Ayurveda, one of the oldest health sciences, is based on the understanding of a relation between the human body and the universe as a microcosm and macrocosm. The body (microcosm), as well as universe (macrocosm), is comprised of five basic elements — earth, water, fire, air and space — which are again grouped into three more categories — kapha (earth+water), vata (air+space) and pitta (fire+water). Diseases are imbalances in the elemental composition of the body due to climate, toxins, improper diet and lifestyle etc. Herbs help to cleanse and restore the balance in the body. There are more than 7000 herbs described in ayurveda. To increase their effectiveness, they are prescribed in combined formulae. Triphala (translation – three fruits) is one such magical combination beneficial in toxin cleansing, balancing and rejuvenating the body. It was traditionally used to slow down the aging process and strengthen the body.
Triphala is a herbal combination that consists of three fruits viz, Indian gooseberry (Emblica officinalis), Chebulic myrobalans or Indian gall nut (Terminalia chebula) and Belliric myrobalan (Terminalia belerica). Indian gooseberry cleanses and balances pitta; Chebulic myrobalans balances the vata; and Belleric myrobalans balances the kapha in our body. Hence it is a universal cleanser, balancer and rejuvenator (tridoshanashak in Sanskrit) which can prevent or treat a number of illnesses in the body.
Indian gooseberry is an antimicrobial and nature’s best antioxidant (reduces incidence of cancer by combating free radicals) containing 80% water along with proteins, carbohydrates, fibre, minerals and vitamins. It contains gallic acid, an antioxidant, and has potent anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. It shows cytotoxicity against cancer cells without harming healthy cells, stops internal hemorrhages and is used to treat albuminuria and diabetes. Indian gooseberry is one of the richest sources of natural Vitamin C (100gms of Indian gooseberry = 700mg Vitamin C). It is helpful to reduce blood sugar levels in diabetics, reduce cholesterol level in blood, prevent premature greying of hair and cure scurvy.
Chebulic myrobalans is a rejuvenator. It’s Sanskrit name, Vayastha, means stabilizing youthfulness (vayas – age; stha – stabilizing). This fruit contains tannin (24 – 32%) comprising of Chebulagic acid, Chebulinic acid, Corilagin and gallic acid. Chebulagic acid is hepatoprotective, and it is an alpha glucosidase inhibitor (which is antidiabetic) and has anti-hypertensive actions. Corilagin is an anti-hypertensive and potentiates the action of beta lactamases against methicillin resistant bacteria, thus making it very useful in preventing and treating wound infections. Chebulic is also helpful in case of hemorrhoids, liver disorders, constipation, prevention of renal stone, shortness of breath and leucorrhea.
Belleric myrobalan (bibhitaki – that which makes one fearless of disease) is the third constituent. It softens the impacted feces in the rectum and relieves chronic constipation. Other uses are in hoarseness of voice (important use), insomnia, excessive thirst and infectious conditions in general. It is anti-asthmatic and anti-spasmodic and also very good for the eyes. Triphala eye drops are used to treat conjunctivitis, stye and many other eye diseases. Belleric contains several tripenoids like belleric acid, sitosterol, saponin glycosides bellericoside and bellericanin. Other constituents are polyphenols (gallic acid, ellagic acid, phyllembin, chebulagic acid) and lignans (termilignan, flavan, anolignan). Lignans demonstrated significant inhibitory activity on HIV virus – 1 reverse transcriptase, anti-malarial and anti-fungal. T. belerica has been shown to reduce hypercholesterolemia in rabbits and to promote a decrease in liver and heart diseases. Hepatoprotective effect is due to gallic acid.
The mixture is prepared by combining the powders of the three fruits, and 2gms may be taken with warm water before bedtime or with honey in the morning. To conclude, it is worth the effort to add a spoon or two of triphala to your daily diet.
Dr. Sanjay Pisharodi
2. Ayurvedic Pharmacology and therapeutic uses of medicinal plants by V. M. Gogte; Chowkhamba Publications, New Delhi (p515, p438, p309)
4. Terminalia chebula
5. Bhashajya Ratnavali Vol 3; p by Dr Kanjiv Lochan; (p70)