The Benefits of Haritaki

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Haritaki (Terminalia chebula) is a tree native to southern Asia and India. The dried fruit of the tree has a long history of use in ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India. Sometimes referred to as "chebulic myrobalan," haritaki is one of three dried fruits that make up the ayurvedic formula triphala.

Available in powder or dietary supplement form, haritaki has a bitter taste. It is rich in vitamin C and substances found to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

Uses for Haritaki

People use haritaki to promote healing from a number of conditions ranging from sore throat to allergies, as well as to improve digestive issues such as constipation and indigestion. In ayurveda, haritaki is said to support the "vata" dosha.

Benefits of Haritaki

So far, most of the evidence for haritaki's health effects comes from small animal-based research and laboratory studies:

A 2010 study from the Journal of Advanced Pharmaceutical Technology & Research, for instance, determined that haritaki helped reduce total cholesterol in mice. The study's authors also found that haritaki helped reduce the animals' levels of triglycerides (a type of blood fat known to increase heart disease risk when it occurs at elevated levels).

Haritaki may help increase expression of antioxidants found to fight oxidative stress, according to a 2009 study from Cell Biochemistry and Function. In tests on aging rats, the study's authors observed that treatment with haritaki helped boost concentrations of several antioxidants (including glutathione, superoxide dismutase, and vitamin C and vitamin E).

In a 2010 animal-based study from Phytotherapy Research scientists ran a series of experiments involving rats with metabolic syndrome and discovered that haritaki may help treat the condition by lowering blood sugar levels.

While clinical trials on haritaki are currently lacking, some research suggests that it may offer certain health benefits. For instance, a 2010 study from Oral Health & Preventive Dentistry suggests that using a haritaki-based mouthwash might help prevent cavities. For the study, 30 people were given either distilled water or a mouthwash made with haritaki. In their analysis of saliva samples collected after rinsing, the study's authors determined that the haritaki-based mouthwash was significantly more effective in reducing levels of bacteria linked to the development of cavities.

Haritaki may with pain management, suggests a small study published in the Journal of Anaesthesiology Clinical Pharmacology. Researchers gave study participants a single oral dose of T. chebula or a placebo and found that T. chebula increased pain threshold and pain tolerance compared to the placebo.

Side Effects and Safety

The safety of long-term use of haritaki isn't known. However, since haritaki may reduce blood sugar levels, there's some concern that using it in combination with blood-sugar-lowering medications may have harmful effects. Given this concern, it's important to talk to your doctor prior to using haritaki in combination with blood-sugar-lowering drugs (such as diabetes medications).

The shell of the haritaki fruit and the stone should not be consumed.

Haritaki supplements haven't been tested for safety. It's important to note that, due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some haritaki products may differ from what is specified on the product label. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. While consumers face such risks when purchasing any dietary supplement, these risks may be of greater magnitude in the purchase of ayurvedic products, especially those containing a variety of herbs in varying doses.

In addition, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get tips on using supplements, but it's important to keep in mind that self-treating and avoiding or delaying standard care can have serious consequences.

Where To Find It

Haritaki supplements are widely available for purchase online. In addition, you can find haritaki in many natural-foods stores and stores specializing in dietary supplements.

The Takeaway

While there's some interesting research on haritaki, it's too soon to recommend it as a treatment for any condition. If you're still considering trying it, talk with your primary care provider first.

For help in staving off metabolic syndrome, try upping your intake of antioxidants. Studies show that loading up on carotenoids (a type of antioxidant found in foods like spinach, sweet potato, red peppers, tomatoes, and kale) may help reduce a number of metabolic-syndrome-related risk factors.

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  • Mahesh R, Bhuvana S, Begum VM. Effect of Terminalia chebula aqueous extract on oxidative stress and antioxidant status in the liver and kidney of young and aged rats. Cell Biochem Funct. 2009 Aug;27(6):358-63.
  • Maruthappan V, Shree KS. Hypolipidemic activity of haritaki (terminalia chebula) in atherogenic diet induced hyperlipidemic rats. J Adv Pharm Technol Res. 2010 Apr;1(2):229-35.
  • Nayak SS, Kumar BR, Ankola AV, Hebbal M. The efficacy of Terminalia chebula rinse on Streptococcus mutans count in saliva and its effect on salivary pH. Oral Health Prev Dent. 2010;8(1):55-8.
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