Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India, is full of natural remedies for both health woes and beauty needs. One of the many versatile Ayurvedic herbs is haritaki.
Technically the fruit of the deciduous myrobalan plum tree, haritaki is considered an important herb in Ayurveda and Siddha medicine, both forms of indigenous medicine in India. The fruit itself is small, oblong, and less than an inch in size.
The fruits are often collected when they’re still green and raw and then dried until golden brown or black. They’re then powdered and made into Ayurvedic remedies. The fruit’s potency is based on where the fruit was collected, its color, and its shape.
Haritaki is also known as:
- kaddukki (in South Asia)
In Tamil, it’s referred to as “kayakalpa,” a rejuvenator of the body that balances all dosha, or humors. It’s often referred to as a “life-giving” herb.
Haritaki is prized in Ayurveda for its versatile health applications.
Vrinda Devani, OB-GYN and Ayurvedic practitioner of Banyan Botanicals and Ayurprana says that haritaki balances all the elements, especially ether and air. The combination of ether and air is known as Vata dosha, which is said to cause 80 percent of all diseases in Ayurveda.
Devani notes that haritaki is also high in:
Practitioners of Ayurveda include it as part of treatment for a host of ailments, including both short-term and chronic health concerns.
“To pacify the air element (Vata), take it with ghee, or clarified butter,” says Devani. “To pacify fire and heat (Pitta), you can take it with a little sugar. To pacify water and earth (Kapha), you can take it with a little rock salt.”
It’s important to always consult a qualified herbalist before you add any herb, including haritaki, to your health regimen.
According to a 2018 study, Ayurvedic researchers note that each of the different seven types of fruit are prescribed for specific ailments.
According to Devani and 2014 research, haritaki is beneficial for:
- constipation, gas, and bloating
- weight loss
- skin disease
- supporting regular bowel movements
- nourishing and rejuvenating the tissues
“Haritaki is beneficial for a number of illnesses,” says Devani. “One of the unique things about haritaki is that as […] an herb that rejuvenates and nourishes all organs and tissues, it also supports immunity. It can support reproductive challenges like libido and fertility.”
A 2017 pharmacological study of the extracts of the myrobalan fruit suggests that it contains several helpful compounds that support its application as an:
These also play a part in heart health, wound care, and digestive support.
As a rejuvenating and regenerative herb with antioxidant properties, haritaki is believed to have the potential to improve the health of the skin, hair, and nails.
According to 2019 research, haritaki may help address a variety of skin ailments classified by Ayurveda.
Devani recommends using it for day-to-day skin health.
“Use it externally by making a paste with some water or rose water,” she says. “If it’s a little drying, add a few drops of oil.”
In a 2014 study, a haritaki paste created with haritaki powder, ghee, and water helped alleviate cracked feet.
A 2021 study notes that classical Ayurvedic texts include formulations for hair dyes using haritaki powder, noting these formulations have been used for generations with no adverse effects. The research also notes that haritaki not only darkens but softens hair.
A 2019 study noted that haritaki’s antimicrobial properties may be helpful in alleviating nailbed infection, though more high quality research is needed.
Haritaki is available in many forms in the marketplace. In addition to the versatile and popular powdered form, a haritaki paste and a jam-like preparation made with ghee or sugar syrup are also available.
Depending on the ailment, Haritaki may also be prescribed in tablet form or as an herbal oil. Different forms are prescribed based on the individual’s needs.
- Powder or churna. The most commonly available form of haritaki.
- Paste or Legiyam. Haritaki powder is mixed with water, ghee, or other herbs.
- Oil or thylam. Oils can be infused with haritaki and used on the skin, hair, nails, and in food.
- Tablet. Tablets are a somewhat modern form of haritaki designed for busy consumers used to getting their medicines in pill-form.
According to ancient Hindu scriptures called the Vedas, a drop of nectar fell from the celestial cup of Lord Indra and sprouted the haritaki tree.
The name haritaki can be interpreted as “that which embodies Hari,” or Lord Shiva, one of three Hindu gods responsible for the creation, upkeep, and destruction of the world.
As a cleansing and restorative herb, it’s included in holistic health care to address dosha imbalances. Many believe it plays a role in spiritual balance as well.
Haritaki is valued for its regenerative potential as a cure for many ailments. The Medicine Buddha, an important icon in Mahayana Buddhism, is depicted as holding a haritaki fruit in both hands.
Although haritaki is generally considered safe, some people should avoid it. Don’t take haritaki if you:
- are pregnant
- recently donated blood
- experience fatigue
- have diarrhea
- are dehydrated
- take anti-glycemic medications, like insulin or alpha-glucosidase inhibitors
Even if you aren’t experiencing one of the above, always talk with a qualified herbalist before taking haritaki.
Want to learn more? Get the FAQs below.
How long does it take haritaki to work?
Haritaki may positively impact short-term conditions like respiratory ailments, digestive, or skin conditions through topical applications. For more chronic conditions, it may take a few weeks for Haritaki to be impactful.
Herbal medicine isn’t a one-and-done type of practice. Don’t expect herbs to work like taking an aspirin or antibiotic. They’re meant to work slowly over time with consistent use at proper dosages.
The amount of time it takes for herbs to take effect will vary depending on the dosage, issue being treated, and lifestyle factors.
Can you take haritaki daily?
Generally speaking, haritaki is considered safe for everyday use, especially when taken in small doses and blends such as triphala.
Still, you should never take herbal medicine without consulting a qualified herbalist and your healthcare professional.
When should you take haritaki?
When you should take haritaki depends on your specific needs.
According to Devani, when using haritaki as a rejuvenating supplement, it’s best consumed in the morning.
If taking it as triphala, some prefer taking it at night to let the herbs do their work and prepare the digestive system for waking. “For cleansing benefits, night is preferred,” says Devani.
However, you should always speak with a qualified herbalist and your doctor about when and how much to take.
Is haritaki good for your liver?
Although there isn’t scientific research to support it, Ayurveda indicates that haritaki may help support the liver’s role in eliminating toxins from the body.
Still, always consult a qualified practitioner before taking haritaki for your liver.
Who shouldn’t take haritaki?
Pregnant women, recent blood donors, and individuals taking anti-glycemic or anti-diabetic drugs should avoid taking haritaki.
You should also avoid it if you’re excessively fatigued, have diarrhea, or are dehydrated.
Haritaki is an ancient Ayurvedic herb with a rich history that can be easily incorporated into modern health regimens. It may help with digestion and detoxification as well as a number of health issues.
Always talk with a qualified herbalist and your healthcare professional before you begin taking herbs.
Nandita Godbole is an Atlanta-based, Indian-origin food writer and author of several cookbooks, including her latest, “Seven Pots of Tea: An Ayurvedic Approach to Sips & Nosh.” Find her books at venues where fine cookbooks are showcased, and follow her at @currycravings on any social media platform of your choice.