The Health Benefits of Haritaki

Green haritaki fruits

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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.

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.

Health Benefits

There's a lack of clinical trials supporting the claims that haritaki can improve your health. So far, most of the evidence for haritaki's health effects comes from preliminary animal-based research and laboratory studies though preliminary research in humans suggests it may offer certain health benefits.

Cavity Prevention

A 2010 study published in Oral Health & Preventive Dentistry suggests a haritaki-based mouthwash may help prevent cavities. In the study, 30 people were given either distilled water or a mouthwash made with haritaki. Researchers analyzed saliva samples collected after rinsing and found the haritaki-based mouthwash was significantly more effective in reducing levels of bacteria linked to the development of cavities.

Pain Relief

Haritaki may help with pain management, suggests a small study published in the Journal of Anaesthesiology Clinical Pharmacology in 2016. Researchers gave study participants a single oral dose of Terminalia chebula or a placebo and found that Terminalia chebula increased pain threshold and pain tolerance compared to the placebo.

Further studies found haritaki extracts show promise for treating knee pain, a 2019 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found. The 90-day randomized, placebo-controlled double-blind study of 105 subjects with osteoarthritis in the knee found the extract relieved pain and improved physical function and increased quality of life.

Cholesterol

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.

The research on haritaki's effect on cholesterol levels, however, is limited to animal studies, and it is too soon to recommend the supplement for cholesterol levels.

Oxidative Stress

Haritaki may help increase the 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, vitamin C, and vitamin E.

The research, however, is limited to animal studies, and it is too soon to recommend haritaki to improve health.

Blood Sugar

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.

Again, the research is limited to animal studies and it is too soon to recommend its use for the prevention or treatment of diabetes or metabolic syndrome.

Possible Side Effects

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.

It's important to talk to your doctor prior to using haritaki in combination with blood-sugar-lowering drugs (such as diabetes medications).

Haritaki should not be used by pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications without consulting a doctor.

Selection, Preparation & Storage

Haritaki is one of the ingredients in the Ayurvedic formula Triphala and also sold alone as powder, a capsule, and as a dried fruit. The powder has a bitter taste, so many people prefer capsules. The shell of the haritaki fruit and the stone should not be consumed.

Haritaki supplements are available for purchase online, in many natural-foods stores, and in stores specializing in dietary supplements. Look for brands that are certified organic.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration does not regulate supplements and the content of some haritaki products may differ from what is specified on the product label.

Other Questions

Can haritaki relieve stress?

In ayurvedic medicine, haritaki is considered a powerful adaptogen, an herb that boosts the body's resiliency to stress. It may minimize the harmful effects of stress on the body, but it isn't known for having sedative properties like other stress-relieving herbs.

What does haritaki taste like?

The haritaki fruit has been described as sweet and, sour with an astringent taste. The powder has a bitter taste and some people prefer to take it as a capsule.

A Word From Verywell

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

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