A voice for
herbal medicine

We share traditional, scientific and practical insights written by experienced herbalists and health experts from the world of herbal medicine and natural health

Triphala's ability to cleanse and tonify the system makes it Ayurveda's most famous formula


Terminalia chebula, Terminala belerica & Emblica officinalis

Triphala literally means ‘three fruits’ and it is blended equally from all three nourishing fruits to perform the functions of healing perfectly. Its therapeutic action as a deep and enduring tissue cleanser is believed to come from it possessing five of the six tastes (all but salty).

Sustainability Status

Sustainability status

Not currently on risk lists but complete data may be missing on the status of the species. Read more about our sustainability guide.

Key benefits
  • Digestive remedy
  • Detoxifying
  • How does it feel?

    Triphala powder has a characteristically astringent and sour taste at first, puckering and drying your mouth. Then a few bitter notes appear with a residual sweetness. If you sip some water after taking triphala it can taste surprisingly sweet which is a bit of a relief after all the other flavours. Just one taste of triphala feels immediately grounding and cleansing.

    The trees that produce the three fruits of Triphala are majestic beings, each with a unique character.

    Haritaki is a very large deciduous tree that can grow up to 40 metres in height. The flowers are a pale yellow or white and have an unpleasant odour. The fruits are nut-like, elliptical in shape, hard, ribbed and a bright green colour when picked. The tree is common throughout the forests of India and Sri Lanka. The fruit is extremely astringent.

    Bibhitaki is a large deciduous tree that can reach up to 30 metres in height. The flowers are a pale green/yellow and have an unpleasant odour. The fruits used in the triphala combination are globular, grey and hairy and grow up to 2cm in diameter. The tree is commonly found throughout forests in India and Sri Lanka. The fruit is even more astringent than haritaki.

    Amalaki is a small deciduous tree that can reach up to 18metres in height. Its flowers and fruit are a greenish/yellow colour. The fruits are spherical, gooseberry like, with a smooth skin. The tree is common throughout India. And the fruit is one of the sourest things you will ever taste. Delicious, but tart!

  • What can I use it for?

    Triphala helps support the body’s natural cleansing processes, helping to maintain the health of the digestive tract. It will positively influence most digestive complaints through its ability to strengthen the digestive mucosal membranes, ease congestion and encourage cleansing. It is traditionally classified as a laxative, but its laxative actions are mild and do not influence any dependency so should perhaps more accurately be known as an ‘aperient’, a more gentle form of bowel cleanser.

    It tones the digestive tract and encourages effective peristalsis and reduces digestive irritation. This toning of the gut wall lends its use to soothing a leaky-gut and removing inflammation in such conditions as Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis and acidic digestive reflux. Triphala is a potent anti-oxidant, providing a deep level of cellular protection to the cells of the digestive tract. This effect on the lining of the digestive system has a symbiotic effect on the lining of our body, the skin.

    Hence Triphala is used as part of treatments for eczema, psoriasis, acne etc. Triphala plays an important role in any systemic inflammation and is long associated with treatments for arthritis and gout. It is also renowned for eye health, helping to reduce inflammation.

  • Into the heart of triphala

    Haritaki contains small amounts of compounds known as anthraquinone laxatives that encourage a laxative action within the digestive tract. It is also rich in tannins which are astringent compounds that tonify and strengthen the digestive lining.

    This encourages a more effective peristaltic action and provides protection against prolapse, ulcerations and conditions such as leaky gut.

    Haritaki is said to dry all leakages from the body. Haritaki also has a specific use in relieving digestive irritation caused by parasites or infection. Haritaki is considered a rejuvenative for vata dosha types. It is called he zi in TCM, and is used to help Lung Qi draw breath in, clear damp and stop wheezing.

    Bibhitaki is a strong astringent to the digestive mucosal membranes, providing strength and tone in a similar way to haritaki. Bibhitaki is effective at clearing mucous congestion throughout the body and acts as an effective expectorant.

    This herb also contains a small proportion of cardiac glycosides which can be effective for cardiac congestion and/or insufficiency. Bibhitaki is considered a rejuvenative for kapha dosha types.

    Amalaki is sometimes shortened to ‘Amla’ which can be literally translated to ‘sour’ reflecting its taste. Amalaki is a superb rejuvenative that reduces inflammation in the digestive tract in addition to being a mild laxative. It is particularly suited to treating any digestive sensitivity.

    Amalaki is packed with phytochemicals and potent cellular regulators that provide valuable protection to the mucous membranes of the digestive tract. These sour properties have made amalaki an effective and potent liver cleanser and its high levels of Vitamin C make Amalaki a strong immune system restorative. Amalaki has an affinity for the blood and nourishes the heart. It can reduce elevated cholesterol levels but also encourage any arterial healing where there has been damage. Amalaki is considered a rejuvenative for pitta dosha types.

  • Traditional actions

  • Traditional energetic actions

    Herbal energetics are the descriptions Herbalists have given to plants, mushrooms, lichens, foods, and some minerals based on the direct experience of how they taste, feel, and work in the body. All traditional health systems use these principles to explain how the environment we live in and absorb, impacts our health. Find out more about traditional energetic actions in our article “An introduction to herbal energetics“.

  • Did you know?

    Triphala, is highly respected as part of a popular folk saying in India: ‘Triphala can look after you as well as your mother.’ Indian culture believes that Triphala is able to care for the health of the body as a mother cares for her children.

Additional information

  • Safety

    Triphala and its individual component plants, Amla, Haritaki and Bibhitaki, have a longstanding history of safe use  in Ayurveda.

  • Dosage

    2-3 caps 2-3x/day. 0.5- 5g/day, 3-9ml/day of a 1:3 in 25% tincture

Triphala (Terminalia chebula, Terminala belerica & Emblica officinalis)
An ‘aromatic’ remedy, high in volatile essential oils, was most often associated with calming and sometimes ‘warming’ the digestion. Most kitchen spices and herbs have this quality: they were used both as flavouring and to ease the digestion of sometimes challenging pre-industrial foods. Many aromatics are classed as ‘carminatives’ and are used to reduce colic, bloating and agitated digestion. They also often feature in respiratory remedies for colds, chest and other airway infections. They are also classic calming inhalants and massage oils, and are the basis of aromatherapy for their mental benefits.
Astringent taste
The puckering taste you get with many plants (the most familiar is black tea after being stewed too long, or some red wines) is produced by complex polyphenols such as tannins. Tannins are used in concentrated form (eg from oak bark) to make leather from animal skins. The process of ‘tanning’ involves the coagulation of relatively fluid proteins in living tissues into tight clotted fibres (similar to the process of boiling an egg). Tannins in effect turn exposed surfaces on the body into leather. In the case of the lining of mouth and upper digestive tract this is only temporary as new mucosa are replenished, but in the meantime can calm inflamed or irritated surfaces. In the case of open wounds tannins can be a life-saver – when strong (as in the bark of broadleaved trees) they can seal a damaged surface. One group of tannins, the reddish-brown ‘condensed tannins’ are procyanidins, which can reduce inflammation and oxidative damage.
Bitters are a very complex group of phytochemicals that stimulate the bitter receptors in the mouth. They were some of the most valuable remedies in ancient medicine. They were experienced as stimulating appetite and switching on a wide range of key digestive functions, including increasing bile clearance from the liver (as bile is a key factor in bowel health this can be translated into improving bowel functions and the microbiome). Many of these reputations are being supported by new research on the role of bitter receptors in the mouth and elsewhere round the body. Bitters were also seen as ‘cooling’ reducing the intensity of some fevers and inflammatory diseases.
Blue-purple colouring
Any fruits with a blue-purple colouring contain high levels of the polyphenols known as anthocyanins. These work 1) on the walls of small blood vessels, helping to maintain capillary structure to reduce a key stage in inflammation, and improving the microcirculation to the tissues; 2) to improve retinal function and vision; 3) to support connective tissue repair around the body.
Traditional ‘cold’ or cooling’ remedies often contain bitter phytonutrients such a iridoids (gentian), sesiquterpenes (chamomile), anthraquinones (rhubarb root), mucilages (marshmallow), some alkaloids and flavonoids. They tend to influence the digestive system, liver and kidneys. Cooling herbs do just that; they diffuse, drain and clear heat from areas of inflammation, redness and irritation. Sweet, bitter and astringent herbs tend to be cooling.
Traditional ‘hot’ or ‘heating’ remedies, often containing spice ingredients like capsaicin, the gingerols (ginger), piperine (black or long pepper), curcumin (turmeric) or the sulfurous isothiocyanates from mustard, horseradich or wasabi, generate warmth when taken. In modern times this might translate as thermogenic and circulatory stimulant effects. There is evidence of improved tissue blood flow with such remedies: this would lead to a reduction in build-up of metabolites and tissue damage. Heating remedies were used to counter the impact of cold, reducing any symptoms made worse in the cold. .
Mucilages are complex carbohydrate based plant constituents with a slimy or ‘unctuous’ feel especially when chewed or macerated in water. Their effect is due simply to their physical coating exposed surfaces. From prehistory they were most often used as wound remedies for their soothing and healing effects on damaged tissues. Nowadays they are used more for these effects on the digestive lining, from the throat to the stomach, where they can relieve irritation and inflammation such as pharyngitis and gastritis. Some of the prominent mucilaginous remedies like slippery elm, aloe vera and the seaweeds can be used as physical buffers to reduce the harm and pain caused by reflux of excess stomach acid. Mucilages are also widely used to reduce dry coughing. Here the effect seems to be by reflex through embryonic nerve connections: reduced signals from the upper digestive wall appear to translate as reduced activity of airway muscles and increased activity of airway mucus cells. Some seed mucilages, such as in psyllium seed, flaxseed (linseed) or guar bean survive digestion to provide bulking laxative effects in the bowel. These can also reduce rate of absorption of sugar and cholesterol. .
New-mown hay aroma
The familiar country odour of haymaking, of drying grass and other plants, is largely produced by coumarins (originally isolated from tonka beans – in French coumarou) and widely used in perfumery. They are chemically categorised as benzopyrone lactones and are important phytochemicals, with strong antioxidant activity in the laboratory and likely effects in modulating inflammation. They were most often associated with the calming effect linked to their use in stuffing mattresses and pillows and plants, high In coumarins were commonly used for these properties.
Resins are most familiar as tacky discharges from pine trees (and as the substance in amber, and rosin for violin bows). They were most valued however as the basis of ancient commodities like frankincense and myrrh (two of the three gifts of the Three Wise Men to the baby Jesus) and getting access to their source was one benefit to Solomon for marrying the Queen of Sheba (now Ethiopia). Resins were the original antiseptic remedies, ground and applied as powders or pastes to wounds or inflamed tissues, and were also used for mummification. With alcohol distillation it was found that they could be dissolved in 90% alcohol and in this form they remain a most powerful mouthwash and gargle, for infected sore throats and gum disease. They never attracted much early research interest because they permanently coat expensive glassware! For use in the mouth, gums and throat hey are best combined with concentrated licorice extracts to keep the resins in suspension and add extra soothing properties. It appears that they work both as local antiseptics and by stimulating white blood cell activity under the mucosal surface. They feel extremely effective!
The salty flavour is immediately distinctive. A grain dropped onto the tongue is instantly moistening and a sprinkle on food enkindles digestion. This easily recognisable flavour has its receptors right at the front of the tongue. The salty flavor creates moisture and heat, a sinking and heavy effect which is very grounding for the nervous system and encourages stability. People who are solid and reliable become known as ‘the salt of the earth'.
The sharp taste of some fruits, and almost all unripe fruits, as well as vinegar and fermented foods, is produced by weak acids (the taste is generated by H+ ions from acids stimulating the sour taste buds). Sour taste buds are hard-wired to generate immediate reflex responses elsewhere in the body. Anyone who likes the refreshing taste of lemon or other citrus in the morning will know that one reflex effect is increased saliva production. Other effects are subjective rather than confirmed by research but there is a consistent view that they include increased digestive activity and contraction of the gallbladder.
In the days when most people never tasted sugar, ‘sweetness’ was associated with the taste of basic foods: that of cooked vegetables, cereals and meat. In other words sweet was the quality of nourishment, and ‘tonic’ remedies. Describing a remedy as sweet generally led to that remedy being used in convalescence or recovery from illness. Interestingly, the plant constituents most often found in classic tonics like licorice, ginseng are plant steroids including saponins, which also have a sweet taste.

Sign up to our Newsletter

Sign up to our newsletter to receive the very latest in herbal insights.

Sign up to our newsletter