The Health Benefits of Triphala

This Ayurvedic remedy may aid in weight loss and bowel health

Triphala capsules, tablets, and powder

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Triphala has long been used in Ayurveda, a healing system that originated thousands of years ago in India. Today it is used to treat a number of health conditions. Still, researchers have yet to confirm its benefits.

In Ayurvedic medicine, Triphala is considered a tridoshic rasayana. This means Triphala supports all three doshas: air/space, fire/water, and water/earth. Doshas are the elements responsible for physical, mental, and emotional health. 

In Sanskrit, Triphala means "three fruits." Triphala is a combination of just that: Indian gooseberry, black myrobalan, and belleric myrobalan. It is available in powder, juice, tincture, extract, capsule, or tablet form.

Triphala can be found online and in many natural food and supplement stores. This article will discuss its purported health benefits, side effects, dosages, drug interactions, and more.

Health Benefits

According to the Ayurvedic tradition, Triphala can treat a wide range of health conditions. As with many multi-herbal medications, it is unknown which parts of Triphala are responsible for its benefits.

Many of Triphala's health benefits can be attributed to its laxative effect, or ability to "cleanse the system." At lower doses, Triphala works as a bowel tonic to alleviate gas and promote digestion. It can also be used at higher doses as a purgative, or strong laxative.

In addition to the gastrointestinal benefits, Triphala is believed to help:

  • Alleviate inflammation
  • Control diabetes
  • Promote weight loss
  • Reduce cholesterol
  • Relieve stress
  • Treat a variety of bacterial and fungal infections

To date, there is little research that strongly supports these claims. The studies have been small or poorly designed. However, there have been some promising findings that warrant further study.

Weight Loss

According to a 2012 study in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, mice fed a high-fat diet and prescribed a daily dose of Triphala had lower:

The treated mice also experienced improvements in the following areas, which may aid in the control of type 2 diabetes.

Whether the same can occur in humans is yet to be proven.

Dental Issues

A number of test-tube studies have shown that Triphala has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal properties that can benefit dental health. These effects don't seem to be as strong in humans, though.

Triphala has been found to reduce and/or prevent:

According to a 2016 study in the Journal of Periodontology, adults prescribed a twice-daily Triphala mouthwash for 60 days had less oral plaque, oral bacteria, and gingivitis than those given a placebo.

A similar study, in Oral Health and Preventive Dentistry, found that Triphala mouthwash prevented cavities better than the prescription mouthwash chlorhexidine gluconate.

Cataracts

Triphala includes fruits rich in vitamin E, flavonoids, and polyphenols. These antioxidants neutralize free radicals, or unstable atoms that can damage cells. This may slow or prevent certain aging-related diseases, like cataracts.

A 2010 study in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine studied the effect of Triphala in 9-day-old rat pups. Half of the rats were given Triphala before receiving injections that cause cataracts. The other half weren't given Triphala.

At the end of the study, only 20% of the mice given Triphala had cataracts, while 100% of the untreated control group did. The results suggested that Triphala may help prevent other aging-related eye diseases, including macular degeneration. More research is still needed.

Recap

While Triphala is touted for its ability to aid in bowel health, dental health, weight loss, cataracts, diabetes, and more, there is little evidence to back up these claims. Research is still ongoing.

Possible Side Effects

Because Triphala acts as a mild laxative, it may cause gastrointestinal side effects, including:

  • Gas
  • Stomach upset
  • Cramps
  • Diarrhea

These side effects may even occur with smaller doses.

If you experience mild diarrhea or other side effects, try reducing the dose. If your symptoms do not improve, stop taking Triphala altogether.

Little is known about the long-term safety of Triphala, or how it interacts with other medications. Some possible reasons for this uncertainty: 

  • Doses can differ from one preparation to the next.
  • Some healthcare providers add other herbs and ingredients, depending on the condition being treated.

Triphala has not been proven safe for pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children. As a precaution, these groups should avoid Triphala.

Interactions

You may also want to avoid Triphala if you are taking medications for diabetes and hypertension, since it may make them less effective.

Additionally, many of the compounds found in Triphala are processed in the body by liver enzymes known as cytochrome P450 (CYP450). Taking Triphala with other drugs processed by CYP450 may increase or decrease the amounts of those drugs in the blood.

As such, you may need to avoid Triphala if you're taking any of the following:

  • Anti-arrhythmia drugs like quinidine
  • Anticonvulsants like Tegretol (carbamazepine) and Trileptal (oxcarbazepine)
  • Antifungal drugs like Nizoral (ketoconazole) and Vfend (voriconazole)
  • Antipsychotic drugs like Orap (pimozide)
  • Atypical antidepressants like nefazodone
  • Benzodiazepine sedatives like Klonopin (clonazepam) and Halcion (triazolam)
  • HIV drugs like Reyataz (atazanavir) and Crixivan (indinavir)
  • Immune-suppressive drugs like Sandimmune (cyclosporine)
  • Macrolide antibiotics like clarithromycin and telithromycin
  • Migraine medications like Ergomar (ergotamine)
  • Opioid painkillers like Duragesic (fentanyl) and alfentanil
  • Rifampin-based drugs used to treat tuberculosis
  • Alcohol
  • Kava kava

To avoid interactions, let your healthcare provider know about any prescription, over-the-counter, herbal, or recreational drugs or supplements you are taking.

Triphala powder

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Dosage and Preparation

Today, Triphala can be found on many drugstore shelves. You can also find the product online or in stores specializing in Ayurvedic healing.

Triphala is available in the following forms:

  • Capsule
  • Extract
  • Juice
  • Powder
  • Tablet
  • Tincture

Capsules and tablets are by far the easiest preparations to use. Most Triphala supplements are sold in doses of 500 milligrams (mg) to 1,000 mg. The dose refers to the total amount of extract used rather than the individual ingredients.

The problem is that the amounts of each ingredient can vary based on which supplier a manufacturer uses. This may not pose any significant risks, but it does show that Triphala products can differ.

There are no set guidelines for the appropriate use of Triphala. Most manufacturers will recommend one to two tablets or capsules daily. As a rule of thumb, never use more than the recommended dose on the product label.

Triphala juice can be diluted with water to create a mouthwash. The powder is sometimes mixed with coconut or jojoba oil for use in scalp and hair treatments.

When measuring Triphala powder or juice, always use a measuring spoon rather than a dining utensil. Triphala tinctures and extracts are commonly dispensed with an eyedropper.

What to Look For

Unlike pharmaceutical drugs, dietary supplements like Triphala are not strictly regulated in the United States. This means that quality can vary from one brand to the next.

To ensure quality and safety, opt for brands that have been tested by an independent certifying body, such as:

  • ConsumerLab
  • NSF International
  • U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP)

Certification doesn't mean that the product is effective. It simply ensures that it contains the ingredients listed on the product label.

Supplements certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are preferred, because they reduce your exposure to pesticides and other chemicals.

If you decide to use Triphala, it may be safest to buy a brand in your drugstore rather than seeking the "real" Triphala from an imported source. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, no less than 25% of Ayurvedic remedies randomly tested had high levels of lead, while half had high levels of mercury.

In the end, do not be swayed by any health claims a manufacturer may make. Not only is there little current evidence of Triphala's benefits, but it is also illegal for a supplement manufacturer to make specific health claims.

Summary

Triphala is an Ayurvedic remedy that contains powerful antioxidants that may help treat gastrointestinal problems, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and cataracts. Yet research has yet to confirm these health benefits.

Triphala acts as a mild laxative and may cause gastrointestinal side effects. It also may reduce the efficacy of certain medications, so it's important to consult your healthcare provider before taking it.

Dietary supplements like Triphala are not strictly regulated in the United States and can vary from one brand to the next.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you get the same benefits by eating the three fruits that make up Triphala?

Theoretically, eating the fruits can provide similar benefits to Triphala. The problem is that the fruits are rarely found fresh in the United States. Most are delivered either dried, powdered, or in supplement form.

The types and uses of the fruits can also vary under Ayurvedic tradition. For example, belleric myrobalan is often mixed with buttermilk to treat gastrointestinal symptoms. Similarly, black myrobalan cultivated in the west-central part of India is preferred by healthcare providers over other regional varieties.

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