Triphala is an Ayurvedic herbal formula composed of the powder of three fruits: amalaki, bibhitaki and haritaki. These three fruits have different healing properties in part due to its five different tastes.
There are very few herbs in Ayurveda which include all five tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter and pungent). The more concentrated the taste, the more effective and broad spectrum the formula is for balancing the three Ayurvedic doshas.
What is Triphala?
As stated above, triphala is a combination of three fruits: haritaki, bibhitaki and amalaki. Haritaki is good for vata dosha. Bibhitaki is good for kapha dosha. Amalaki is good for pitta dosha.
Vata, pitta and kapha are the three Ayurvedic doshas or fundamental principles of Ayurvedic physiology. When these doshas are in balance, we experience good health. When they are out of balance, we experience dis-ease. Triphala is an Ayurvedic formula that benefits many imbalances of the doshas.
READ MORE: Triphala For Weight Loss
The three fruits of triphala contain five different tastes. This makes it a highly potent formula. Amalaki is the only cooling potency, useful for pitta dosha. Haritaki and bibhitaki are more warming or heating and useful for vata and kapha dosha respectively.
Amalaki is beneficial for the heart. Haritaki benefits the liver. Bibhitaki is a good tonic for the brain. Together all three will work on all parts of the body from the brain, kidneys and spleen to everything in between, connecting all the dots.
Research on triphala demonstrates its anti-cancer activity. It has antioxidant benefits and free radical scavenging activity, galic acid, malic acid, and anti mutagenic activity, which prevents and reduces cancer.1
At the DNA level it has a gene regulation and modulation effect. It up-regulates the genes that are good for you and down-regulates the genes that are harmful to the body.
It’s smart and intelligent enough to know exactly what to do deep down. That’s why it’s often told to take triphala on a consistent basis. Because in life, you don’t know. Somedays you’re tired, somedays you’re happy and relaxed. The same herb that you take everyday calibrates to the needs of the body.
Triphala is beneficial for digestion and elimination. It acts as a laxative and digestive tonic, stabilizes blood sugar and provides a source of antioxidants and vitamin C.
Most triphala supplements you will find include one part each of haritaki, bibhitaki and amalaki. In my clinic however, we may use different combinations of these three fruits for different health conditions, like inflammation, eye problems, etc. This true story illustrates triphala’s many diverse uses.
Triphala Uses: A Story From India
Here’s an interesting story from when we started working with Maharishi, who is the founder of Transcendental Meditation.
When we were these young Ayurvedic doctors, he asked us to go to the nearby rural village on the outskirts of Delhi to meet with a local vaidya, Ayurvedic doctor. He said just go and check it out and so we did.
When we went there we found this vaidya, a nice elderly gentleman. He used to wake up in the morning right around sunrise or right before sunrise, go to the well, take out a couple buckets of water from the well and pour the water on his head and wash himself. Then he would go and sit under a tree. A whole big queue would form where people are waiting to see him, even before the dawn. The line would grow so long, it would extend for a few kilometers.
This village doctor would sit under this tree with three little bins in front of him. They contained three different kinds of powders.
People would come and walk up to him and he would not say a single word. He would not ask anything or question anything. The patient has 5 minutes or so to tell him what is going on. And then he will look at them directly in their eyes, take a nice look at them, close his own eyes and take a nice deep breath, and then dip his fingers into each of these three different powders. He’d reach down and take two parts from one, one part from another one and a little bit from the third.
He would put the powders together into a folded paper, give it to the patient and tell them to take it twice a day with hot water. The next person would come and say that I have joint pain. I have a swollen, tender, inflamed knee, and show him the knee. And then again, the vaidya would respond in the same way.
He’d look the patient directly in the eye, close his own eyes and take a nice, deep breath. Then he’d dip his fingers into each of the three powders. A third person then came. She said she has a lot of terrible menstrual cramps and this and that. He would do the same thing. And this situation would go on from 6am in the morning until 12 noon. And this vaidya hadn’t eaten anything or drank anything during this time.
And then at 12 noon, when the sun is exactly in the middle of the sky, he would go to the well again, pour a few buckets of water over his head, and then sit and eat with everyone else.
At the time, we were these young Ayurvedic doctors who wanted to ask him all these questions about what he was doing. This is the answer he gave us.
What I have in front of me is the three ingredients of triphala. One bin contains amalaki, another one contains haritaki and the third one contains bibhitaki. I just mix and match. I give the same thing to everyone, but in different permutations and combinations. The funny thing is, it works for everyone.
These three powders are super-powered herbs that Ayurveda has known for millennia. They have all-healing properties and that is the reason why this village doctor chose these three herbs to be combined together.
When we returned to Maharishi, he asked us the same question. ‘What did you see?’ We replied, ‘Triphala works’.
He started laughing and said, no it doesn’t work. Maharishi said that it’s the energy of this vaidya that makes it work. When he’s listening to his patient’s troubles, he’s able to absorb that information, and then probably have that in his consciousness. And when he’s selecting the herbs in different permutations and quantities, he is infusing and changing the energy of the matter itself.
So how that infusion, how that vaidya can select the herbs specifically for the need of the patient has an energetic balance also. No doubt, the herbs are powerful. But the way you combine them and give them with the proper vehicle also matters. Sometimes it’s buttermilk, sometimes it’s hot water, sometimes it’s ghee and honey.
Out of hundreds of thousands of different things available, they selected these three powders because each of them is a rasayana in it’s own respective way. When they’re combined together they’re acting like good friends. They bring the best out of each other.
And that’s the whole concept of the synergistic effect in Ayurvedic pharmacology. Synergy allows the ability to potentiate or to increase the herb’s effect.
In my clinical experience using triphala, we are using herbs which are very intelligent. And when we are using herbs which are intelligent, they know exactly what to do in any given physiology. The intelligent herbs know exactly where to go. They start working on the same pathways and know how to be effective in a given system.
There are few herbs that you can say are potent for physical, mental and spiritual health. Triphala has a sattvic or purifying and enlightening effect on the mind. It benefits one’s spiritual health. These are known as the fruits of immortality. They allow you to rise above the fear of death, making you fearless.
There are very few foods and herbs that have that effect altogether. Amrita, shiva, abhaya, these are all synonyms for triphala. They sound very poetic but do have their impact.
The number one benefit of triphala is that it’s anti-aging. It has been shown to lengthen telomere enzymes. Telomere are enzymes that are at the flat end of your DNA that prevent it from unraveling. When the telomere are longer it’s a sign of anti-aging, and when they become shorter it’s a sign of premature aging. It has been studied and published that triphala lengthens telomerase.2
Amalaki especially is considered excellent for building blood and improving the quality of blood vessels and the nature of the red blood cells.
It’s a natural antibacterial so it wards off infections and regulates the immune system acting as a preventative. Triphala is used externally in wound healing and is also available in a powder or cream. Triphala oil is used for hair growth. It’s really so versatile. You can use the same formulation in so many ways – as a hair wash, an oil, an herbal ghee, a pungent, a paste for the eyes and as a concoction for oil pulling. You can have hundreds of different formats – creams, lotions, dusting powders, enemas. It’s really versatile because it is safely and easily absorbed and has medicinal benefits in every format.
Triphala is very good for stabilizing blood sugar levels.
Triphala given with turmeric is especially effective in lowering blood sugar levels. It’s one of the best cholesterol lowering agents for regulating lipid levels. People in our clinical practice who are taking triphala regularly for weight loss find that taking triphala twice a day wards off unwanted cravings.
READ MORE: Triphala For Weight Loss
How To Take Triphala
Triphala fruits are not edible fruits like grapes or mangoes. They are really bitter and astringent fruits with tannins.
How to take triphala depends upon what function you want it for. You can take it as a powder. There is an Ayurvedic logic to this. According to Ayurveda, you have to taste the herbs on your tongue to see the benefit. When you take it in a capsule form sometimes you don’t experience the taste. You can also open a capsule and place the powder on your tongue before swallowing it.
Triphala is most often recommended in powder form, to be taken with hot water. If one does not like the taste, tablets and capsules are available. The powder however is more effective.
Churna means ‘powder’. Triphala churna is simply all three fruits combined together in a powder form.
When To Take Triphala
For elimination, take it in the night. You’ll have a gentle laxative or cleansing effect in the morning. It’s also good for the lungs and respiratory tract to take it in the night. It helps you avoid a build up of mucous when you wake up in the morning. When taken in the night, triphala is good for regulating the microbiome.
If you want to use triphala for blood sugar levels or as a rasayana, take it during the day. Ideally take it first thing in the morning away from your meals. This will potentiate its effect on burning unwanted fat, losing weight and stabilizing blood sugar levels.
Triphala is one of the best things that you can do to reestablish or stabilize your microbiome. Your microbiome is your gut flora. You want to have good functioning gut flora to allow the body to digest and absorb nutrients properly and create good looking, well-formed bowel movements.
READ MORE: Can Triphala Cause Bloating?
Amalaki (Emblica officinalis) is considered to be the fruit for immortality. Amalaki is amrita, the vital nectar or essence of the universe.
You can steam it, make a paste with it or prepare an Ayurvedic herbal jam called chyavanprash. It is a potent rasayana for anti-aging, free radical scavenging and antioxidants. It’s a stable form of vitamin C which is supported by the ascorbates which help prevent vitamin C loss. But more importantly it has many tannins which have antioxidant benefits – gallic acid, malic acid and ellagic acid.
From a western perspective, decoding and analyzing this fruit very closely for its active ingredients is futile. There is no one active ingredient. There are hundreds of different phytonutrients, all contained within this tiny little fruit. It is considered to be one of the most revered herbs in the Ayurvedic pharmacopeia.
Amalaki is healing for ulcers, hyperacidity, inflammation and burning sensation. It regulates agni or metabolic fire and doesn’t affect your digestive system. Most antacids suppress the appetite affecting digestion, but that doesn’t happen with amalaki. Amalaki is one of the best herbs to reduce anger.
It’s very good for diabetes, bleeding tendencies and unwanted bleeding through the nose, rectum or in cases of heavy menstrual bleeding. It regulates the immune system, so it’s even more effective in regulating and modulating your immune system. It has a good affect on your sexual vitality. It is an aphrodisiac, rasayana, anti-aging remedy and a good sexual tonic.
(NOTE: In Ayurveda, the third pillar of health, alongside food and sleep, is Sexual Wellness. Triphala is just one way to help you harness your sexual energy and bring balance into your life, as well as handle very common endocrine and reproductive issues like infertility, polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD) and erectile dysfunction. Listen to Todd Caldecott’s introduction to Ayurveda & Sexual Wellness.)
All three fruits together are good for reducing pain. They are analgesic and will potentiate the effect of reducing pain and unwanted blockages in the system. It regulates blood pressure and improves liver function. The combination of triphala and especially amalaki, is a great tonic for the liver. It improves the detoxification pathways of the liver so it is commonly used for gall bladder diseases. As we said earlier it regulates the blood sugar and the secretion of insulin so it’s beneficial for the pancreas as well, preventing and regulating insulin resistance.
There are very few herbs that you can say are so potent and effective for your physical health, your mental health and your spiritual health.
In regards to your mental health, they are all very sattvic and have a purifying, enlightening effect on your mind. And they have benefits of spiritual health where it is being said that these are the fruits of immortality. They will allow you to rise above the fear of death, dying, decaying and degeneration. They will make you more fearless and connect you with a greater field of awareness and consciousness. There are very few fruits and herbs that will have that kind of effect all together.
Haritaki (Terminalia chebula) is a very interesting fruit. There are more volumes written about haritaki then amalaki even though amalaki is a more revered rasayana. Yet haritaki is an even more powerful rasayana then amalaki in many ways. Another name for haritaki is ‘abhaya’ which means fearless. It dispels the fear of death, dying and diseases. You will find photos of Buddha meditating with the fruit of haritaki in his hands and that is called a Medicine Buddha. It’s an enlightening fruit as it dispels the fear of death and dying.
Haritaki has a motherly loving and caring quality. Even though it is heating in potency it is a versatile rasayana. It is good for cleansing. With harataki, detoxification and rejuvenation go hand and hand.
(NOTE: Ayurvedic Detoxification is a sustainable and scientific method to release built up toxins or ama from the body. This method is based on your unique nature and needs. Ayurvedic practitioner Dr. Kristine Jerome explains the process.)
Bibhitaki (Terminalia belerica) is the third fruit in the formula. It has a good scraping action or lekhana quality to it. So any unwanted growth, tumor, losing weight, scraping fat is addressed with bibhitaki.
Bibhitaki is good for all kapha related problems – cough, mucous, congestion, weight gain, heaviness, sticky, slimy ama, mucus feeling, excess fat, feeling very cold. It is also good for parasites.
Triphala guggul is simply the combination of guggul with triphala. Guggul is a gum resin, an Ayurvedic herb used primarily for binding and putting pills and tablets together. It is a sticky gum, tar black in color with a scraping action. Triphala guggul is useful for the thyroid as well as reducing cholesterol, lipids and triglycerides.
Triphala guggul is more of a speciality formula, useful for people with heavy, painful joints, weight loss, high cholesterol and high lipids. Triphala alone has more general use and can be taken for everyday use.
Triphala Side Effects
Ideally everyone should take triphala. There’s no harm. Only if you already have a lot of loose, watery diarrhea than you should not take triphala. There are no side effects to triphala and it’s not habit forming. However you may notice that triphala powder can be drying. Drink enough water if that is the case.
READ MORE: Can Triphala Cause Acid Reflux?
Many More Uses Of Triphala
The uses of triphala are numerous. Triphala can be used as a mouthwash, hair wash, wound cleanser, tooth massage and eye drop. An herbal oil of triphala can be used for skin massage to improve the tone, flexibility and elasticity of the skin.
Triphala Hair Wash
Triphala can be used as a hair wash as it helps to scrape sticky and oily secretions of ama from the scalp. A triphala hair wash is cleansing and removes dandruff. It removes unwanted sweat residue and relieves clogged sweat glands. When applied to the hair and scalp it is absorbed through the skin and improves circulation to the hair follicles. It improves the luster and shine of the hair as well as the color and complexion of the hair and the skin. Pitta body types with premature greying can use a triphala hair wash concoction with triphala powder.
Internal use of triphala will also improve the color and the complexion of the skin and hair.
Triphala Wound Cleanser
A very clean version of triphala powder which is very refined is used as a dusting powder. Very soon, within a few days it stops bleeding and improves healthy granulation, one of the first signs of wound healing. It slowly allows the wound to start healing. It stops bleeding because of its astringent taste. Oozing of the wound can be reduced and when the wound heals, it won’t leave any scarring.
Triphala Tooth + Gum Massage
Triphala powder can be used as a tooth and gum massage and it’s the best mouth cleanser you will ever use. It is useful for bleeding gums, halitosis or receding gums. Simply take fine triphala powder and massage the powder to your gums and teeth.
Most importantly, triphala is an excellent formula for psychological, emotional and spiritual health. It relieves depression and anxiety and is an excellent herb to relieve feelings of anger.
READ MORE: Ashwagandha Anxiety Relief Remedy That Works
1. Vadde, Ramakrishna, et al. “Triphala Extract Suppresses Proliferation and Induces Apoptosis in Human Colon Cancer Stem Cells.” BioMed Research International, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4488090/.
2. Guruprasad, Kanive P., et al. “Influence of Amalaki Rasayana on Telomerase Activity and Telomere Length in Human Blood Mononuclear Cells.” Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, Elsevier, 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5497001/.