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).
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!
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.
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.
There is a popular folk saying in India that reads ‘No mother? Do not worry so long as you have Triphala.’ Indian culture believes that Triphala is able to care for the health of the body as a mother cares for her children.
Triphala and its individual component plants, Amla, Haritaki and Bibhitaki, have a longstanding history of safe use in Ayurveda.
Traditional Ayurvedic characteristics are
2-3 caps 2-3x/day. 0.5- 5g/day, 3-9ml/day of a 1:3@25% tincture.