Literally meaning “three fruits,” triphala is a traditional Ayurvedic herbal formulation consisting of three fruits native to the Indian subcontinent: amalaki (Emblica officinalis), bibhitaki, (Terminalia belerica), and haritaki (Terminalia chebula).
Triphala has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine since ancient times as a multi-purpose treatment for symptoms ranging from stomach ailments to dental cavities. It is also believed to promote longevity and overall health. It's considered a polyherbal - meaning that it contains several different herbs in it, and in Ayurveda that is called a churna. So you may see Triphala Churna on bottles or labels.
Churna's are extremely popular in Ayurvedic Medicine, because It’s believed that combining synergistic herbs results in extra therapeutic effectiveness and is a more powerful treatment than any one component taken alone. So these three powerful fruits work together in a way that is exceptionally more beneficial than they are when apart.
Benefits of Triphala
The benefits of Triphala have actually been well researched in modern medicine. This super powder is not a mystery; we have very good evidence to suggest wonderful benefits in the following areas:
Assists natural internal cleansing
Gently maintains regularity
Nourishes and rejuvenates the tissues
Supports healthy digestion and absorption
More specific benefits may include:
Anti-Inflammatory Properties (1)
May protect against certain cancers (2)
May protect against dental disease and cavities (3)
Can be used as a natural laxative (6)
Powerful Antioxidant (7)
Support and Slow the progression of vision loss/cataracts (8)
All of these benefits are the reason that Triphala is the number on Churna to be prescribed and utilized in Ayurveda. It is the most well known combination of herbs to come out of the practice and has documented use for over 1,000 years. And with good reason.
So, what's in it exactly?
This blend contains three different fruits, each with it's own unique mechanism:
Amalaki (Emblica officinalis): Has a cooling effect that manages pitta, supporting the natural functions of the liver and the immune system.
Bibhitaki (Terminalia belerica): Is particularly good for kapha, supporting the respiratory system as well as kapha accumulations in all systems.
Haritaki (Terminalia chebula): Though having a heating nature, it is still good for all three doshas (vata, pitta, and kapha). Is known for its “scraping” effect, which removes toxins and helps maintain healthy levels of weight.
The one extremely unique thing about this Churna, is that it provides the body with 5 of the 6 unique tastes; which cuts down on cravings in the body. Triphala contains Sweet, Sour, Pungent, Bitter and Astringent (everything except Salty). Ayurveda believes that if you have food cravings, it's likely because you are not considering all 6 tastes in your daily meal planning, or because you are naturally drawn to the ones that are causing imbalances in your body. By supplying the body with all 6 tastes, you can considerably cut down on your food cravings.
What are the traditional uses for Triphala?
In Ayurvedic terms, triphala, used in moderation, is said to have a beneficial effect on all three doshas—vata, pitta, and kapha. It is most well-known for its gentle effects on the bowels, improving peristalsis and cleansing toxic build up of wastes; but Ayurveda also views triphala as a nourishing supplement known for its ability to rejuvenate healthy tissues, allowing one to age gracefully.
References to the use of Triphala can be found in the Sushrut Samhita, which is dated to 1500 BC. The Sushruta Samhita contains 184 chapters and description of 1120 illnesses, 700 medicinal plants and a detailed study on Anatomy.
Traditionally, in Ayurvedic texts, Triphala is used to:
Ayurveda describes Triphala as a Rasanyana, or a natural Rejuvenator. These herbs and components are taken often to increase the quality of life and to allow for more graceful aging.
It was recommended in hair tonics and eye, ear, and mouth washes.
It was recommended when digestion was poor, or nutrient uptake was clearly lacking.
The Medicine Buddha is often depicted with an Amalaki in his hand - it is said to restore your prana, and bestow long and meaningful life.
In Tibetan Tankas, Buddha is often seen holding Haritaki.
It is often referred to as the 'mother churna'. As is pointed out in this saying: "No mother? Do not worry, so long as you have Triphala." - Indian Folk Saying
Supply vital nutrients. Amla is one of the highest natural known source of vitamin C, having 20 times the vitamin C content of an orange. The vitamin C in Amla is also uniquely heat stable.
While Triphala is generally considered safe and has potential health benefits, it may cause side effects in some people. For example, due to its natural laxative effects, it may cause diarrhea and abdominal discomfort, especially in high doses.
Triphala is not recommended for pregnant or lactating women and should not be administered to children. There are no scientific studies on the use of Triphala in these populations, and its safety can’t be guaranteed.
There are no known drug interactions with the herbs that make up triphala. Some studies do report findings that would advise caution in people taking blood-thinning medicines, as triphala may affect platelet function.
Indian gooseberry, one of the main components of Triphala, may increase the risk of bleeding and bruising in certain people and may not be safe for those with bleeding disorders.
For these reasons, it is important to check with your doctor or healthcare advisor before using Triphala or any other supplement.
It's clearly got a lot of benefits, it's lacking in any serious side effects, and it's been used for thousands of years in a very large population of people as a natural part of daily rejuvenation. There is a reason that Triphala is so well loved. We have found that there aren't many people that WOULD NOT benefit from it's use! Triphala is available as a capsule, powder, tincture, tea, in mouthwashes, oils, and even as a juice (it's pretty bitter, maybe avoid this one initially.) If you aren't familiar with this Churna, it's likely time you get familiar.