By Nadia Marshall
"No mother? Do not worry, so long as you have Triphala." - Indian Folk Saying
Triphala is probably one of the best known Ayurvedic herbal remedies, and for good reason! It is completely awesome. Unlike most Ayurvedic herbal preparations, it is appropriate for everyone (except pregnant ladies). It doesn't matter what your constitution or imbalance, Triphala is an all-round super medicine.
Triphala is made up of three fruits - Amalaki, Haritaki and Bibhitaki (pictured above). All three fruits help to promote wonderful digestion, assimilation and elimination so more often than not, Triphala is used to keep people regular. But it is sooo much more than that!
Triphala actually cleanses and tonifies ALL of the channels of the body (not just the channels of elimination), enkindles digestion, strengthens and rejuvenates ALL of the tissues, supports the immune system, reduces inflammation and calms the mind (1). If there is a doshic imbalance present (and let's face it, there usually is), it will help to bring that back into balance too (Amalaki balances Pitta, Bibhitaki balances Kapha while Haritaki balances Vata) (2).
Sounds pretty amazing doesn't it?! There must be a downside or everyone would be on the stuff. Well there is...
Triphala tastes pretty awful.
You can get Triphala tablets but traditionally Triphala is taken as a tea; either as a warm infusion soaked for 5-10 minutes and drunk before bed or a cold infusion soaked overnight and drunk in the morning upon rising. If you're going to enjoy the best effects of Triphala, it is ideal to experience its tastes in all their glory. Afterall, the tastes experienced in the mouth have an immediate effect on the body....
So, if you're going to take this wonderful medicine, day in, day out, you might need some clear and tangible benefits to keep you motivated! Here are the top 5 reasons I take Triphala daily:
1) It makes your belly happy
Triphala improves digestion. This means if you've eaten something not quite right for dinner, Triphala will immediately make your belly feel better. It will reduce gas (Vata), burning sensations (Pitta) or heaviness (Kapha) after eating. Not only is it an immediate panacea, it also improves your digestion over time. You will actually feel your digestion becoming more balanced. This means... a more regular, reasonable appetite before eating and a more pleasant response after you eat - less sensitivity, less gas, less burning, less heaviness. In short, it makes your belly happy. As far as I'm concerned, a happy belly = a happy life.
If you want to know more about this from a scientific/nerdy perspective, watch this video from Dr John Douillard.
2) It helps you to poop like a champion
As mentioned above, Triphala is best known and most often prescribed for its beneficial effects on bowel health and function. Haritaki tones the muscular wall of the gut, Amalaki heals the inner wall of the gut and villi, while Bibhitaki pulls mucus and toxins off the wall of the gut.
If you are prone to dry (Vata) or even sticky (Kapha or Ama) constipation, Triphala will get things moving in the right direction, with greater regularity. If you are prone to excessive movement in the form of loose stools (caused by Pitta or Vata), a smaller dose of Triphala will be required but this can also have a balancing effect on your digestion, absorption and daily movements. It's not something talked about too often but a good poop also = a happy life, doesn't it?
3) It helps keep you slim
Due to its effects on digestion and bowel health, Triphala also helps you to maintain a healthy weight and to lose weight (if you need to). On his website, Dr John Douillard talks about prescribing a dose of Triphala after every meal to patients wanting to lose weight, with amazing results (3). In a recent study, Triphala was shown to regulate body weight, percentage body fat, cholesterol, LDL, HDL and triglycerides, glucose levels, insulin levels, insulin resistance, liver enzymes, fat in the liver and cellular health in the liver; all physiological markers for obesity! Personally I find Triphala changes my cravings and generally reduces any sweet cravings I might have.
4) It helps keep you young
Amalaki is one of the strongest rejuvenating herbs in Ayurvedic Medicine, particularly for the blood, bones, liver and heart. It strengthens the teeth, hair and nails, improves eyesight and calms the mind with its sattvic quality. Bibhitakhi is also a strong rasayana or rejuvenative herb in Ayurveda, used specifically as a tonic for the respiratory system. In addition to strengthening the lungs, it improves the voice, eyesight and hair growth. And, you guessed it, Haritaki is also a strongly rejuvenating herb in Ayurveda. It tonifies and supports the brain and nervous system, improves eyesight and promotes longevity (1&2). So Triphala keeps you looking good AND feeling good!
5) It absolves you of food guilt
Triphala contains 5 of the 6 tastes described in Ayurveda - Sweet, Sour, Pungent, Bitter and Astringent (everything except Salty). But, when you first start taking it, the tastes that your diet tends to be deficient in will be the most dominant tastes you experience. For most of us, that is BITTER and ASTRINGENT. This is why Triphala is relatively revolting in the beginning... it makes your mouth feel all squeaky and bitter and dry. Yuck! But (and listen closely because this is important) it is the continuous taking of Triphala that solves this problem, so stick with it! Having more bitter and astringent tastes in our daily dose of tastes helps to balance out the tastes in our body/mind. As we become more balanced, the Triphala begins to taste different - it will become less bitter and more sweet. It is fascinating stuff really!
This is going to sound weird but I'll confess it all the same! I partly love taking Triphala each night before bed because it is an opportunity to receive a gentle reminder of my habits of the day (good or bad) combined with absolution for those habits. Let me explain with a bad habit example... if I've had a generous nibble on chocolate during the day, or other sweeties, Triphala will remind me with a whack of bitterness that makes my head spin. But, with this dramatic reminder of my indulgences, I am simultaneously absolved of any guilt through the very act of drinking the Triphala..... because I know the bitterness and astringency are recalibrating my body/mind and my taste buds for the following day, while also supporting my liver and pancreas.
But perhaps the reason I love Triphala the most is because IT HELPS ME SLEEP. When I have Triphala at night, I sleep through the night without waking. If I forget or don't have it with me, I invariably wake up at 2-3am to go to the loo and then spend a decent amount of time worrying about something. I'm not sure why Triphala helps me sleep because I've actually read about it potentially disturbing sleep. Perhaps it is the wiping clean of the slate at the end of the day that gives my mind peace and a sound sleep... perhaps it is its Vata-pacifying effect or perhaps it's all part of its rejuvenating magic. Whatever the reason, I'm addicted to the stuff and for once, it is a good addiction!
PLEASE NOTE: Although Triphala is good for nearly everyone, the dose and timing will change for each person. It is best to consult an Ayurvedic Practitioner for this information and to purchase the best quality Triphala you can. It is always advisable to consult an expert before taking Triphala or any other ayurvedic supplement.
1) Ayurvedic Medicine: The Principles of Traditional Practice
by Sebastian Pole
2) Yoga of Herbs, Dr David Frawley
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5 Reasons To Take Triphala Daily
Agni - the digestive fire.
Ama or Aama - undigested food waste, toxins.
Ojas- the foundation of our immune system and longevity.
Dhatus - the tissues of the body.
Srotas - the channels of the body.
Vata - the air/ether
intelligence in the body.
Pitta- the fire/water
intelligence in the body.
Kapha- the water/earth intelligence in the body.
Sattva- the quality of purity, intelligence, peace and love.
Rajas- the quality of
turbulence and activity.
Tamas- the quality of
dullness, darkness and inertia.
Rasa - the taste of a food (Sweet, Sour, Salty, Pungent, Bitter, Astringent)
Virya - second level of digestion (either Heating or Cooling)
Vipaka - third level of digestion, the deep taste of a food (can be Sweet, Sour or Pungent)
Prabhav - the 'special effect' of a food or herb/spice
Rasa - also the name for plasma tissue
Rakta - blood tissue
Mamsa - muscle tissue
Meda - fat tissue
Asthi - bone tissue
Majja - nerve & bone marrow tissue
Shukra - sexual reproductive tissue