Triphala is a classical Ayurvedic formulation which uses fruits of three plants – Amlaki (Indian gooseberry, Emblica officinalis), Haritaki (Chebulic mylobalan, Terminalia chebula) and Bibhitaki (Belleric myrobalan, Terminalia bellerica). The effectiveness of Triphala does not lie in its individual components but magic happens when there is a mixture of these three fruits in a ratio of one is to one. In the combination of these three fruits, the ancient Ayurvedic practitioners provided the formulation for balancing out all three Doshas. The Amalaki helps in balancing out Pitta, the Haritaki in balancing out Vata and the Bibhitaki helps in balancing out Kapha.
From these individual actions, we can draw out a combination of the actions that grants Triphala its therapeutic benefits. Amalaki helps with all Pitta disorders ranging from problems in the eyes, the skin, and the digestive system. Acute viral conjunctivitis can be cleared out by washing the eyes with water infused in Triphala. Acne (up to Grade II) can be easily cleared of by washing face with Triphala infused water along with concomitant oral consumption. Triphala also decreases the food transition through the stomach thus reducing the incidence of heartburn, gastritis, and dyspepsia. These properties of Triphala can be attributed to the Amalaki component in Triphala.
Modern research points out that Amalaki is rich in Vitamin C. Hundred grams Amalaki contains eight times higher Vitamin C than apple. Amalaki is also rich in dietary fibers helping in better colon cleanse. It is also a rich source of anti-oxidant. The anti-oxidant properties of Amalaki were found to be greater than that of spirulina and wheat grass. It may be aptly named as a “Super Antioxidant”.
Haritaki goes by various names in the ancient Sanskrit literature, but the one I like to iterate is “Abhaya” which literally translates to the killer of all diseases. Haritaki, when used with salt cures Kapha, with sugar, can cure Pitta dosha and when taken with ghee can clear out Vata Dosha. Classical texts describe its benefits especially in relation to Vata related disorders. From constipation to bleeding pile; anemia to reducing cholesterol, Haritaki is indeed a boon to the herbalist movement. The desiccated fruit of Haritaki is roasted and can be used as lozenges for a sore throat, cough, and tonsillitis.
Haritaki through experimental research has been shown to be effective in high blood cholesterol. Potential antibacterial, antiviral, anti-oxidant, cardioprotective and anti-cancerous properties have been found in the chemicals inherent to Haritaki. The gastric emptying attribute of Triphala can be attributed to Haritaki. Faster stomach transition time can be beneficial in acid reflux, heartburn, dyspepsia, and acidity. A mouth rinse with Haritaki extract has been found to be effective in dental caries.
Bibhitaki is the lesser known brother of Haritaki. However, the lists of benefits from Bibhitaki would make as long a list as Haritaki would make. Traditional use of Bibhitaki revolves around reduction of Kapha Dosha. The fruit has been used in bronchitis, cough, and hoarseness of voice. The decoction of green fruit is used in a cough. The desiccated fruit is also used in diarrhea and dysentery. The kernel of Bibhitaki has been used as narcotics. So, the kernel is removed when Bibhitaki is added to Triphala.
Bibhitaki has been shown to reduce fluid secretion from the intestines. So the use in diarrhea is justified. Bibhitaki also has anti-spasmodic activities, anti-hypertensive activity, anti-microbial activity, and anti- cancer activities.
Now, the benefits of each of this herbs are additive. Without each of these constituents, Triphala wouldn’t be Triphala. If other constituents were to be added in excess (say salt), Triphala wouldn’t be Triphala. The classical use of Triphala is in constipation, gastritis, eye-related ailments and anemia. In addition to the laxative effect, research has found the formula to be potentially effective for several clinical uses such as appetite stimulation, hyperacidity, anti-bacterial, adaptogenic, and prevention of dental caries. The potential prebiotic effect (due to its high fiber contents), and polyphenols in Triphala modulates gut microbiome and promote good bacterial growth while inhibiting the growth of undesirable gut microbes.
The various additive effect of the three fruits combination brings about a synergistic effect in health. Each in their own terms is “ambrosia” of sorts for when the three are mixed together you get “a whole fountain of youth”. Thus, as the classical saying goes “Don’t worry mother as long as I have got Triphala”.