What is Triphala?
In India, there’s an old folk saying — “No mother? Do not worry so long as you have triphala.” Indians believe triphala helps care for internal organs the way mothers care for their children. While many have never heard of triphala, for over 1,000 years many more have used it for its health benefits.
The word triphala means “three fruits.” It consists of three dried fruits native to India — amla, bibhitaki and haritaki — and is a polyherbal formulation popular in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for supporting digestion and bowel health (x).
Each of the three triphala fruits has its own health benefits. However, the three together present a powerful tool to support the health of many bodily systems (x). Amla (Indian gooseberry) has antioxidant effects in the body. It alleviates inflammation, helps the body maintain healthy blood-sugar levels and supports the liver and the immune system. Bibhitaki can reduce the accumulation of fats and fluids in the body and support respiratory health. And finally, haritaki detoxifies the body, helping it maintain a healthy weight.
For thousands of years, practitioners of traditional medicine have used triphala as a natural remedy for digestive upsets. Ingested, it produces a gentle laxative effect, making it a natural alternative treatment for constipation.
Several studies have looked at triphala’s efficacy as a natural laxative. In a clinical study published in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, medical researchers treated patients with a laxative that contained triphala. After 14 days of treatment, the patients reported significant improvements to their constipation symptoms (x).
Another clinical study, published in the Iranian Journal of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, supported the claim that triphala makes an effective treatment for “constipation and other gastric problems.” Researchers gave it to a group of patients with gastric upsets for 45 days to assess the formulation’s laxative properties and effects on hyperacidity and appetite. Overall, they observed significant improvements in patient symptoms in these areas (x).
Triphala has potent anti-inflammatory effects because it contains antioxidants that fight oxidative stress from free radicals (x). Free radicals are uncharged molecules that search the body for free electrons to pair with. They damage cells, proteins and DNA in the process, inducing inflammation and chronic diseases. Antioxidants give these free radicals the electrons they want to reduce their reactivity with cells, proteins and DNA.
A study published in Pharmaceutical Biology found that triphala effectively reduced arthritic inflammation and damage in rats. This shows promise as an anti-inflammatory treatment for animals with arthritis (x).
Dental Health Support
Triphala can support dental health as well. Its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties can help prevent plaque buildup and gingivitis.
Several studies support the claim that triphala can fight plaque buildup and gingivitis. A study published in the Journal of Periodontology showed that a triphala mouthwash was as effective for reducing plaque buildup and treating gingivitis as a standard mouthwash, and much more effective than a placebo mouthwash (x).
In another study, published in the International Journal of Ayurveda Research, researchers gave three groups of children (1,431 children total) a triphala mouthwash, a standard mouthwash or distilled water to rinse with daily. After nine months researchers found that the triphala mouthwash was just as effective as the standard mouthwash for reducing plaque buildup, gum inflammation and bacterial growth (x).
Another study, published in the Journal of Periodontal & Implant Science, found that triphala mouthwash helped hospitalized patients with periodontal disease manage plaque buildup and gum inflammation (x).
Weight Loss Aid
Triphala may help you reach your weight-loss goals. In an animal study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, researchers fed rats a high-fat diet with triphala supplement for 10 weeks. At the study’s conclusion, researchers found that those rats experienced significant reductions in weight, energy intake and body fat compared to rats fed the same diet but not given the triphala supplement (x).
A human study, published in the DARU Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, found that daily 10-gram doses of triphala induced weight loss in test subjects with obesity after 12 weeks. Test subjects showed greater reductions in weight and waist-hip circumference than those given placebo (x).
A study published in the Journal of the Pharmaceutical Society of Japan reported that triphala can reduce cholesterol levels and arterial plaque in rats. At the study’s conclusion, researchers found that rat subjects with high cholesterol showed a significant reduction in their total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, VLDL (also bad) cholesterol and free fatty acids after taking triphala (x).
A study published in BioMed Research International found that triphala extract suppressed the spread of and induced apoptosis in human colon-cancer stem cells in vitro. Researchers of this study concluded that their results warrented further in-vivo research into the anticancer effects of triphala (x).
Triphala Dosage and Side Effects
The recommended dosage for triphala powder is 1/2 teaspoon once daily. Add it to a cup of hot water to make a tea. The powder may have a bitter taste, so try mixing it into a smoothie, juice or tea.
Although the recommended daily dose is generally safe for adults, side effects are possible. They include upset stomach, indigestion and loose stools. Because triphala acts as a natural laxative, it might cause diarrhea, abdominal discomfort and dehydration taken in excess. Do not exceed the recommended dose.
Don’t take triphala supplements if you’re pregnant or nursing. Also avoid taking it if you’re using blood thinners. In addition, triphala may not be safe for people with bleeding disorders. Indian gooseberry, one of its three medicinal components, may increase the risk of bleeding and bruising.
Before taking any new supplement, talk to your doctor to determine whether the supplement you want to take is right for you. They will also help you determine the correct dose.
Triphala supplements come in several forms, including capsules, powders and liquids. They’re available at most health-food stores and online health-supplement retailers. Stop taking triphala every 10 weeks for two to three weeks to give your body a rest. This will also help maintain triphala’s therapeutic effectiveness (x).
Triphala Powder Benefits
Triphala powder supplements are a natural remedy that may be worth adding to your supplement routine. You can mix it with warm water and honey to take it before meals. The powder works as an effective natural laxative, but in larger doses may cause unwanted digestive upsets. So start with smaller doses and gradually work your way up to the recommended dose.
The Bottom Line
Triphala is a polyherbal formulation of the fruits haritaki, bibhitaki and amla that practitioners of traditional Ayurvedic medicine have used for thousands of years to treat digestive upsets, inflammation and other ailments. It has become a popular modern alternative to conventional medicine for treating constipation and to detox the body. It may also prove an effective treatment for plaque buildup and gingivitis and aid to weight loss. Furthermore, its antioxidant effects may help the body prevent chronic illnesses.
While triphala is generally safe for adults to take, it may produce digestive side effects when taken in excess. It’s best to start with a smaller dose before gradually increasing it to the recommended one.
By: Mary Puglisi