Triphala (the three fruits) is an Ayurvedic, polyherbal preparation comprising three ingredients. The ingredients are all fruits, and they’re all native to India: bibhitaki, amalaki, and haritaki. Each fruit is thought to positively impact the body’s three doshas. In Ayurvedic medicine, doshas are elemental forces believed to permeate body, mind, and spirit.
Ayurveda is a centuries-old Indian medicinal system. Triphala has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. It’s thought to support bowel health and aid digestion. As an antioxidant, it’s also thought to detoxify the body and support the immune system.
Triphala is not appropriate for everyone to use. Based on where it’s manufactured, it may also contain toxins, such as mercury and lead, making some supplements unsafe for human consumption.
Forms and uses
Triphala is very high in antioxidants. It’s touted for its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral abilities, and it’s prescribed by Ayurvedic practitioners for a wide variety of ailments. These include strengthening the immune system, promoting oral health, and treating fatigue, gastric distress, pneumonia, cancer, and AIDS. Triphala has been studied in the laboratory and on animals, but not extensively on humans.
Triphala is available commercially in supplement form, as a pill, and as a liquid extract. The liquid extract is typically meant for external use and should never be put into the eyes, unless it’s specifically prescribed for this purpose.
Triphala supplements have varying daily dosages based upon the manufacturer. It’s important to follow package directions exactly.
Triphala supplements may be most effective when taken right before bed with a large glass of warm water. Some people prefer to take this supplement on an empty stomach, while others prefer to take it with food. Discuss these options with your doctor.
Triphala is also available in powder form. The powder is meant to be dissolved in warm water and consumed as tea. It may also be used as an oral swish, like a mouthwash. Triphala may have a bitter taste, but it can be mixed with honey or lemon without diminishing its effects.
Triphala has been shown in multiple studies to have a positive effect on several conditions.
A study done on 60 female undergraduates found that a triphala-extract mouth rinse was effective at reducing plaque and gingivitis. It’s also found to be effective in preventing cavities and bleeding gums.
A laboratory study on human skin cells found that triphala had a protective effect on the epidermis and on dermal fibroblasts, which are the cells in the dermis layer of the skin that help it recover from injury. Triphala also increased collagen production.
A study of 150 people with diabetes found that triphala was able to reduce blood glucose levels.
A clinical trial analyzed the effects of a polyherbal formulation containing triphala on 34 people with constipation. The formulation also contained isabgol husk and senna extract. Study participants taking the formulation showed improvement in bowel movement frequency, incomplete evacuation, and other symptoms associated with constipation.
Triphala’s ability to fight several other conditions, such as AIDS and cancer, has not been proven in humans, but there are ongoing studies. Its potential impact on several types of cancers has been studied in the laboratory and on animals. While more research is needed in these areas, some studies done to date are compelling. For example, an in vitro laboratory study indicated that methanol extract of triphala diminished the spread of cells and produced cell death in colon cancer cells and human colon cancer stem cells. Researchers determined that triphala has anti-carcinogenic properties, but additional research is needed to assess its ability to combat colon cancer.
Risks and side effects
The efficacy of triphala has not been studied for every health condition it’s used to treat. For that reason, it’s important to discuss its use with your doctor prior to taking. This herb is considered unsafe for use in babies and children, the elderly, and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Gastrointestinal side effects, such as loose stools, have been noted anecdotally among people who use triphala.
People who take cytochrome P450 (CYP) substrate drugs should not take triphala since it increases the possibility of side effects from these medications.
There is also a very high risk of toxin contamination in triphala supplements. One source says 1 in 5 supplements tested were contaminated. If you choose to take this herb or supplement, make sure to buy triphala only from a trusted source. Find out if the manufacturer tests each batch of triphala for contaminants, such as lead, mercury, and arsenic. Some manufacturers use independent, U.S.-based laboratories for testing, and will be able to provide you with a certificate of analysis if you request one.
This herb, like many other natural drugs, can interfere with many medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, blood clotting drugs, and anti-anxiety medications. For people with diabetes, this can cause elevations in blood sugar.
Triphala has been used for a wide range of health conditions for centuries. While it is known to be a significant source of antioxidants, it has not been tested extensively on people for every health condition it is used for. Only use triphala from a trusted manufacturer, and talk to your doctor prior to using.