. 2004 Winter; 7(4): 472-6.

Pari, L., et al. “Antidiabetic activity of Boerhaavia diffusa L.: effect on hepatic key enzymes in experimental diabetes.” J. Ethnopharmacol. 2004 Mar; 91(1): 109-13.

Hypotensive Actions:

Hansen, K., et al. “In vitro screening of traditional medicines for anti-hypertensive effect based on inhibition of the angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE).” Ethnopharmacol. 1995; 48(1): 43–51.

Lami, N., et al. “Constituents of the roots of Boerhaavia diffusa L. III. Identification of Ca2+ channel antagonistic compound from the methanol extract.” Chem. Pharm. Bull. 1991; 39(6): 1551-5.

Ramabhimaiah, S., et al. “Pharmacological investigations on the water soluble fraction of methanol extract of Boerhaavia diffusa root.” Indian Drugs 1984; 21(8): 343–44.

Immunomodulating & Antioxidant Actions:

Pandey, R., et al. “Immunosuppressive properties of flavonoids isolated from Boerhaavia diffusa Linn.” Int. Immunopharmacol. 2005; 5(3): 541-53.

Jagetia, G. C., et al. “The evaluation of nitric oxide scavenging activity of certain Indian medicinal plants in vitro: A preliminary study.” J. Med. Food. 2004 Fall; 7(3): 343-8.

Satheesh, M. A., et al. “Antioxidant effect of Boerhavia diffusa L. in tissues of alloxan induced diabetic rats.” Indian J. Exp. Biol. 2004; 42(10): 989-92.

Mehrotra, S., et al. “Immunomodulation by ethanolic extract of Boerhaavia diffusa roots.” Int. Immunopharmacol. 2002; 7: 987-96.

Mehrotra, S., et al. “Antilymphoproliferative activity of ethanolic extract of Boerhaavia diffusa roots.” Exp. Mol. Pathol. 2002 Jun; 72(3): 236-42.

Mungantiwarn, A. A., et al. “Studies on the immunomodulatory effects of Boerhaavia diffusa alkaloidal fraction.” J. Ethnopharmacol. 1999 May; 65(2): 125-31.

Ingredients: 100% pure erva tostão (Boerhaavia diffusa) whole herb (root, stem, leaf). No binders, fillers or additives are used. It is a wild harvested product—grown naturally in the Brazilian Amazon without any pesticides or fertilizers.

Suggested Use: This plant is best prepared as a decoction. Use one teaspoon of powder for each cup of water. Bring to a boil and gently boil in a covered pot for 20 minutes. Allow to cool and settle for 10 minutes and strain warm liquid into a cup (leaving the settled powder in the bottom of the pan). It is traditionally taken in 1 cup amounts, 2-3 times daily. For more complete instructions on preparing herbal decoctions see the Methods for Preparing Herbal Remedies Page.


Animal studies have demonstrated the hypotensive properties of erva tostão. This plant is probably contraindicated for persons with low blood pressure.

This herb has also demonstrated myocardial depressant activity and should therefore not be taken by anyone with heart failure or those taking heart depressant medications unless under the direction and care of a qualified health care practitioner.

Drug Interactions: Erva tostão may enhance the actions of cardiac depressant medications. In an animal study erva tostão inhibited barbiturates and decreased sleeping time. Therefore, the use of this plant may decrease the effect of barbiturates.

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