Plants and their parts have been used for millennia to promote health and cure disease. While only part of the Ayurvedic treatment armamentarium they are nonetheless important. They are everywhere and they come to us through the bounty of Mother Nature. Here we consider three fruits, used individually, and in a traditional Ayurvedic compound, called triphala. Many traditional compounds also contain triphala, a testament to its wide usefulness.

Triphala is the dried form of three fruits--all indigenous to India. They are: haritaki = Chebulic myrobalan, amalaki = Emblica officinalis, Bibhitaki = Beleric myrobalan. Caraka Samhita is the most revered Ayurvedic classical text. There are numerous verses that list uses for triphala, or rather, names the three fruits comprising this
traditional compound. The highest order of treatment is prevention and in the section on therapeutics Caraka states that such treatment gives the following benefits: one attains longevity, memory, intelligence, freedom from disorders, youthful age, excellence of luster, complexion and voice, optimum strength of physique and sense organs, successful words, respectability and brilliance. Rasayana (promotive treatment) means the way for attaining excellent rasa, etc. (dhatus); I.7-8

In the next verses Caraka describes the process of rejuvenation and lists among the herbs to be administered amalaki and haritaki. Here we find that the first things to take recourse to include two of the three components of triphala. Immediately following the description of rejuvenation Caraka gives a description of haritaki (I.29-37): Haritaki possess five rasas (tastes) devoid of only saline taste, is hot, beneficial, carminative, light appetizer, digestive, life-promoting, tonic, excellent sustainer of youthful age, alleviates all diseases and provides strength to all the sense organs. It alleviates leprosy (including skin disorders), gulma (swellings), udavarta (ENT and other disorders of upward moving vata), phthisis, anemia, narcosis, piles/hemorrhoids, disorders of grahini (usually intestinal malabsorption), chronic intermittent fever, heart disease, head disease, diarrhea, anorexia, cough, prameha (diabetes), hardness of bowels, spleen enlargement, acute abdominal disorders, excessive secretion of mucus, hoarseness of voice, disorders of complexion, jaundice, parasites, edema, bronchial asthma, vomiting, impotency, lassitude in organs, various obstructions in channels, plastering of heart and chest, impairment of memory and intellect in a short time. (Contraindications: Those having indigestion, rough diet, emaciated by indulgence of sex, wine and poisonous substances and afflicted with hunger, thirst, and heat should not use haritaki for long periods.) The next verse states that "amalaki has the same properties and actions as haritaki but the virya (energy) is cold. Thus looking to these actions one should regard the fruits of haritaki and amalaki as nectar."

(It's interesting that haritaki means "that which destroys (disease)." We see that its functional significance for health and disease is its appellation.)

Immediately following Caraka give descriptions of compounds taken for rejuvenation--brahma rasayana (2 formulae), cyavanaprasha, amalaka rasayana, haritaki rasayana, which include one or both of these fruits. In the following chapters either or both of these are included in many compounds. Several verses (I.41-50) give specific triphala rasayana-making instructions, including some listing the 6 metals used medicinally.

Caraka lists in the principles section in chapter 4, 50 categories of actions and among them all three fruits are named in two categories--sub-purgatives and antipyretics and haritaki and amalaki only in another--age sustaining (24, 49, 50).

Notes taken from Dr. Lad seminars taken on this topic include the following about triphala: Haritaki has been called the destroyer of disease. It is useful in many disorders, including--diabetes, cough, worms, edema, skin conditions, yeast infection, bronchitis, hepatitis, splenomegaly, kidney stones, eczema, hemorrhoids, gulma, hiccough. While it is balancing to all three doshas, it is particularly useful in balancing vata. It has an action which promotes the clearing of all channels in the body. Amalaki has been described as the highest known natural source of vitamin C. But this form of ascorbic acid is actually alkaline in the small intestine, therefore it is particularly useful in balancing pitta dosha. It is moreover, balancing to all three doshas and has all tastes except salt. Amalaki is useful as a skin and eye wash to help maintain vitality  and it helps promote hair growth. Other indications include bleeding hemorrhoids, anemia, diabetes, gout, obesity, diabetes-- all types, hyperacidity, eczema, psoriasis, hoarse voice, sore throat, inflammation, hiccoughs, hepatitis B, nonspecific urethritis, sterility, anemia, gingivitis, glaucoma, , diarrhea, constipation, active fistula, hair loss, multiple voice, and threatening melanoma. Bhibitaki is particularly balancing to kapha dosha from its astringent taste. Other indications include: asthma, cough, sore throat, laryngitis, bronchitis, stones, chronic diarrhea, parasites, eye and skin diseases, hiccoughs, dysentery. As part of triphala used in liver and gastro-intestinal tract disorders. Oil from the kernel used as dressing for hair, externally for rheumatism. Taken all together this formulation, as triphala, is good for headache, biliousness, dyspepsia, constipation, piles, enlarged liver, and ascites. It is part of many important classical healing compounds. It removes ama from the gastro-intestinal tract and from deep tissues. It helps to restore and maintain tone and peristalsis of the intestines. It has a slight laxative value which helps the body to eliminate regularly but without dependency.  It eliminates excess pitta in the GI tract from the body while helping vata to move wastes down and out of the body.  This may be the only laxative that does not build physiological dependency with use.  By removing toxins it aids in the proper absorption of minerals and other nutrients. And because of its high vitamin C content it is used to help prevent the affects of aging. This formulation is recommended for most people in health and in disease for the duration of life. In summary it helps:

        tone the gastro-intestinal tract to promote proper peristalsis

        promote better absorption and assimilation of nutrients and minerals in the GI-tract

        rid the GI-tract of ama and excess pitta

        balance all three doshas





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