Literally meaning ‘Three Fruits,’ Triphala is an ancient Ayurvedic remedy most commonly prescribed to treat gastrointestinal complaints such as constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. It is also used as an aid to detoxification.
The three fruits used in Triphala are Amalaki, Bibhitaki, and Haritaki, each of which is thought to represent a different dosha:
- Sour tasting Amalaki, or Amla, is a gooseberry like fruit that has an exceptionally rich concentration of vitamin C – approximately 20 times that of an orange. Amla is said to represent the Pitta dosha thanks to it’s cooling properties.
- Bibhitaki is an astringent and drying fruit, known for it’s purifying and anti-spasmodic properties. Bibhitaki is associated with the Kapha
- Haritaki are considered a sacred fruit in India, described as the ‘healer of diseases,’ and contains anthroquinones that produce a gentle laxative effect. It has a bitter flavour and is associated with the Vata
Uses of Triphala
The unique trio of Triphala fruits is thought to give this ancient remedy powerfully restorative, rejuvenating and detoxifying properties. Triphala has a number of uses in traditional medicine, including:
Digestive function: Triphala helps to stimulate bile production and peristalsis, so is often used as a remedy for constipation. Triphala is non-habit forming and provides a gentle cleansing action, unlike harsher laxatives that can inhibit nutrient absorption and dehydrate the body.
Detoxification: Triphala is traditionally used as a detoxifier for the blood, liver, digestive system and kidneys.
Immune support: Amalaki is exceptionally rich in vitamin C, whilst Bibhitaki and Haritaki are considered to be excellent tonics for the immune system. For this reason, triphala is often prescribed to patients with low immunity.
Energy: In Ayurveda, triphala is thought to rid the body of stagnant energy (chi) by promoting cardiovascular health and encouraging the removal of toxins. This is said to allow the internal organs to function more efficiently and therefore improve energy flow around the body.
Topical cleanser: Triphala is sometimes used topically to cleanse the eyes, mouth and nose. The powder is mixed with warm water, and then used to cleanse the mouth, throat eyes and nasal passages, usually upon waking to clear the sinuses.
The health benefits
From a nutritive point of view, Triphala is well known for it’s high content of vitamin C and the presence of linoleic acid, which has been shown to demonstrate anti-inflammatory properties. The fruits, particularly Haritaki, also contain anthroquinones that promote a gentle laxative effect. Amalaki is also notably rich in antioxidant tannins.
Human studies of Triphala have thus far been very limited, with only one strong study being carried out to date. This study examined triphala’s ability to assist in weight loss, and found that a dose of 5g taken twice daily over the course of a three month period was associated with a 4.5% average reduction in weight in obese individuals, without the presence of dietary changes1.
In animal and laboratory models, triphala has been shown to possess strong antioxidant properties2,3, and potentially reduce cholesterol levels4. Further research is required in human studies to verify these claims.
As a time-honoured, traditional Ayurvedic remedy, there are no known side effects of triphala, meaning the benefits can be widely enjoyed by almost all.