Triphala is an herbal preparation used in Ayurvedic medicine. It is a combination of three plants that are native to India:
- Indian gooseberry (Emblica officinalis)
- black myrobalan (Terminalia chebula)
- belleric myrobalan (Terminalia bellirica)
In Ayurvedic medicine, the body has three types of energy, or doshas. Practitioners believe that healing and balancing the three doshas can help a person achieve optimal health. Some believe that the ingredients in triphala support all three doshas.
The results of many scientific investigations suggest that therapeutic benefits of the preparation come from its antioxidant properties and ability to combat some drug resistant bacteria.
Much of the research is small in scale and uses animal, not human, models. Before scientists can formally establish health benefits of triphala, they will need to conduct research of a higher quality.
In this article, we explore the existing research behind these potential health benefits.
Boosting oral health
Triphala may help boost oral health.
Some research indicates that rinsing the mouth with triphala can help with oral health problems, such as:
- fungal infections
A clinical trial found that triphala mouthwash was as effective as a chlorhexidine mouthwash at preventing plaque and gingivitis. Dentists prescribe chlorhexidine mouthwash to kill oral germs.
Researchers behind another trial have come to similar conclusions, stating that triphala mouthwash can be considered a potential treatment for gingivitis.
A review of studies likewise report that triphala is “significantly effective” in managing complications linked with gingivitis.
Triphala may also reduce fungal growth in the mouth. One study has found that triphala helps stop the growth of certain Candida fungal species in the mouth.
The authors report that the tannins and plant compounds in triphala have antioxidant properties that can heal mouth sores.
Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a common chronic condition that causes a person’s blood sugar levels to rise and remain high. When blood sugar levels are persistently high, this prevents the cells from effectively absorbing and using sugar for energy.
Some research suggests that triphala helps lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
Indian gooseberry, an ingredient in triphala, also has some antidiabetic potential. Studies show that its antioxidant activity may play a role in lowering blood sugar and addressing nerve damage that results from diabetes. However, clinical evidence in humans is preliminary and limited.
Terminalia bellirica, an ingredient in triphala, may also have antidiabetic potential. This plant is rich in gallic acid, a phytochemical that research indicates may improve insulin resistance, helping the cells to absorb blood sugar.
A person with diabetes should ask their healthcare provider before using triphala. Also, they should not stop any treatment without a doctor’s approval.
Some people use triphala topically: on the skin. Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties may help heal certain skin issues.
One study has found that triphala helps protect skin cells. The findings suggest that it may help rebuild skin protein and retain moisture in the skin, in addition to combatting inflammation and oxidative injury.
Researchers behind one review conclude that triphala may help increase collagen formation and reduce bacteria on the skin, which means that it may help wounds heal.
Some limited research suggests that triphala may help heal stomach ulcers.
A study in animals found that triphala decreased the severity of these ulcers and helped restore healthy enzymes in the stomach.
Digestive health may improve after taking triphala.
Some evidence indicates that triphala helps improve peristalsis, or the movement of the intestines to remove waste. As such, it may help treat constipation. Researchers behind a study in mice conclude that triphala has a “significant positive effect” on constipation.
Triphala can help inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut, according to some research. It may also support the growth of beneficial bacteria. A balance of bacteria can help improve overall gut health.
Another review suggests that triphala could help treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The authors state that taking triphala with or without probiotics could be a beneficial addition to IBS treatment.
Arthritis and gout
The anti-inflammatory ability of triphala may help treat symptoms of arthritis. A study in rats has found that triphala helped reduce inflammation caused by arthritis.
Authors of a review report that triphala may combat the breakdown of bone and cartilage in rats with arthritis, as well as reducing inflammation.
Triphala may also help with symptoms of gout. Another review has found that it showed a “strong anti-inflammatory effect” against gout in animals.
Authors of a study in mice report that triphala could lower uric acid levels and inflammation, which may explain any effects on gout.
Stress and anxiety
Some evidence suggests that triphala could help protect against stress. Animal studies have found that it helps reverse some behaviors caused by stress, according to one review.
Another study has found that triphala has “adaptogenic activity” in rats exposed to stress. An adaptogen is something that can help the body cope with a stress response.
Types of triphala and usage
Triphala comes in capsules, tablets, and powders. The form that a person uses may depend on what they are treating.
For instance, a person may mix a powdered form of triphala with water to make a mouthwash. To use it on the skin, they may mix a small amount of powder with a lotion or cream.
Capsules and tablets may be helpful if a person is using triphala internally — to treat ulcers, arthritis, or constipation, for example.
There is no established dosage of triphala for internal use, but many supplements include about 300 milligrams (mg) of each ingredient per dose. One dose may be 900–1,000 mg of triphala.
Always speak to a doctor before taking any new remedy, as they can interact with existing medications or cause complications.
Side effects and risks
Stomach upset is a possible side effect of triphala.
Triphala can have laxative effects, causing diarrhea or stomach upset, especially in higher dosages.
A person should not take a higher dosage than the label recommends, and they should stop using triphala if it causes diarrhea or other side effects.
Triphala is a dietary supplement, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not regulate it like a drug. This means that, like all dietary supplements, these could contain ingredients that are not on the label, including contaminants.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health report that some Ayurvedic supplements contain lead, mercury, or arsenic in dangerous amounts.
Anyone buying supplements should purchase products that have undergone testing from an independent third party. Some labels carry seals of approval from NSF International, the United States Pharmacopeia, shortened to USP, or similar organizations.
Third party testing can verify that the products contain what their labels advertise. Sometimes these organizations also test for heavy metal contamination or other dangerous ingredients.
Although a number of small studies show that triphala could have health benefits, confirming these findings will require large, controlled studies in humans.
The plants in triphala contain antioxidants and polyphenols, which are compounds that can benefit health. However, a person should ask a health professional before taking this herbal preparation, especially if they take medications or have any ongoing health issues.