Understanding Triphala For Deeper Cleansing
There is a folk saying in India that goes something like this: “No mother? Do not worry so long as you have Triphala.”
Of all the traditional Ayurvedic herbal formulas, Triphala holds a special place as being the most commonly used and the most adored. Triphala is a gentle, safe and very effective intestinal cleanser that serves the dual function of detoxification and rejuvenation at the same time.
According to Ayurveda, one of the root causes of all disease is the accumulation of “ama” or “toxins” in the gastro-intestinal tract. Ama can result for many reasons: eating food that is inappropriate for your particular constitution, eating under stress, eating food at the wrong time of day or wrong season, or eating contaminated food. Once ama begins to clog the assimilation pathways in the intestines, it becomes difficult to properly absorb nutrients and various imbalances can occur.
While seasonal cleansing is recommended, it is important to also perform daily detoxification to keep digestive function at an optimal level. Triphala is superb at this function because it has the unique ability to scrape (lekhana, in Sanskrit) toxins from the villi of the intestinal wall. At the same time, Triphala strengthens the intestine as an organ. Triphala is not a bulk laxative, although it is extremely effective for chronic constipation. This highly revered formula detoxifies and nourishes the digestive tract unlike any other herbal remedy.
Triphala literally means “three fruits” in Sanskrit, the ancient language of India. The three fruits that make up Triphala are amalaki, bibhitaki, and haritaki. Each of these fruits is a rasayana or rejuvenative for one of the doshas: haritaki for Vata, amalaki for Pitta, and bibhitaki for Kapha.
Therefore, Triphala is safe for Vata, Pitta, and Kapha types, but is contraindicated for small children under 7, people with ulcers, during pregnancy, and while breastfeeding.
In addition to its detoxifying action in the colon, Triphala also purifies the blood and stimulates bile secretion to cleanse the liver. The formula reduces serum cholesterol and lipid levels, and reduces blood pressure. At the same time, the high vitamin C content in Amalaki makes Triphala an important formula for immunity. Amalaki has a mild anti-bacterial and anti-viral action, and a significant effect as an expectorant. Haritaki, the most revered of all herbs in Tibetan medicine, is an important nervine and anti-spasmodic. Bibhitaki dries excess mucus and treats imbalances of the respiratory system. All together, Triphala has a beneficial effect on all three doshas both from a detoxifying and a rejuvenating perspective.
According to Ayurveda, every taste yields an action in the body, so it is important to taste your Triphala when you take it. Traditionally, Triphala is taken as a churna, or powder, in the dosage of 1⁄2 – 2 teaspoons in a cup of hot water. If you take Triphala in tablet form as opposed to powder, crush the tablets a bit in your mouth before swallowing. Triphala contains 5 of the 6 Ayurvedic tastes – all except salty. Interestingly, Triphala tastes differently to everyone. To some it tastes bitter, to some sour, and to some pungent. It is common for people to taste whichever flavor they lack most in their diet. Over time, believe it or not, the sweet taste will reveal itself. Triphala can be taken before bedtime so that it’s scraping and cleansing action in the digestive tract occurs while no new food is being taken in. Alternately, it can be taken three times daily for more general blood purification.
In some cases of chronic constipation, the dry and rough gunas or qualities of the powder can cause more constipation. In these cases, the Triphala can be taken with a cup of licorice tea, or it can be soaked in a cup of water all day and then taken in this hydrated form at night.
Just for fun, try this: Look in the mirror and stick out your tongue. According to Ayurveda, the tongue coating reflects how much ama is clogging your intestines. The thicker the coat, the greater the blockage to optimal absorption. As you take Triphala regularly and follow a nutritional program appropriate for your constitution, you will notice your tongue getting cleaner. Not only will you see the difference on your tongue, but you will be feeling lighter and cleaner as well.
Dr. Sharada Hall
Sharada Hall is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine specializing in Ayurveda. She operates her private practice in Santa Fe, New Mexico and also serves on the faculty at The Ayurvedic Institute. She is the creator of Bodhimed.com, an online natural health magazine devoted to Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine.