Triphala is an Ayurvedic herb which consists of equal parts of three trees: Amalaki (Phyllanthus emblica), Bibhitaki (Terminalia bellirica), and Haritaki (Terminalia chebula). The word triphala means literally “three fruits”.
The trees grow in India and the Middle East. The fruits are dried, ground into powder, and blended in a precise manner. Triphala is used for thousands of years as it is one of the most important herbal formulas in Ayurvedic medicine.
Triphala powder is called triphala churna. It has gentle effects on the bowels, improves peristalsis and removes toxins. Ayurveda also views Triphala as a nourishing supplement for its ability to rejuvenate healthy tissues, allowing one to age gracefully.
Triphala is reported to have a number of health benefits, such as improving digestion and appetite, as well as its detoxification substance. There is also some evidence that the substance may work as an anti-cancer chemical to some extent as many experts*1-3 state.
The potent healing herbs have following characters:
Amalaki or Amla Amalaki (Phyllanthus emblica)
Amalaki is one of the strongest rejuvenative herbs in Ayurveda. It works for pitta. Pitta sites in eyes, the blood, bones, the livers and the heart. Amalaki increases the red blood cells, maintains new tissues, strengthens the teeth, bones, hair and nails. The eyesight can also be improved. It improves digestive fire, which is called agni in Ayurveda. It cleanses the intestines and regulates blood sugar levels.
Hereunder is the short list of its functions:
- Detox function which helps in the formation of fresh tissues leading to a glowing skin
- Helps to regulate menstrual cycles
- Induces iron which supports blood circulation and maintains proper functioning of the heart
- Maintain good reproductive health in both males and females
- Rich in vitamin C which builds immunity and an effective antioxidant. Removes harmful toxins from the body.
- Strengthen and nourish the lungs and the respiratory tract by removing mucus
Bibhitaki or Vibhitaki (Terminalia bellirica)
In Ayurveda Bibhitaki is the tonic for kapha. Kapha sites the lung, throat, urinary and respiratory tracts. The taste is strongly astringent which stimulates bowel movement. When Bibhitaki is taken in large amount it has a laxative function. Bibhitaki heats the body but does not aggravate pitta.
Hereunder is the short list of its functions:
- Anti-viral and anti-bacterial abilities which nurtures voice quality and helps to improve eyesight
- Helps to remove harmful toxins and excess fats out of the body
- Purify blood
- Strengthen hair roots and enriches hair colour
Haritaki (Terminalia chebula)
In Ayruveda Haritaki is one of important herbs though it has a very astringent taste . It rejuvenates vata. It regulates kapha. In excess pitta can be aggravated. Haritaki feeds the brain, the nerves and the awareness. It reduces accumulated and congested vata.
Hereunder is the short list of its functions:
- Combating piles, anaemia, gastro-intestinal problems and gall stones
- Gives tastes sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent
- Helps the functioning of the digestive system and sensory organs
How to use Triphala
The most commonly recommended triphala dosage is a teaspoon (around four grams) of the powder. Stir it into a glass of hot water and drink as a tea. Or just take a teaspoon (around four grams) of the powder with hot water if you don’t like the flavor of triphala. It is important to first check the suggested use of the product which you bought. The level of dosage depends on the product.
Triphala is usually taken on an empty stomach, most commonly in the evening before bed. Some people prefer to take it in the morning, especially if it makes one urinate at night.
Take triphala tea, by adding ½-1 teaspoon of triphala powderto a cup of hot water. Stir and drink. Triphala contains five of the six tastes recognized in Ayurveda (sweet, sour, bitter, pungent and astringent). The Western diet is lacking in bitter and astringent tastes. Consequently it makes people drink the tea somewhat in an unpleasant way.
Maybe you don’t like to drink the tea. Here are the steps and tips for taking the powder just with a cup of water.
1. Prepare a glass of water (be sure the water is lukewarm)
2. Take 1-2 sips of water in your mouth
3. Hold the water in your mouth then put the triphala powder in your mouth at once
4. Swallow the triphala powder
5. Shortly after finish a glass of water
If you follow these steps quickly you won’t taste the bitterness. The powder get’s scattered in the mouth when you are nervous. When you taste the bitterness don’t get into panic. Be alert not to inhale the powder from your nose. It might make you sick.
To take the medicine in tablet form or as a capsule is an option. Dosages are usually lower per tablet and capsules compared to if taking in powdered form. It is recommended to take one or two capsules half an hour before a meal with a large glass of water. This is suitable for people who didn’t want to drink the triphala tea due to the taste. However it may take longer to see the beneficial effects of cleansing actions.
Triphala and Yoga
Triphala is known an important laxative as well as rejuvenating herb. It has also an important meaning for Yoga. It controls the downward movement and aids in the absorption of prana (vital force) in the large intestine. It facilitates the absorption of pure prana from foods. In this way triphala allows more complete practice of pranayama and yoga practice.
Herbs mainly work for the pranic (vital energy) level in the body. Herbs effect on at a subtler level than food and at a higher level than mental and sensory influences. Herbs helps to link the body and mind together via the prana. The prana flows through the channels in the body and herbs stimulate movement of energy through this way. Triphala is a quite unique herb since it has both rejuvenating and elimination effect. It aids prana in its job as keeping the body health, strong and aware.
Triphala Side effects
Triphala is known as an excellent superfood and can be used regularly for detoxification and better digestive health. As stated at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center*, there are three common complaints for taking Triphala. Which is intestinal gas, stomach upset and diarrhea. If you are presently utilizing this supplement for the remedy of any medical situation, be aware of the possible side effects.
In short, it is important to initially have a discussion with your physician if you are considering on beginning medication with triphala. It is also adviced to take a break after taking this medicine for a couple of weeks.
For example, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center states do not take triphala if you are taking drugs that are substrates of Cytochrome P450 3A4 and CYP2D6. Triphala may increase the risk of side effects of these drugs.
Reference: Triphala, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, <http://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/herb/triphala>
For pregnant woman triphala is not recommended. Some people face the side effects including diarrhea or an increased amount of gastrointestinal gas. Lower dosage might still produce side effects such as an increased amount of gas in the intestines. It might cause diarrhea. For this reason, triphala should be avoided by pregnant women.
As stated at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center*, triphala can be utilized as a natural colon cleanser and some people can encounter intensified diarrhea after taking triphala. Weight loss might be encountered because of the intensified quantity of waste created as a consequence of ingesting triphala. Talk with your physician regarding the danger of weight loss especially for those who are underweight. Weight loss can have a negative effect on health situations.
Some people may have difficulty sleeping after taking the medicine. The reported severity of these side effects depends on the dosage taken and varies per individual.
A high dosage of triphala might cause diarrhea, which is the most commonly reported side effect by first time users. It is important to take triphala at the suggested amount of dosage. The indirect triphala side effect could be dehydration due to diarrhea. A person suffering from diarrhea would lose a lot of fluids very quickly and becomes dehydrated.
Another indirect side effect is damage to the colon muscles. This is caused by the diarrhea. If this occurs over a repeated period of time, then it might put excess strain on the muscles in the colon. This is a rare case but it should be avoided at all cause. Usually as long as a person follows the suggested dosage such a severe effects won’t occur.
Triphala Dryness Alert
Although triphala is known as a mild laxative herb, it can cause constipation especially for those who have vata qualities within the body. The vata qualities are such as dry, light, cold, rough, subtle, clear, mobile. When triphala is taken as powder it brings dryness within the body. For this reason Ayurvedic herbs are recommended to take together with ghee. This is especially good someone underweight or with internal dryness problem.
How can the internal dryness be observed? A person with a stool condition consisting of hard, small, darkish color indicates that there is dryness within the body. This person might have normal or a slightly oily skin. Observe your stool and your tongue. Some cracks in your tongue might indicate chronic dryness.
Triphala has bitter, pungent and astringent tastes. Those have the drying function. Pungent taste is very drying and bitter tastes comes after. Astringent taste is slightly drying. Imagine if a person takes triphala every day for a long period, it can cause the internal dryness. In the end the body can have constipation due to the dryness. It would be quite pity for the person who takes triphala for laxative reason.
Especially for vata type taking triphala in long term is not good idea. It would be better to take triphala in short term for detox purposes. If triphala is taken on an empty stomach it brings immediately drying function to the body. The vata type is recommended to take triphala powder with ghee or after meals. Not in the morning with empty stomach as it’s generally recommended.
Why is ghee recommended in Ayurveda? Ghee is a form of butter that is an integral part of traditional Indian cuisine. It is clarified butter, which means that the water and milk solids have been boiled off, leaving just the rich, golden butter fat. It is great for cooking because the fatty acids are stable at high temperatures. Ghee stimulates the production of digestive enzymes, increases the absorption of other nutrients, and is very supportive for bone marrow and nerve tissues. Ghee promotes fertility, immunity, intelligence and mental functions, vision and voice and liver functions.
For this reason it is often recommended to take ghee especially for the vata type who has the weakest digestive system and the least immunity within the three dosha types.
With these side effects, it can be said that this herbal solution is not intended for all. Keep in mind that you should always ask your physician if it is the right herbal medicine to take in your situation. A person who starts to take triphala should not surpass the suggested amount. It would be safer to gradually increase the amount, especially for those who are not used to taking Ayurvedic herbs.
- Sandhya T, Lathika KM, Pandey BN, Mishra KP. Potential of traditional ayurvedic formulation, Triphala, as a novel anticancer drug. Cancer Lett 2006;231(2):206-14.
- Sandhya T, Mishra KP. Cytotoxic response of breast cancer cell lines, MCF 7 and T 47 D to triphala and its modification by antioxidants. Cancer Lett 2006;238(2):304-13.
- Deep G, Dhiman M, Rao AR, Kale RK. Chemopreventive potential of Triphala (a composite Indian drug) on benzo(a)pyrene induced forestomach tumorigenesis in murine tumor model system. J Exp Clin Cancer Res 2005;24(4):555-63.
- David Frawley, 1999, Yoga & Ayurveda -self healing and self ralization-, Lotus Press