Though you may have never heard of Triphala, it has been used as a healing remedy for over 1,000 years.
This herbal concoction consists of three medicinal plants native to India.
It's a staple in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, one of the world's oldest medical systems that originated in India over 3,000 years ago ().
Due to its many purported health benefits, Triphala has become increasingly popular around the world.
Triphala has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine since ancient times as a multi-purpose treatment for symptoms ranging from stomach ailments to dental cavities. It is also believed to promote longevity and overall health ().
It’s considered a polyherbal medicine, meaning it consists of several different medicinal herbs.
Polyherbal formulations are popularly used in Ayurvedic medicine, a traditional system that emphasizes disease prevention and health promotion.
It’s believed that combining synergistic herbs results in extra therapeutic effectiveness and is a more powerful treatment than any one component taken alone ().
Triphala is a mixture of the dried fruits of the following three plants native to India.
Amla (Emblica officinalis)
More commonly known as Indian gooseberry, amla plays an important role in Ayurvedic medicine.
It is one of the oldest edible fruits known to India ().
Indian gooseberries are the edible fruit of a small to medium-sized tree that grows throughout India.
The berries have a sour, sharp taste and a fibrous texture.
For this reason, the berries are often pickled, soaked in sugar syrup or cooked into dishes to increase palatability.
Indian gooseberry and its extract are used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat symptoms like constipation and also used in cancer prevention.
Indian gooseberries are very nutritious and high in vitamin C, amino acids and minerals (5).
They also contain powerful plant compounds like phenols, tannins, phyllembelic acid, rutin, curcuminoids and emblicol ().
Several test-tube studies suggest that Indian gooseberries have potent anti-cancer properties.
For example, in test-tube studies, Indian gooseberry extract has been shown to inhibit the growth of cervical and ovarian cancer cells (, ).
However, there is no evidence that Indian gooseberries prevent cancer in humans.
Bibhitaki (Terminalia bellirica)
Terminalia bellirica is a large tree that commonly grows in Southeast Asia.
It’s known as “Bibhitaki” in Ayurvedic medicine, where the fruit of the tree is used as a treatment for common ailments like bacterial and viral infections.
Bibhitaki contains tannins, ellagic acid, gallic acid, lignans and flavones, along with many other powerful plant compounds that are thought to be responsible for its medicinal qualities (9).
This potent herbal remedy has a variety of uses and may help treat a wide array of medical issues.
In particular, Bibhitaki has been researched for its anti-inflammatory properties.
In one study, 500 mg of Terminalia bellirica substantially reduced uric acid levels in patients with gout, an inflammatory condition characterized by the buildup of uric acid in the body ().
Bibhitaki is also commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat diabetes and blood sugar dysregulation.
This is because Bibhitaki is high in gallic acid and ellagic acid, two phytochemicals that have beneficial effects on blood sugar levels, insulin sensitivity and body weight (, ).
Haritaki (Terminalia chebula)
Terminalia chebula is a medicinal tree that grows throughout the Middle East, India, China and Thailand.
This plant is known as “Haritaki” in Ayurveda, where the small, green fruit of the Terminalia chebula tree is used as medicine. It is one of the main components of Triphala ().
Haritaki is held in high esteem in Ayurveda and often referred to as the “king of medicines.”
It has been used since ancient times as a remedy for a number of conditions, including heart disease, asthma, ulcers and stomach ailments ().
Haritaki contains phytochemicals such as terpenes, polyphenols, anthocyanins and flavonoids, all of which have powerful health benefits.
Studies have shown that haritaki has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Additionally, Haritaki is popularly used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat digestive issues like constipation.
Animal studies have shown that treatment with Haritaki increases intestinal transit time, which can help relieve constipation (, ).
Summary Triphala is a powerful herbal remedy that consists of Haritaki, Bibhitaki and amla. It is used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine to prevent disease and treat a number of symptoms, including constipation and inflammation.
Triphala is promoted as a treatment for a number of common ailments and way to prevent chronic disease.
Triphala contains a number of antioxidants that perform protective functions in the body.
It contains vitamin C, flavonoids, polyphenols, tannins and saponins, along with other potent plant compounds (19).
These compounds help fight oxidative stress caused by free radicals, which are molecules that can damage cells and contribute to chronic disease.
Diets high in antioxidants have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes and premature aging (, , , ).
What’s more, in animal studies, Triphala has been shown to reduce inflammation and damage caused by arthritis (, ).
Studies have shown that supplementing with antioxidants may have some benefits as well, including protecting against heart disease, improving athletic performance and reducing inflammation (, , 28).
May Protect Against Certain Cancers
Triphala has been shown to protect against certain cancers in a number of test-tube and animal studies.
For example, it has been shown to inhibit the growth of lymphoma, as well as stomach and pancreatic cancers in mice (, ).
This herbal remedy also induced colon and prostate cancer cell death in test-tube studies (, ).
Researchers have suggested that Triphala’s high levels of powerful antioxidants like gallic acid and polyphenols may be responsible for its cancer-fighting properties ().
Though these results are promising, human studies on its potential cancer-fighting properties are needed to assess safety and effectiveness.
May Protect Against Dental Disease and Cavities
Triphala may benefit dental health in several ways.
Triphala has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that can help prevent plaque formation, a common cause of cavities and gingivitis (gum inflammation).
One study in 143 children found that rinsing with a mouthwash containing Triphala extract reduced plaque buildup, gum inflammation and bacterial growth in the mouth ().
Another study showed treatment with a Triphala-based mouthwash led to a significant reduction in plaque and gum inflammation in hospitalized patients with periodontal disease ().
May Aid Weight Loss
Some studies have shown that Triphala may help with fat loss, especially in the belly area.
In one study, rats fed a high-fat diet supplemented with Triphala had more significant reductions in body weight, energy intake and body fat, compared to mice who were not supplemented with Triphala ().
Another study of 62 obese adults found that those who supplemented with a 10-gram daily dose of Triphala powder experienced a greater reduction in weight, waist circumference and hip circumference than those who received a placebo ().
Can Be Used as a Natural Laxative
Triphala has been used since ancient times as a natural treatment for digestive issues like constipation.
It is an alternative to over-the-counter laxatives, and its effectiveness has been demonstrated in several studies.
In one study, patients treated with a laxative containing isabgol husk, senna extract and Triphala experienced significant improvements in symptoms of constipation, including decreased straining and more complete evacuations ().
In another study in patients with gastrointestinal disorders, Triphala reduced constipation, abdominal pain and flatulence and improved the frequency and consistency of bowel movements (39).
It has also been shown to reduce intestinal inflammation and repair intestinal damage in animal studies (, ).
Summary Triphala contains powerful anti-inflammatory compounds that may help protect against certain cancers and other chronic diseases. Studies have shown that it may help treat constipation, resolve dental issues and promote weight loss.
While Triphala is generally considered safe and has potential health benefits, it may cause side effects in some people.
For example, due to its natural laxative effects, it may cause diarrhea and abdominal discomfort, especially in high doses.
Triphala is not recommended for pregnant or lactating women and should not be administered to children. There are no scientific studies on the use of Triphala in these populations, and its safety can’t be guaranteed ().
Furthermore, it may interact with or decrease the effectiveness of certain medications, including blood thinners like Warfarin ().
Indian gooseberry, one of the main components of Triphala, may increase the risk of bleeding and bruising in certain people and may not be safe for those with bleeding disorders (44).
For these reasons, it is important to check with your doctor before using Triphala or any other supplement.
Summary Triphala may cause diarrhea and intestinal discomfort in some people and can react with certain medications. Children, pregnant and lactating women and those with bleeding disorders should avoid it.
Triphala can be purchased at health food stores and online.
It’s available in many forms, including capsule, powder or liquid.
It is suggested to take Triphala between meals on an empty stomach for maximum absorption.
Typically, recommended doses range from 500 mg to one gram per day, though larger amounts can be used to treat symptoms like constipation ().
Powdered versions can be mixed with warm water and honey and taken before meals.
This powder can also be mixed with ghee, a type of clarified butter, and added to warm water for a soothing drink. Additionally, it can be mixed with honey to form an edible paste.
Large doses of it can cause digestive symptoms like diarrhea, so it’s best to start with a smaller dose and gradually work your way up to the recommended intake.
Though Triphala is considered safe for most people, check with your doctor before taking it to ensure safety and proper usage.
Summary Triphala is available in many forms but most commonly taken in capsule form. Larger doses can cause digestive distress, so starting with small amounts is a good idea.
Triphala is an ancient Ayurvedic treatment that has become a popular herbal remedy for many ailments.
Studies show it can help prevent inflammation, and test-tube studies have demonstrated a possible protective effect against certain cancers.
It’s also used as a natural alternative treatment for constipation and dental issues like excess plaque and gum inflammation. It may even help with weight loss.
With so many purported health benefits, Triphala may be a worthwhile natural remedy to add your routine.