Triphala is one of my all-time favorite herbal formulas. It’s long been used in Ayurvedic medicine where it’s considered a tridoshic rasayana (rejuvenating formula). Rasayana refers to the science of promoting longevity and the herbal remedies used to maintain optimal health. Triphala supports all three doshas (mind-body types): Vata (space/air), Pitta (fire/water) and Kapha (water/earth) that are responsible for our physical, mental and spiritual balance.
Triphala is a widely used herbal formulation that consists of a combination of three dried and ground up fruits—Amalaki (Emblika officinalis) also known as Indian Gooseberry or Amla, Haritaki (Terminalia chebula) and Bibhitaki (Terminalia belerica). Triphala literally means “three fruits” in Sanskrit, and the combination of the three taken together has a wonderfully synergistic and therapeutic effect. My family used to eat some of these delicious berries, often pickled, as a condiment with our meals.
Triphala Uses and Health Benefits
- Supports a healthy gut-brain connection
- Maintains a healthy microbiome
- Promotes bowel regularity
- Supports healthy, comfortable digestion and absorption
- Nourishes and rejuvenates tissues
- Natural antioxidant and detoxifier
- Supports healthy inflammation
- Promotes healthy blood sugar
- Supports weight loss efforts
- Healthy cholesterol levels
- Promotes healthy skin
Triphala has many health benefits but it’s most commonly known for its use as a mild laxative. Triphala heals the mucosal lining and the nerves in the gut to promote normal digestion. Instead of forcing your colon to expel its contents, triphala helps the colon do what it’s naturally supposed to do.
Unlike a laxative that you have to take forever, you can take triphala daily for a while, then reduce it to just a few times a week. I’ve taken triphala for decades and initially I used it daily to help reestablish my gut health. Once my gut was back on track, I began taking it to 2-3 times a week, depending on my needs. I don’t take triphala for its laxative effects; I take it because life can be stressful, and those stresses send a lot of signals that interfere with your digestion and cause gut inflammation. Triphala is a rescue boat for our gut.
Once your digestion is moving, you’ll notice a metabolic shift in your body. You’ll begin to detoxify more efficiently. Triphala works so well for detoxification because the three fruits target different systems in the body, and together they create a synergistic formula that reaches every tissue in your body.
Amalaki (or Amla)
Amalaki, also called Indian gooseberry or amla, is one of the most potent antioxidants and one of the most important medicinal plants used in Ayurvedic medicine. It’s rich in vitamin C, essential minerals and amino acids. Plus, it has potent antioxidants such as phenols, tannins and curcuminoids.
The fruit is an excellent anti-inflammatory and anti-fever agent, has a mild laxative effect and is even being studied for its anti-cancer properties. It reduces inflammation and stabilizes blood sugar. Some studies say it is as effective as oral medications for the treatment of diabetes. That’s pretty impressive!
There are two key reasons amla is so good at fighting diabetes. First, it helps normalize blood sugar and stabilizes appetite and mood, so you’re not fighting the peaks and valleys that can trigger binge eating. Second, it encourages the body to build lean muscle mass, which helps balance blood sugars more efficiently and stabilizes appetite.
Amla fundamentally begins to alter your body, even without a change to your diet or exercise routine. I also like amla because it helps the liver work more efficiently and provides antioxidants to nourish the body during detoxification. Plus, amla helps balance some of the acidic properties of food. It has an alkaline effect on the tissues of the body after being metabolized, helping to reduce the impact of inflammation. This cooling effect benefits the Pitta dosha, supporting the natural functions of the liver and the immune system. Amla is an amazing food to add to your daily routine and having it in your triphala supplement can really change your body in profound ways over time.
Haritaki is a berry that is particularly good at removing toxins from the colon. Fewer toxins means a stronger immune system, stronger digestion, clearer mind and easier weight management. Even more striking, research shows that haritaki has a significant hypolipidemic effect. That means it gets rid of fat, helps lower cholesterol and triglycerides, and helps boost the good cholesterol that protects you from heart disease. Studies also show haritaki has strong anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties protecting the body against undesirable pathogens and beneficial in treating wounds.
Haritaki contains vitamin C as well as essential minerals such as magnesium, potassium, iron and copper. Plus, it’s bursting with polyphenols and anthocyanins, which are powerful antioxidants. Haritaki is beneficial for all three doshas (Vata, Pitta and Kapha). It’s known for its “scraping” effect, which removes toxins and helps support a healthy weight.
Bibhitaki (also called Terminalia belerica) is a berry that breaks down fat and opens your lymphatic channels. Fake fat begins to dissipate as your lymph moves toxins out and flushes excess fluid accumulation. Bibhitaki can also move mucus congestion. It’s traditionally been used for treating sinus congestion, asthma and as an expectorant to clear the lungs. Like haritaki, it has a hypolipidemic effect, lowering cholesterol and fat in the liver and heart. Plus, it helps lower blood pressure. Bibhitaki is overflowing with powerful antioxidants including lignans, flavones, tannins and ellagic acid, which is why it’s so good for supporting normal blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity.
I think of bibhitaki as a vacuum cleaner for toxins. In Sanskrit, there’s a saying that when you take bibhitaki disease cannot come near you. Bibhitaki is particularly good for the Kapha dosha, supporting the respiratory system and all organs and tissues where Kapha accumulates.
How To Take Triphala
You can purchase triphala in stores or online in the following forms:
Most triphala supplements are sold in doses of 500 mg to 1,000 mg. Aim for 1,000 mg per day to start. Depending on which brand you buy, this may involve taking one or two tablets in the evening, about an hour before bedtime. If within a week you’re not having one good bowel movement every day, increase your dosage to 2,000 mg per day. If after another week, things still aren’t moving along, increase the dosage to 3,000 mg. You can go as high as 4,000 mg quite safely—remember, triphala is just dried berries. The longer it takes for triphala to work, the more you need it and the longer you should stay on it daily.
Because triphala is a tridoshic herb, it is valuable to take year-round. For powdered triphala, which is a combination of astringent, pungent, bitter, sour and slightly sweet tastes, I suggest mixing ½ to 1 teaspoon with warm water, once or twice daily on an empty stomach (for example first thing in the morning or about an hour before bed). Since triphala has 5 of the 6 Ayurvedic tastes, it balances each of the doshas and rejuvenates your whole body. If you find the powder tastes too strong, I recommend taking the tablets or capsules instead.
Triphala acts as a mild laxative and may cause mild gastrointestinal side effects, including:
- Stomach upset
If you experience mild diarrhea or other side effects, reduce your dose. These symptoms are usually the result of the initial gut detox and resolve within 2 weeks for most people.
Seeds of Wisdom
Triphala is truly an Ayurvedic wonder for your health. I could talk about the uses of triphala for days. If I were ever stuck on a desert island and I could take only one single supplement with me, triphala would be it. Triphala supports so many different metabolic functions in the body that I consider it my daily rescue from modern life.
Triphala is so widely revered in India that there is an old saying that goes, “Even if you don’t have a mother, if you have triphala, you have nothing to worry about.” An exaggeration, yes, but indicative of how powerful and health-enhancing triphala can be.
Triphala is a legendary herb in Ayurveda because gut health is the foundation for overall health, particularly mental and cognitive health. When you begin by first improving the health of your gut, you swim an easier downstream path toward a life of balance, well-being and mental acuity.