Haritaki is described as the ‘remover of diseases’. Hara is also the name of Lord Shiva, thus reflecting the sacred nature and exalted position of the plant but it literally means ‘green’ like the fruit. It is also ‘Abhaya’ or ‘fearless’ of any disease. It is said to have originated when a drop of immortal nectar (amrita) fell from heaven to earth.
Strong digestive remedy
Haritaki is native to the Himalayas and Sri Lanka, typically growing at altitudes of up to 1500m. It is a large and deciduous tree that can reach 30m in height and a trunk girth of 2.5m. The bark is characteristically cracked and ‘exfoliating’ in appearance and it produces small yellowish-white flowers that have an unpleasant odour. The fruit is a drupe that grows to approximately 5cm and ranges from yellow to an orange-brown colour and becomes hard to the touch when it is ripe. It is the fruits that are valued medicinally.
All around the world the actions of traditional medicines were understood by their immediate sensory impacts. Click on each of haritaki’s key qualities below to learn more:
Haritaki demonstrates antibacterial, antiviral and antiamoebic activity, with a particular affinity for the digestive tract. It effectively targets pathogens within the digestive system and encourages their expulsion from the system. Haritaki contains anthraquinone laxative compounds that will alleviate constipation, but it is also rich in tannins that help to tone the lining of the digestive tract bringing strength to the whole system. Haritaki is an effective astringent to the mucous membranes within the digestion, preventing further damage from prolapses, ulcerations and conditions such as leaky gut.
In Ayurveda, haritaki is considered as one the primary herbs for supporting the health of the digestive system and is part of the famous ‘Triphala’ formula. Haritaki is unique in that it will encourage bowel cleansing motions, whilst also toning and strengthening the digestive mucosa. It is a specific herb for use in the treatment of a wide range of digestive infections, but particularly those caused by the presence of parasites. Haritaki stimulate the digestive metabolism and improves general absorption rate, digestive efficiency and also supports the body’s ability to process lipids such as cholesterol. Haritaki with strengthen, nourish and rejuvenate the entire digestive tract.
The sennosides (anthraquinone laxatives) present in haritaki treat constipation and the tannins treat diarrhoea. It is salutary in digestive upset or dysentery caused by parasites or infection (Shigella spp), inflammation of mucus membranes, flatulence and borborygmus. It increases the digestive metabolism and clears undigested toxins and residues. Haritaki’s astringency and mucus membrane healing effects can benefit prolapse, ulcers, intestinal permeability and ‘leaky gut syndrome’.
Haritaki will reduce lipid deposits in the blood and liver.
Wet, mucous based coughs are cleared with haritaki which astringes all leakages from the body. It sends accumulated congestion downwards and helps to clear wheezing, weak voice and asthma.
Haritaki has a specific indicationin the treatment of all sorts of eye disorders including inflammation and conjunctivitis.
Haritaki can be added to a gargle for sore throats. Swill for stomatitis, gingivitis and periodontal disease; with cold water this encourages its astringent nature.
There are 7 types of Haritaki; vijaya, rohini, putana, amrita, abhaya,jivanti and cetaki which grow in different areas of India. Vijaya, growing in the Vindhaya Mountains, is a rounder fruit and is said to be the best. Rohini grows in Northern India (Paithan), Putana grows in Southern Pakistan (Sindhu), Amrita and Abhaya varieties grow in Bhagalpur district in Eastern India in Bihar,Jivanti in Saurashthra in Gujerat and Cetaki in the Himalayas. Images of the Medicine Buddha show him holding Terminalia chebula. This represents the respect and awe that Haritaki was held in for maintaining health and curing disease.
No drug herb interactions are known.
Traditional Ayurvedic characteristics are
3–9g/day in a decoction, 250mg–5g as powder, or 3–12ml/day of a 1:3 @ 25% tincture.