Triphala is a combination of 3 fruits from three trees, Amalaki (Emblica Officinalis), Vibhitaki (Terminalia Bellirica), Haritaki (Terminalia Chebula) each corresponding to the three doshas of the body. According to Ayurvedic theory, the body is composed of three doshas or humours. Vata is sometimes translated as “wind” which corresponds to the mind and nervous system. Its nature is dry, cold, light and activating. The second is Pitta which is also translated as “fire” or “bile.” It is responsible for all metabolic transformations including the digestion and assimilation of food as well as assimilation and clarity of thought and understanding. The nature of pitta is primarily hot, moist and light. Kapha is sometimes translated as the “water” or “mucus” humour and is responsible for all anabolic or building functions such as the development of muscle and bone tissue. Its nature is cool, moist and heavy.
Triphals is one of the most popular Ayurvedic herbal formulas. Charaka, the noted physician of Ancient India, recommended taking haradapowder in the morning, vibhitaka powder before meals and amla powder after meals to get rejuvenating effects in his book ‘Charak Samhita’.
The Three Fruits Of Triphala
1. Amalaki (emblica officinalis)
Amalaki is also known as Indian gooseberry (amla) and considered to be one of the best rejuvenating herbs in Ayurveda. It’s a strong natural antioxidant containing 20x more vitamin C than orange juice and proven to lower cholesterol. The vitamin C in Amla is also uniquely heat stable. Even when subjected to prolonged high heat, as in the making of the Ayurvedic tonic formula called Chyavanprash (Amla, as the primary herb comprises 50% of the formula), it loses hardly any of the vitamin C that was present when it was freshly harvested off the tree. The same is true of Amla that has been dried and kept for up to a year. This age and heat stable form of vitamin C that Amla possesses is due to the presence of certain tannins that bind and inhibit its dissipation.
In India, amalaki is known as the ‘nurse herb’ because it strengthens the immune system and cools the body. It has a sour flavor and corresponds to the pitta humour and the fire element in Ayurvedic medicine. It is a cooling tonic, astringent, mildly laxative, alterative, antipyretic. It is used to treat fire imbalances that include ulcers, inflammation of the stomach and intestines, constipation, diarrhea, liver congestion, eruptions, infections and burning feelings throughout the body. In various studies, Amla has been shown to have mild anti-bacterial properties, as well as pronounced expectorant, anti-viral and cardiotonic activity.
One Indian study reported by C.P. Thakur, demonstrated the enormous value and effectiveness of Amla, in reducing serum, aortic and hepatic cholesterol in rabbits. In another study, extracts of Amla fruit were found to decrease serum free fatty acids and increase cardiac glycogen. This helps to prevent heart attacks by providing significantly greater protection and nourishment to the heart muscle.
2. Haritaki (terminalia chebula)
Harada/Haritaki has a bitter flavor and is associated with the Vata (air and space). It possesses laxative, astringent, lubricant, antiparasitical, alterative, antispasmodic and nervine properties. It is therefore used to treat acute and chronic constipation, nervousness, anxiety and feelings of physical heaviness. Of the three fruits, Harada is the most laxative and contains anthroquinones similar to those found in rhubarb and cascara. In Tibet, haritaki is so highly revered that it’s often depicted in the extended palm of the medicine Buddha in their sacred paintings and known as the Tibetan ‘king of medicine’. The herb is believed to have a variety of positive health effects on the heart and brain. It can be used as a laxative by itself, but it has an anti-diarrheal treatment.
One of numerous studies of Harada demonstrated its anti-vata or anti-spasmodic properties by the reduction of abnormal blood pressure as well as intestinal spasms. This confirms its traditional usefulness for heart conditions, spastic colon and other intestinal disorders.
3. Bibhitaki (terminalia belerica)
Bibhitaki/Bihara is astringent, tonic, digestive and anti-spasmodic. Its primary flavor is astringent and the secondary is sweet, bitter and pungent. It eliminates excess mucous in the body and balances the Kapha dosha. In addition, bibhitaki is a powerful treatment for a variety of lung conditions, including bronchitis and asthma. Bibhitaki is also good for quality bone formation. This fruit is known as ‘the one who keeps away disease’ owing its name to the multiple benefits it has on Kapha.
Studies of the fruit of Bihara found that it contains up to 35% oil and 40% protein. The oil is used in soap making and by the poorer classes,as a substitute cooking oil for ghee. The sweet smelling oil is 35% palmitic, 24% oleic and 31% linoleic. Linoleic oil is an essential fatty acid important for increasing HDL cholesterol, associated with a healthy state and reducing LDL cholesterol, considered to indicate a higher-than-average risk for developing coronary-heart disease.
Studies On Triphala
Studies performed since 2000 suggest that Triphala may be antioxidant, antimutagenic, antineoplastic, radioprotective, and chemopreventive. Furthermore, a recent report reviews the evidence of Triphala for treating and preventing cancer. Read it here.
Traditional Ayurvedic Qualities of Triphala
Taste: Sweet, sour, pungent, astringent, bitter
Virya: Ushna (Warm)
Vipaka: Sweet, Sour, Pungent
Guna: Light and dry
Dosha: Tridoshic (Balances all constitutions)
Prabhava: Rasayan (Builds Ojas-Innate strength
The Digestive Prowess of Triphala
Triphala for all tridoshic diseases including constipation, diarrhea, eyes cleansing, detoxing the colon, Kapha conditions, gas, distantion, diabetes and parasites. But Triphala is particularly effective for digestion. Triphala mixture encourages balanced, full elimination, by pulling stagnated Ama or toxic residue from the digestive tract and increasing the colon’s absorption functions. The colon is seen as the seat of Vata, so medicine that helps the function of the colon is beneficial to general Vata disorders. Several bowel diseases start out as Vata imbalances, even if later fueled by Pitta or Kapha issues. Triphala’s balancing effect on the “wind” of your digestive tract can not only get things moving but also help your bowels find the appropriate pace for optimal absorption.
Triphala For The Eye
Triphala is also widely taken for all eye diseases including the treatment of conjunctivitis, progressive myopia, the early stages of glaucoma and cataracts. For these conditions, it is taken daily both internally and externally as an eye wash. Steep one tablespoonful of the powder or six tablets in an 8 ounce glass of water overnight. In the morning, strain the infusion through a clean cloth. The resultant tea is used to sprinkle over the eyes or used in an eyewash with an eyecup that can be readily purchased at most drug stores. One can drink the remainder in one or two doses, morning and evening. Taken in this way for at least three months, Triphala becomes an herbal eye tonic.
Triphala- The Laxative
Due to Triphala’s high nutritional content, Ayurvedic doctors generally do not regard Triphala as a mere laxative. Some of the scientific research and practical experience of people who have used it down through the ages has demonstrated that Triphala is an effective blood purifier that stimulates bile secretion as it detoxifies the liver, helps digestion and assimilation, and significantly reduces serum cholesterol and lipid levels throughout the body.
There are two primary types of herbal laxatives. One is called apurgative and includes herbs such as senna, rhubarb, leptandra, buckthorne and cascara. These often contain bitter principles in the form of anthroquinones that work by stimulating the peristaltic action of the intestinal lining, either directly or by promoting the secretion of bile through the liver and gall bladder.
The second type of laxative is a lubricating bulk laxative, including demulcent herbs such as psyllium and flax seed. This is more nutritional and usually does not have any significant direct effect on either the liver or the gall bladder. Instead, these work like a sponge by swelling and absorbing fluid, thus acting as an intestinal broom.
Triphala is unique in this, as it combines both nutritional as well as blood and liver cleansing actions. However, it has little function as a demulcent or lubricating laxative. It possesses some anthroquinones that help to stimulate bile flow and peristalsis. The nutritional aspect is in the form of its high vitamin C content, and the presence of linoleic oil and other important nutrients that make it more of a tonic.
People who are in need of purgatives are those whose bowel irregularity is caused by liver and gall bladder congestion, usually accompanied, to some degree, by blood toxins. Those in need of demulcent laxatives are those with intestinal dryness caused by a variety of metabolic factors including a nutritional deficiency as well as a condition of excess hypermetabolic energy. Triphala will prove useful for all kinds of constipation except those caused by a lack of vital energy or chi. Even for the latter type, it will not further deplete such an individual and can be made to work well if it is combined with other chi, blood or yang-warming tonic herbs such as ginseng for chi tonification, tang kuei for blood tonification and prepared aconite for yang tonification.
How To Balance Dosha With Triphala
Triphala can also be used for dosha balancing. This is due to its relationship with your ability to taste, and your Rasa Dhatu, or plasma. In Ayurveda, the sense of taste is considered divine by nature. The information conveyed by your tongue is multi-layered and more complex than just the literal taste of the food itself. In Sanskrit the word for taste is Rasa. This is also the word for plasma as well as emotions or mood.
Like so many other Sanskrit terms, this connection of using the same word for taste, plasma, and emotions carries a deeper meaning. Since your plasma cells are the first of the body to be nourished as a food digests, the plasma holds all six tastes within it. Your ability to taste is directly affected by the quality of the plasma in your body. In order to have healthy, nourishing plasma to feed your other body tissues, you must try to get a steady supply of all six tastes. This dynamic is part of what allows the taste-holding Triphala to have its unique effect.
Triphala contains the following tastes:
When you take it nightly (a half-teaspoon in powdered form) you will experience a different taste each time. Whatever you taste in the Triphala is the taste missing from your plasma and therefore your diet. Through this information you can plan your meals better and incorporate the appropriate tastes in your diet.
Note: You will very rarely taste sweet—but if and when you do—it’s time to stop using Triphala.
Triphala For Emotional Healing
Once you know the taste you are lacking in your diet, you can also use this to balance your emotional life. There is no separation between your physical body and your mind. In order to truly see food as medicine and the signals from your body as messages of conscious awareness, you have to take everything, including the signals from the tongue, as valid sources of information. While these signals are biological in nature, the psychology of taste should be taken into consideration, too.
Since Triphala is essentially clueing you in on a deficiency in your diet, you may exhibit this deficiency in your emotional or mental life as well. For instance, bitter taste may mean that it’s time to draw your mind inward and discipline your life in certain directions. A pungent taste from may mean that there’s room for more enthusiasm or vigor in your life.
Below is a list of the six tastes and their corresponding emotions. Notice which emotions have the most presence in your life and begin to pay attention to the tastes that are most prevalent in your diet. Also be sure to note whether these tastes are showing up in a balanced or imbalanced form in your life.
|Taste||Balanced||Out of Balance|
How To Use Triphala
Traditionally Triphala is taken as a churna or powder. One would stir in two or three grams of the powder with warm water and consume the entire amount each evening or divided into three doses throughout the day.
The traditional way of ingesting triphala is as a tea. This method allows one to taste the herb fully, and taste is considered by Ayurveda to be an important part of the healing process. Taste starts the digestive process, and sends signals to the body as to what to expect, initiating your body’s internal healing.
To take triphala as a tea, make a decoction by adding ½ teaspoon of triphala powder to a cup of hot water. Stir and allow the tea to cool and drink. Because the Western diet is so lacking in bitter and astringent, these are the two most prominent tastes for most people, which can make drinking the tea somewhat unpleasant initially. Triphala is usually taken on an empty stomach, most commonly in the evening before bed. Some prefer to take it first thing in the morning, especially if taking it at bedtime makes one urinate at night.
A common amount to take would be two tablets (1000 mgs) before bed or upon rising in the morning. This can be a more convenient method, especially for those that travel a lot, have a shortage of time, or do not like the taste of Triphala tea. Many Ayurvedic practitioners prefer to give their patients tablets over capsules as there is still some mild tasting of the herb that occurs, sending signals to the digestive system, as explained above in the Triphala Tea section.