Before answering this common question, ‘Can triphala cause diarrhea?’, it’s important to know what triphala actually does.
Here’s a brief rundown of what we’ll cover in this article.
- More Than A Laxative
- Triphala Safety
- 3 Types Of Digestive Tracts
- Triphala And The Microbiome
- Can Triphala Cause Diarrhea?
More Than A Laxative
Triphala (tri = three and phala = fruits) is an Ayurvedic preparation composed of three equal proportions of herbal fruits, Terminalia chebula (Haritaki), Phyllanthus emblica (Amla), and Terminalia belerica (Bibhitaki).
In Ayurveda, triphala is considered a tridoshic rasayana. Tridoshic means it has a balancing and rejuvenating effect on the three constitutional elements that govern the human body. These elements or doshas are in dynamic equilibrium from the intrauterine period and throughout the lifetime of a person. Let’s also look at the word rasayana.
There is a folk saying in India which says, “No mother?… Not to worry, as long as you have triphala”. This alludes to the belief that Triphala cares for internal organs much the same way a mother takes care of her children.1 More so, among the laxative herbs, triphala is the ‘safest and most strengthening’ to the body.
Triphala is considered a ‘Rasayana’ by the ancient masters of Ayurveda. It has been advised to be taken daily with different food items. In the ‘Ashtanga Sangraha’, an important Ayurvedic text, triphala is said to be a rejuvenator, the one which fights diseases, bestows longevity, intelligence and good memory.2
Ayurvedic master Charak has also mentioned it as ‘triphala rasayana’ under the chapter on rejuvenative therapy. It bestows strength, longevity, and slows the aging process.3 He also places it among the herbs used for laxation.4
Being a ‘Rasayana’ triphala has a bigger role to play apart from just being considered a laxative to be used for occasional constipation.
For people who have occasional trouble with bowel movements, triphala may be a useful supplement.5 Though if the constipation is a regular issue, one should get it checked by a doctor and take treatment accordingly.
In the Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia, triphala is mentioned in various conditions like Anaha (distension of the abdomen), Mandagni (impaired digestive fire), and Aruchi (loss of appetite) related to the digestive system.6
Traditional use of triphala suggests that it regulates the bowels safely. Triphala can be taken daily, without any fear of dependence because of its rejuvenative action and mild cleansing action. It is considered to be non-habit forming and safe, much like taking food.7
Triphala doesn’t have the negative side effects found with other purgatives. Triphala is a mild acting internal cleanser as mentioned in the texts.
Higher doses though should be used with caution and only by those with sufficient strength. Use only under the advice and supervision of a healthcare provider.
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3 Types Of Digestive Tracts
“Agni” literally means fire. It refers to the force that plays a role in the digestive process of food passing through the alimentary canal. This activity is influenced by the doshas. When all three doshas are in equilibrium, the ‘Agni’ will also be in a balanced state (called ‘Samagni’) and digestion of food will be perfect.8
When agni gets imbalanced due to the imbalance of doshas, Ama (toxic, undigested food and toxins) gets built up leading to problematic health conditions. In such a state Triphala can be very useful to remove Ama and maintain Samagni.
Ayurveda says that the alimentary tract, called Kostha in Ayurveda, is of three types.
1. Kathina (Hard)
This type of alimentary tract has a predominance of Vata dosha leading to a bowel movement that is hard. Hard bowel movements lead to constipation. They respond poorly to laxatives and can tolerate high doses of laxatives.
2. Mridu (Soft)
This alimentary tract has a predominance of Pitta dosha. You can see it in semi-solid or liquid and more frequent passing of stools. The abdomen is sensitive with frequent episodes of loose motions. It responds to foods like milk with a mild laxative action.
3. Madhyam (Moderate)
This alimentary tract has a predominance of Kapha dosha where bowel movements are somewhere in between the two extremes and can respond to medium potency laxatives.
The Mridu kostha person’s bowels are uncertain due to excessive Pitta dosha. The feces are either semisolid or liquid with frequency of more than one time per day.9
Triphala And The Microbiome
Research shows that Triphala preserves the gastric flora. Polyphenols in Triphala modulate the human gut microbiome, thereby promoting the growth of beneficial Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus while inhibiting the growth of undesirable gut microbes.
The bioactivity of Triphala is elicited by gut microbiota to generate a variety of anti-inflammatory compounds. This indicates that Triphala is actually good for the digestive system and its flora in healthy persons when used in recommended doses.10
Beyond digestive benefits, Triphala has other benefits as well including pain relief, emotional health, weight loss and more.
Can Triphala Cause Diarrhea?
Considering all the above facts, Triphala is not a cause of diarrhea however it’s important to take it in proper dosages.
Triphala acts as a rejuvenator and a regulator of the bowels. It is generally well tolerated and is gut friendly but may give a loose motion in high dosages and may have the same effect in a ‘Mridu Kostha’ person or a person with Pitta predominant in their gastrointestinal tract.
Triphala can be safely consumed for its rejuvenative action but should be avoided by a person having diarrheal tendencies.
As with all supplements talk to your doctor before taking Triphala. The dose should be adjusted so that one does not get loose stools, but has a good, regular bowel movement.
1 “Triphala.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 25 Nov 2008, 01:31 UTC. 25 Dec 2008 http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Triphala&oldid=253913266. (accessed Dec 28, 2008)
2 K. R. Srikantha Murthy, English translation on Ashtanga Hridayam, Chowkhamba Krishnadas Academy, series 2016, vol 3, pg no.387.
3 R. K. Sharma, Bhagwan Dash, English translation on Charak Samhita, Chowkhamba Sanskrit series office, Varanasi, series 2017, vol 3, pg. No. 48-49.
4 Same as reference #3 No. 65.
5 Tierra, M (1992). Planetary Herbology. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press. P 166
6 The Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of India, S. No. 15,pg. No. 323
7 Tierra, M (1992). Planetary Herbology, p 132
8 K. R. Srikantha Murthy, english translation on AShtanga hridayam,chowkhamba krishnadas academy, series 2016, vol 1, pg no.6.
9 Same as reference #8 pg no.7.
10 Peterson, Christine Tara, et al. “Therapeutic Uses of Triphala in Ayurvedic Medicine.” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., 1 Aug. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5567597/.