Triphala: Benefits, Uses & Side-Effects
In terms of herbal remedies, triphala is an incredibly complex treatment approach that addresses dozens of different health concerns, thanks to its anti-inflammatory, detoxifying, antioxidant, soothing and antiseptic qualities.
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What is Triphala?
Triphala is a Sanskrit word that means “three fruits”, which is appropriate, given that this herbal powder blend consists of three different dried fruits – Indian gooseberry, Bibhitaki and Haritaki. Scientifically known as Emblica officinalis, Terminalia bellirica and Terminalia chebula, respectively, these three fruits have long played an important part in Ayurvedic medicine.
While this isn’t the most widely available herbal blend, it’s use is very popular in India and other parts of Asia, and its efficacy has resulted in its wide spread to the rest of the world, particularly for herbalists and other practitioners of natural medicine. With a broad range of antioxidants and organic compounds, including gallic acid, chebulagic acid and chebulinic acid, this herbal mixture provides a wide range of positive health effects for those who regularly use it.
Health Benefits of Triphala
Some of the most notable benefits of triphala include improving digestion, reducing signs of aging, detoxifying the body, aiding weight loss, strengthening the immune system, managing diabetic symptoms, preventing various cancers and optimizing nutrient uptake efficiency.
Studies have found a significant level of antioxidants in the triphala blend including a number of different phenolic compounds that can neutralize the activity of free radicals and improve the health and appearance of the skin. Antioxidants can stop oxidative stress that leads to wrinkles, age spots and other blemishes, while also minimizing the appearance of scars.
Amla, one of the key ingredients in triphala, is rich in vitamin C, which can stimulate the immune system and increase the production of white blood cells. These represent the first line of defense for the body, while also functioning as an antioxidant to reduce free radical activity within the body.
Growth and Repair
The active ingredients in amla and haritaki have both been linked to improved healing and repair of damaged tissues and cells in the body. This is likely due to the role of vitamin C in collagen production, which is required for all cells, tissues, muscle fibers and blood vessels.
There are notable levels of oleic and linoleic acid in bibhitaki and haritaki, which are known as “good” forms of fat. These fatty acids are able to re-balance your cholesterol levels and prevent excess deposition of plaque in the arteries, thus preventing the onset of atherosclerosis, heart attacks, strokes and coronary heart disease.
The presence of so many antioxidants within triphala has sparked quite a bit of research into the herbal blend’s impact on cancer. The antioxidants have been shown to lower oxidative stress, reduce tumor growth and formation, and stimulate the immune system to eliminate excess free radicals that cause cell mutation. Research has thus far found promising results in both prostate and colon cancer.
Indian gooseberry has long been known to regulate the levels of insulin and glucose in the body, which is good news for diabetics. Even as just one of three components in triphala, amla is able to improve the body’s insulin sensitivity and prevent the dangerous spikes and drops in blood sugar that plague diabetic patients. However, excess consumption of this herbal mixture may actually increase blood sugar levels.
Detoxify the Body
One of the most well known characteristics of triphala is its impact on toxicity levels within the body. Research has found that the active ingredients in this blend are able to stimulate the liver and kidneys, helping to clear the body of accumulations of toxins and prevent excess inflammation in various parts of the body.
Primarily used as a digestive stimulant, triphala can reduce the occurrence of excess gas, while also reducing symptoms of constipation by stimulating normal bowel function. The spice is also used to repair a damaged or compromised gastrointestinal tract after infection or extended illness. This herbal preparation can clean out the digestive tract and colon, which allows for a normal bacterial balance in the gut.
This herbal blend is known for improving fat storage in the body by preventing certain foods from being stored as fats, and instead being converted into usable energy. This can improve the speed of the metabolism and boost passive fat-burning, even when you’re not exerting yourself.
Aside from optimizing digestion and eliminating constipation symptoms, triphala can also improve the efficiency of nutrient uptake, which will increase feelings of satiety and prevent overeating. This can further help with weight loss efforts.
The antioxidants found in triphala can also affect the rate of macular degeneration and the development of cataracts. In some preparations where triphala is in liquid form, it is even mixed with other compounds to form an eye wash, intended to reduce blurriness of vision and soothe chronically red eyes.
How to Use Triphala?
Triphala is most commonly found in powdered form, with varying concentrations of each fruit in the three-part blend. This powder is frequently made into a rich and earthy tea, and only requires 1/2 of a teaspoon of powder to be mixed in one cup of hot water and steeped for 5-8 minutes. Due to the popularity of this herbal remedy around the world, it is also made into tablets, which guarantee even more of a concentrated effect on the body.
Depending on what type of triphala you purchase, it may come in concentrated liquid form, which is likely a combination of the extracts from these three fruits. 20-30 drops of this liquid can be mixed into a glass of water or juice 2-3 times per day, specifically 30 minutes before bed if you are using the spice mixture for gastrointestinal issues.
Side Effects of Triphala
Despite the many valuable benefits of triphala, there are some potential side effects that must be considered, such as gastrointestinal distress, dehydration, allergic reactions, insomnia, drug interactions, weight loss and diabetic issues.
Dehydration – Although this herbal mixture is excellent for cleansing the colon, it can also cause excessive release of bowel movements and water from the body, leading to a condition of dehydration. If you are regularly drinking triphala tea, be sure to accompany this with equal parts water to prevent the serious side effects of dehydration.
Insomnia – Numerous people have reported that regular use of triphala can interrupt normal sleep patterns and lead to insomnia, as well as mood shifts, fatigue and exhaustion. One of the best ways to avoid this symptom is to drink a cup of this tea on an empty stomach in the morning, rather than consuming it later in the day.
Drug Interactions – Due to the impact this spice blend has on various enzymes and hormones in the body, it can negatively interfere with medication intended for people suffering from depression, hyperactivity and blood clots. This herbal mixture can interfere with all of these active ingredients, which can be dangerous for people who require regular sedation, blood thinning and medication to improve their mood.
Weight Loss – The weight loss-supporting properties of triphala are excellent, unless you are already suffering from eating disorders or abnormally low body weight. You may find it difficult to gain weight or may experience unexplained weight loss when using this herbal blend regularly. In moderation, however, these side effects are quite rare.
Diabetes – Some reports say that triphala is able to increase blood sugar levels, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, unless you have already been diagnosed with diabetes. Regulating blood sugar is essential for some people, so regular use of triphala, even in small doses, can be dangerous to your diabetes management.
Stomach Issues – The cleansing nature of this herbal mix is great for digestion and cleansing the colon but when more than 2-3 cups of this herbal tea are consumed every day, it can cause severe gastrointestinal distress. This will include diarrhea, stomach cramping and bloating, as well as irritation in the colon. Over time, this could lead to a breakdown of the colon’s soft tissues, resulting in even more serious side effects.
Allergic Reactions – With three different components in triphala, there are three times as many chances for people to be allergic to one of the fruits. Allergic reactions tend to result in stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, and occasional swelling in the tongue or lips.
While some Ayurvedic preparations of this herbal blend may use the fresh fruit to derive essential oils or extracts, the triphala is commonly available in the form of powder. This is made by grinding down the three dried fruits of this blend and mixing them together. The powder is readily available across Asia and is ideal for making tea or even sprinkling on certain savory dishes for a nutritious boost. The powder is also available in the west but typically only in specialty import stores or herbalists.