13 Jul 2020
Triphala means 'three fruits'. It is a traditional Ayurvedic polyherbal treatment made up of three medicinal fruits: amla (Indian gooseberry), bibhitaki, and haritaki. They are all native to India, and each is thought to benefit the three doshas, or life forces (more on those later on!).
Triphala benefits are thought to include everything from cavities to overall health. In Ayurvedic medicine, triphala is classed as a Rasayana, or extremely powerful rejuvenating and restorative preparation. Rasayanas are especially useful for strength and immunity.
Triphala is also linked to good digestive health and is thought to be beneficial to the gut microbiome. In Ayurveda, the gut is where all illness - and all wellness - starts. Therefore, many people consider triphala to be something of a 'cure-all' which can be useful in treating a wide range of ailments.
As such, triphala has gained quite the reputation among followers of Ayurveda. The wise Ayurvedic physician Charark states in a central text that triphala can help one live for a hundred years without ageing or disease. Or, how about the Indian saying; “No mother? Don't worry, as long as you have Triphala.”? Both are great examples of just how much triphala is revered in Ayurveda!
Modern science is beginning to substantiate triphala's benefits. However, much of the research that has been done into triphala tests each fruit on its own.
Ayurveda, on the other hand, teaches that the whole is much more than the sum of its parts. What's more, adherents believe that the proportions of the triphala mixture are absolutely crucial to its health benefits.
For these reasons and more, it may be a while before modern science has an full understanding of triphala. However, below we've summarised the information currently available from both traditional and scientific sources.
Scientists have linked many of the benefits of triphala to its impressive antioxidant content.
Triphala contains ellagic acid, tannins, chebulinic acid, and gallic acid. All of these are quite potent antioxidants that boost immunomodulatory abilities.(1)
However, each fruit brings its own healing powers to the table.
Haritaki may be beneficial to the gastrointestinal tract and to the liver. Bibithaki may be a gentle laxative and detoxifying agent. Finally, amla may be helpful in bringing down inflammation. Together, they make a powerful trio.
Triphala may help to balance the incredibly important community of bacteria living in our gut. Scientists believe this is down to their polyphenols, a type of micronutrient which also acts as an antioxidant.
Triphala can help encourage the growth of good bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria. Meanwhile, it also inhibits bad bacteria in the gut through its antimicrobial activity.
What's more, your gut bacteria can make use of the bioactive compounds in triphala to produce several anti-inflammatory compounds.(1)
In other words, triphala supports your good bacteria, slows down your bad bacteria, and helps to make helpful new materials your body can use.
Some scientists think that taking probiotics alongside triphala may even further boost the effects of the preparation on the gut. However, further study is necessary to confirm if this is the case.
Practitioners of Ayurveda have long recommended triphala to holistically support gastrointestinal health. Recent scientific studies appear to provide evidence that triphala does indeed work to support your digestion in multiple ways.(2)
A review of studies indicated that, based on its qualities, triphala may also soothe Irritable Bowel Syndrome. IBS is an ailment which produces unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms, but its causes remain something of a mystery. Hence, any remedy which can offer relief is a boon to IBS sufferers.(3)
Another way that triphala benefits the digestive system is by assisting in cleansing and elimination. The degree in which it does this depends on the strength of the preparation you take.
If you drink a mild triphala mixture, then the effect will be cumulative. That is, it will gently cleanse the body and specifically the colon of toxins, its effects gradually increasing with time. It is safe to take triphala on a long-term basis. As such, it may provide an attractive alternative to pharmaceutical laxatives, which prompt immediate relief but no long-term regularity.
However, triphala can also be a stronger, more active laxative if needed, when taken in a more concentrated dose.
Studies have suggested that triphala is a safe and efficient way to manage constipation, too.(4)
One study also noted that, in addition to easing constipation, triphala also seemed to manage hyperacidity. This is a very common problem, where the stomach produces too much acid. Antacids are commonly used, but provide only short-term relief and do not treat the root cause. In contrast, triphala does address the underlying problems and not just the symptoms.
People suffering from poor digestion or gastic issues often experience low appetite. Triphala seems to be able to help here, too, clearing and detoxifying the digestive system and returning the appetite to normal levels. Triphala's cleansing effect can also lead to weight loss in some people.
The skin is our largest organ. Environmental stresses and toxins affect our skin both from the inside and the outside. Ageing can also reduce our skin's stores of antioxidants.
Triphala, along with other formulations containing natural phytochemicals, have been traditionally used externally in India for over 5,000 years to care for the skin, likely restoring some of these antioxidants.
A recent study examined triphala's antioxidant capabilities. The study suggested that triphala is indeed effective not only in suppressing the effects of harmful oxidants on the skin, but also in increasing collagen, elastin, and other antioxidants. This research supports the use of triphala in skincare formulations.(5)
From digestive benefits to skin health, we're starting to see why triphala is so important in Ayurveda! But it has another surprise in store for us: it may be good for your teeth, too.
A study carried out by the International Journal of Ayurveda Research looked at 1,431 students, divided into 3 groups. One group used triphala as mouthwash; one, a commercial mouthwash; and one, distilled water.
At the end of the study, the group using triphala as a mouthwash exhibited similar results as the group using the commercial mouthwash, in all but one criterion. It turned our that both were equally effective against gingivial inflammation, microbial growth, and dental plaque. However, triphala worked better in terms of slowing the growth of Lactobacillus, a type of bad bacteria in the mouth.(6)
Not bad for a completely natural mouthwash!
Scientists have also conducted research into some of the lesser-known potential benefits of triphala. These include its wound healing abilities, chemoprotective and radioprotective properties, ability to improve circulation, and ability to lower cholesterol.(1) We don't yet know much about these benefits, but research continues to look into them.
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