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What is Triphala? Benefits, Uses and Side Effects

Triphala, also known as “triphala churna” or “Himalayan triphala”, is an herbal concoction that comes from traditional Ayurvedic medicine. Its name in Sanskrit translates as “three fruits” as it is made up of Indian gooseberry (Emblica officinalis), black myrobalan (Terminalia chebula) and myrobalan bellerico (Terminalia belerica).

Due to its pharmacological composition, it has been used as an aid to improve health, especially in digestive, inflammatory or oral conditions. It is even said that it can help with weight control. Is there evidence in this regard? Is its consumption safe? Here we detail it.

What is Triphala and what is it made of?

Triphala is an herbal formula that is frequently used in Ayurvedic medicine. According to information disclosed in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, it is obtained from the nuts of the plant species Emblica officinalis (Euphorbiaceae family), Terminalia bellerica (Combretaceae family) and Terminalia chebula (Combretaceae family), native to the Indian subcontinent.

Historical data indicate that it has been used for more than 1000 years, since it appears in texts of the doctor Charak, who suggested that its daily consumption was useful to live “one hundred years without diseases.” Since then, it has been used as an ally to promote well-being and improve health.

Composition of triphala

The main constituents of triphala are tannins, gallic acid, ellagic acid, and quebulinic acid. These are listed as antioxidants, which explains many of their medicinal effects.

Now, let’s see in detail the properties of the plants used in its preparation, which are the following:

  • Indian gooseberry or Emblica officinalis: This fruit and its extracts are used to improve digestive health and prevent the onset of chronic diseases. They concentrate nutrients such as vitamins A and C, minerals and amino acids. In addition, according to data from Phytotherapy Research, they are a source of phenols, tannins, curcuminoids, among others.
  • Black myrobalan or Terminalia bellirica: in Ayurvedic medicine it is known as bibhitak. It stands out for its content of tannins, ellagic acid, gallic acid, lignans and flavones. In addition, it has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antidiabetic properties.
  • Mirobalán bellerico or Terminalia belerica: another of its names is haritaki. In Ayurveda it is said that he is “the king of medicines.” According to an article published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, it contains phytochemicals such as terpenes, polyphenols, anthocyanins and flavonoids. In addition, it is used as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and digestive.

What benefits are attributed to triphala?

Ayurvedic medicine attributes a wide variety of benefits to triphala. Many of its effects are explained by its laxative ability, as this is believed to help “cleanse the body.”

Likewise, its potential as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial is recognized. What does the evidence say?

Natural laxative

For years, triphala has been a supplement to combat constipation and other digestive complaints. In fact, it is distributed as an alternative to over-the-counter laxatives.

In this regard, a study published in the Iranian Journal of Pharmacology and Therapeutics determined that a laxative with triphala and other plants was useful to reduce the effort and achieve more complete evacuations.

Also, research in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine reported that this herbal preparation reduced constipation, abdominal pain, and flatulence in patients with gastrointestinal disorders.

Weight loss

It is important to consider that weight loss depends on many factors, among which diet is important. Still, supplements like triphala can serve as weight loss aids, although not miraculously.

In an animal study published by Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, rats supplemented with triphala had significant weight reduction. Likewise, their energy intake and fat level were lower than those who did not receive the preparation.

In other research, conducted in obese adults, the results were also promising. Those who received a daily dose of 10 grams of triphala experienced a decrease in waist and hip circumference. Furthermore, a weight reduction was also observed.

Dental health

In Ayurvedic medicine, triphala is used as a remedy for oral diseases. In particular, its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties are used to reduce inflammation of the gums (gingivitis), cavities and dental plaque.

Although the evidence is still limited, a study shared in the International Journal of Ayurveda Research reported that a mouthwash with triphala extract was helpful in decreasing plaque buildup and bacterial growth in the mouth.

This was corroborated in an investigation in the Journal of Periodontal & Implant Science, which determined that a mouth rinse with triphala helped in the reduction of plaque and the control of gingivitis.

Anti-inflammatory activity

Many of the medicinal properties of triphala are associated with its potential as an anti-inflammatory. A publication in Phytotherapy Research details that the combination of plants in this preparation contains vitamin C, flavonoids, polyphenols, tannins and saponins, among other plant compounds.

These compounds not only intervene on inflammatory processes in the body, but also act as antioxidants. In this way, the effects of oxidative stress, associated with a wide variety of diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, arthritis and diabetes, decrease.

Risks and contraindications

Triphala is considered safe for most healthy adults. Still, it can cause some side effects, such as diarrhea and abdominal discomfort, especially when used in very high doses. Its use in pregnant women, lactating women or children is not recommended, since its level of safety in these populations is unknown.

Similarly, its use is discouraged in people with diseases already diagnosed or who are under medical treatment. In these cases, the ideal is to consult the professional before taking this type of supplement.

It should be borne in mind that it can interact or reduce the effectiveness of medications such as the following:

  • Anticoagulants
  • Antiarrhythmics
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Atypical antidepressants such as nefazodone
  • Immunosuppressive drugs
  • Opioid pain relievers

How is triphala consumed?

Right now, triphala is available in capsule, powder, or liquid form. It can be found in online or health food stores.

It is important to respect the recommended dose on the label, since too much can cause unwanted reactions. Taking 500 milligrams to 1 gram per day is often advised in case of constipation.

The liquid version can be diluted in a glass of water to create a mouthwash. In addition, it can be mixed with warm water and honey to take advantage of its other medicinal properties. If you choose the latter option, take it before main meals. When in doubt, consult your doctor or herbalist.

What to remember about this Ayurvedic remedy?

Triphala is a combination of three plants widely used in Ayurvedic medicine. Since ancient times, a wide variety of medicinal properties have been attributed to it, which popularized its use as a supplement. Although studies are still limited, the evidence suggests that it has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial potential.

In any case, it should be used in moderation, without exceeding the doses recommended by the manufacturer. Furthermore, it should not be a substitute for medical treatments nor should it be used simultaneously with medications. To avoid inconvenience, buy supplements from reputable sites.

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