Can triphala cause acid reflux? In Ayurvedic medicine triphala has been regarded as the safest laxative to use in cleansing the colon, relieving constipation and toning the gastrointestinal tract.
Before we answer this question, let’s have a little introduction to what is acid reflux according to Ayurveda and how it is caused. Here’s a quick overview of what we’ll cover in this article.
- What Is Acid Reflux?
- Acid Reflux Causes
- What Causes Acid Reflux (Amla Pitta)?
- Acid Reflux Treatment With Ayurveda
- Can Triphala Cause Acid Reflux?
- Pharmacodynamics Of Triphala
- The Three Fruit s In Triphala
- Triphala For Digestive Disorders
What Is Acid Reflux?
According to Ayurveda, acid reflux is called urdhwaga amlapitta. It is caused by a vitiation or denaturing of pachaka Pitta. This subtype of Pitta dosha governs the digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid released in the stomach.
When vitiated it causes a burning sensation in the chest and an upward movement of the vitiated gastric contents.
Acid reflux is often present with symptoms like indigestion (avipaak), tiredness (klama), nausea (utklesha), sour and bitter burping (tikta amla udgar), heaviness (gauravam), heart and throat burn, and a dislike towards food.1
Acid Reflux Causes
These are the common causes of acid reflux.
- Eating large meals and lying down right after a meal
- Being overweight
- Eating fried and oily food
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Eating after long intervals
- Eating before the previous meal has been digested
- Skipping meals
- Incompatible food combinations
- Excessive intake of tea or coffee
- Having too much water with meals
What Causes Acid Reflux (Amla Pitta)?
According to Ayurveda, acid reflux is a result of vitiation and aggravation of pachaka Pitta dosha. Let us explain.
Pitta dosha is one of the Ayurvedic humors or tridosha. It symbolizes heat or fire. It is hot, sharp, intense, acidic and pungent in nature and is located in the stomach.
Aggravated and vitiated Pitta leads to an increase of acidic content in the stomach fluids. Actually, the reflux of the stomach’s liquid contents into the esophagus occurs in most normal individuals due to the various reasons listed above.
Balanced pachaka Pitta released at proper times helps in the proper digestion of food. Vitiated or aggravated Pitta (denatured Pitta) suppresses the jatharagni (digestive or metabolic fire) and one cannot digest food properly.
This results in ama formation. Ama is undigested food. It is broken down by fermentation rather than digestion, and fermentation aggravates Vata dosha.
Since Vata is light in nature it tends to move upward along with the undigested materials (toxins or ama) and the denatured Pitta (amla Pitta). 10
Pitta is considered similar to agni because both of them share common attributes of heat (ushnata). The question arises as to why the aggravated Pitta suppresses and extinguishes the agni (metabolic fire).
This apparent controversy is solved by the simile “jalam, taptam, ivanalam”. That is, why does hot water extinguish a fire, despite both of them having a heating effect? So the aggravated Pitta, though hot, causes the extinction of agni (metabolic fire). This happens because Pitta, in addition to ushnata (heat) has dravata (liquidity).2
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Acid Reflux Treatment With Ayurveda
Acid reflux originates in the Amashaya (stomach) and Kapha and Pitta vitiation is the root cause of the disease.
The first line of treatment is emesis (vaman) for those who are strong. There is no other treatment as effective as emesis (vaman) in the case of Amlapitta or acid reflux. In cases of Kapha utklesha (aggravation), vamana (emesis) is indicated.3
After emesis, whatever lingering doshas are left are pacified by fasting (langhan) with a light diet like moong dal or green gram soup and other pacifying and digestive recipes.
In urdhwaga amlapitta, where there is an upward movement of the aggravated doshas, no drugs should be taken abruptly because they cannot be digested properly as there is already ama formation (undigested materials).
Drugs should be digested properly in order for them to be effective. In the case of acid reflux, the digestive fire is deranged and unable to digest anything and tries to throw out whatever comes in contact with it.
This is the Ayurvedic line of treatment for acid reflux.3
- Vamana (emesis)
- Deepan herbs (rekindles digestive fire)
- Pachan herbs (digestive)
- Laghu Bhojan (light, easily digestible diet)
- Mridu virechana (mild purgative)
Vaman causes gastric emptying and the diminished digestive power should be restored with deepan and pachan herbs and along with digestive capacity, the natural movement of Vata is maintained.
When the remaining lingering doshas having reached the pakvashaya (large intestine) due to the restored natural movement of the Vata (apana vata), now mild purgatives can be administered to remove the doshas. Now let’s see can triphala cause acid reflux.
Triphala can be administered at this time as mild purgative and one can get rid of the amla pitta or acid reflux by taking the triphala.
Can Triphala Cause Acid Reflux?
It is not right to say that triphala causes acid reflux. Some people may once in a while experience the symptoms of acid reflux upon taking triphala, but this is simply due to the improper administration of triphala.
When there is an aggravation of Kapha and Pitta dosha and a derangement of Vata dosha, intake of any kind of medicine will lead to acid reflux.
So, in this case, the person can use a simple procedure to throw out the aggravated dosha, the intake of warm saltwater.
Once the aggravated doshas are thrown out of the body and the digestive fire regains its capacity, the person can take triphala churna or triphala capsule for mild purgation but not before the aggravated doshas in the stomach (amashaya) are emptied or thrown out.
In Ayurvedic practices, triphala has been used for gastric disorders, poor digestion, and assimilation of food, constipation, and liver dysfunction for many years.
Pharmacodynamics Of Triphala
Triphala, as the name suggests, is a combination of three fruits (Tri means three and Phala means fruits).
In triphala, the fruit of haritaki, amalaki, and bibhitaki are mixed in equal quantities. It is popularly known as triphala but is also known by the names of Phalatrik or Vara.4
It is also called Sreshtha meaning ‘the best’. Vara means ‘blessing’. Triphala is a blessing in its true essence because it is believed that triphala cares for the internal organs much in the same way as a mother takes care of her child.
Triphala is a widely used Ayurvedic supplement rich in antioxidants. It possesses diverse beneficial properties. When these three fruits combine together it becomes a wonderful Rasayana, which rejuvenates the whole body.
Triphala is tridoshic. Specifically, it pacifies Kapha and Pitta. Triphala is the safest laxative and strengthens the digestive organs.
The Three Fruits In Triphala
Amalaki or Indian gooseberry has been considered one of Ayurveda’s therapeutic boons since ancient times.
The vitamin C content of one amalaki is 20 times greater than oranges.5 It has all the five rasas or tastes with amla rasa (sour taste) being predominant.
This property makes it tridoshic in general and specifically Vata pacifying. Due to its cooling energy it is pitta pacifying and supports the healthy functioning of the liver and immune system.
Literally, the name haritaki means that which is sarva dosha hara or that which helps get rid of all the doshas/rogas. Haritaki consists of all the five rasa (tastes) with kashaya rasa (astringent taste) being predominant.
It is used as a mild laxative and its dry fruit is antidiarrheal. It is anti-inflammatory and has been used for wounds, chronic ulcers, chronic constipation, and piles.6
Although it has a hot potency (ushna virya), it balances all the three doshas. In addition to this Haritaki has a Laghu (light) and Ruksha (drying and rough) nature which provides a scraping effect. It thus detoxifies the blood and digestive system.
Bibhitaki we can examine by virtue of its qualities (gunas). Its astringent taste (kashaya rasa) pacifies Kapha. Due to madhur vipaka (sweet post digestive taste), it pacifies Pitt. Its Ushna potency helps in reducing Vata.
This way it is tridoshic in general and works on Kapha dosha in particular.7 Bibhitaki has a scraping effect on Kapha accumulation in the respiratory and other systems of the body.
Triphala For Digestive Disorders
As mentioned above, the anushna virya (not very hot and not very cold potency) of triphala renders it a very balanced herb and thus makes it useful in internal cleansing.
Triphala has a gentle effect on the bowels, it improves peristalsis and cleanses the colon of toxic wastes. By virtue of the combination of the three fruits, triphala acts as a highly nutritious formula as well as a blood and liver cleansing agent.
It does not function as a bulk producing or lubricating laxative but its content of some anthraquinones helps stimulate the bile flow and the peristalsis.
Triphala is also full of vitamin C content and other nutrients like linoleic oil which makes it a nourishing supplement that rejuvenates the body tissues and helps you age gracefully.8
The three ingredients of triphala mixed together pacify Kapha and Pitta in particular and stimulate the digestive fire.9 It thus aids in digestion, assimilation, and absorption of the nutrients from your dietary intake.
But if there is diminished agni (metabolic fire), derangement of dosha results in amajirna, indigestion and accumulation of undigested material in the amashaya (stomach). Whatever is administered the body tends to throw it out.
Even herbs or medication needs to be digested by the agni for proper action. In Ayurvedic practices, triphala has been regarded as the safest laxative. It is used in cleansing of the colon, constipation and to tone the gastrointestinal tract.
Please consult a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner before taking triphala.
- Vaidya Lakshmipati Shastri, Yogaratnakara, Chowkhambha prakashan, Varanasi, (2017), verse-2, pp-237.
- R.K. Sharma, Bhagwan Dash, Charaka Samhita(Vol 4) Chikitsa Sthana, Chowkhambha sanskrit series office, Varanasi(2017), pg-32.
- P.V. Tewari, Kasyapa Samhita with english translations,Khila Sthana, Chaukhambha Visvabharati, Varanasi,(2016), verse-18-23, pp-632.
- Chunekar K.C., Indian materia Medica of Bhava Mishra, Hindi Commentary, Chaukhambha Bharati academy, varanasi, 2015,pp12.
- Sharma P.V. Dravyaguna Vigyan Vol 2, Chaukhambha Bharati Academy, Varanasi 2005, pp 758-759.
- Chunekar.K.C Phd, Indian Materia Medica of Sri Bhava Mishra, Hindi commentary,Chaukhambha Bharati Academy, Varanasi, 2015, pp 7-8.
- Sharma P.V., Dravyaguna Vijnana Vol 2, Chaukhambha Bharti Academy, Varanasi, 2005, pp 239-240.
- Dr. Michael Tierra L.Ac., O.M.D. The Wonders of Triphala.
- Sharma P.V. Sushruta Samhita Vol 1, Sutra sthana, Chaukhambha Vishwa Bharati, Varanasi, 2013, pp 363.
- Ghosh, Kuntal, and M S Baghel. “A Clinical Study to Evaluate the Role of Doshik Predominance in the Management of Amlapitta.” Ayu, Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd, 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5954255/.