Triphala
A constipation remedy from India

Three dried powdered fruits mixed together making a constipation remedy - really?

As I have said many times on this website, improving transit requires a broader view of the constipation function. A natural laxative has to improve the production of digestive enzymes while giving more tone to the smooth muscles of the digestive tract.

Here is an interesting mix given to us by Ayurvedic medicine. It is a traditional herbal preparation called Triphala.

Constipation remedy : Triphala

In this article, I will explain what Triphala is, what it contains, how to use it to improve your constipation problem and where to buy it.

What Triphala is

Triphala is probably the most popular Ayurvedic herbal medicine. It litteraly means “3 fruits”, and contains the 3 following fruits mixed in equal parts:

  • Amalaki or Amla (Emblica Officinalis)
  • Bibhitaki (Terminalia Bellirica)
  • Haritaki (Terminalia Chebula) – the fruit shown on the picture above.

You won’t be able to find those fruits on western markets, so it is best to buy the preparation already made.

Let us now take a look at the digestive properties of this mix.

Triphala as constipation remedy

Ayurvedic doctors have prescribed triphala for centuries in cases of constipation and colon stagnation. It is considered a safe constipation remedy that does not induce dependence, unlike many laxative drugs. Laxative drugs are considered depleting to the body, leaching away important nutrients.

At the opposite, triphala is a nourishing mix and acts as a "strength builder". By improving the efficacy of digestion, it allows us to absorb more nutrients, to get more nourishments out of our food in other words.

And as I explained in other articles, if you improve digestion starting in the stomach, you will very often see improvements in your transit. From a digestion perspective, triphala does two things :

  • It stimulates better secretion of digestive enzymes in the stomach and the intestine (from the pancreas and the gallbladder);
  • It strengthens the contraction of the smooth muscles of the gastrointestinal tract and therefore improves the peristaltic movement (slow transit is often the cause of constipation).

This dual digestive action – chemical and mechanical – is what makes Triphala an interesting constipation remedy. 

In addition, Triphala also helps cleanse our detoxification organs (liver, gallbladder, kidneys). I have talked about the importance of regular depuration in the article on body cleansing. The liver is indeed central to the digestive process. It produces bile, which is our natural laxative. The liver needs to be cleansed on a regular basis to perform at its best.

Scientific validation as constipation remedy

Few clinical studies have been performed on Triphala in the context of constipation. Ayurvedic doctors does not care about this validation of course. They have century of use saying that indeed, it is a gentle bowel stimulant.

The main study(1) I found tells us this :

  • Scientific studies carried out in the past two decades have validated many of the ethnomedicinal claims for triphala;
  • Triphala possesses free radical scavenging, antioxidant, antiinflammatory, antipyretic, analgesic, antibacterial, antimutagenic, wound healing, anticariogenic, antistress, adaptogenic, hypoglycaemic, anticancer, chemoprotective, radioprotective and chemopreventive effects (quite an impressive array of benefits);
  • Clinical studies have shown that Triphala was found to have good laxative property, to improve appetite and reduce gastric hyperacidity.

Another study(2) has clearly shown that a mix containing Triphala counters constipation. However, this study mixed triphala with other laxative plants like senna (and as you know by now, I am not a big fan of those harsh laxative, even if they are coming from the plant world). That study is therefore inconclusive.

How to use this constipation remedy

You should be able to find Triphala in powder or tablets. The powder is the traditional form used in ayurvedic medicine, but the tablets or capsules work as well. 

If you take the powder, here are the suggested doses:

  • 2 to 3 grams of the powder mixed in a glass of water taken in the evening when you are in "maintenance mode": you do not have constipation at the moment but you have a tendency to be often constipated and you want to use Triphala in a preventative manner;
  • 3 to 5 grams of the powder, divided in 2 or 3 doses and taken througout the day if you are currently constipated. The laxative effect should start to appear within 2 to 4 days of taking it.

If you take the tablet or capsule form, figure out the dose based on how much powder is contained in one tablet. For instance, if one tablet contains 500 mg of Triphala, take:

  • 4 to 6 tablets in “maintenance mode”. You can take 2 tablets 3 times a day for instance;
  • 6 to 10 tablets if you are constipated, divided in 2 or 3 doses taken throughout the day.

You will have to experiment with the dose in order to find the optimal effect for you. Always start at the lower end of the scale, give yourself 2 days, then increase the dose if the desired result is not achieved.

Based on the extensive use of this natural constipation remedy in India, I believe it can be taken on the long run without issues.

Where to buy Triphala

I really like the Planetary Herbal brand. Herbalist Michael Tierra is behind this line of product. Michael is one of the best herbalists of our times, and a US specialist of Ayurvedic medicine.

If you are interested, click on the following link to get more information on the Planetary Herbal triphala.

The planetary herbal products can be found on Amazon as well. See link below.


References

(1) Baliga MS, Meera S, Mathai B, Rai MP, Pawar V, Palatty PL. Scientific validation of the ethnomedicinal properties of the Ayurvedic drug Triphala: a review. Chin J Integr Med. 2012 Dec;18(12):946-54.

(2) Munshi R, Bhalerao S, Rathi P, Kuber VV, Nipanikar SU, Kadbhane KP. An open-label, prospective clinical study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of TLPL/AY/01/2008 in the management of functional constipation. J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2011 Jul;2(3):144-52.


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