Research has mounted over the past 15 years to prove that triphala, a blend of three powdered and dried berries, does exactly what ayurvedic doctors have been claiming for thousands of years. Emblica Officinalis, Terminalia Chebula, and Terminalia Belerica are the constituents of triphala, and below is a short summary of research supporting their use.
Emblica Officinalis is the richest known natural source of vitamin C.[i] Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant and stimulates the immune system. Whereas synthetic pill-form vitamin C actually increases rates of heart disease and cancer (read more..), natural forms prevent heart disease and cancer. Studies have been done showing that Emblica Officinalis protects the body against skin cancer[ii], mutations due to radiation[iii], and breast cancer[iv]. We know that oxidation of LDL (“bad” cholesterol) plays a role in heart disease. As can be seen in my article on eggs and dairy, as well as The Cholesterol Article, cholesterol itself is not the problem, but inflammatory states and oxidation cause LDL cholesterol to become a problem. Research on Emblica Officinalis determined that the herb greatly reduced the oxidation of LDL cholesterol and reduced the formation of plague on blood vessel walls[v]. Without plaque formation and oxidation, high levels of LDL cholesterol do not cause heart disease.
Terminalia Belerica was found to decrease cholesterol levels in experimentally induced atherosclerosis (plaque build-up on blood vessel walls). Of special note was that the herb also decreased fat deposits in the liver and heart.[vi] Organ fat is very difficult to get rid of and is associated with heart disease. As an example, consider that the 500-pound sumo wrestlers have very low rates of heart disease and diabetes! Their dietary habits and intense exercise cause their fat to be distributed subcutaneously as opposed to in the organs. On the other hand, a slightly overweight person with poor dietary habits whose fat is deposited in the organs has a greatly increased probability of heart disease and/or diabetes. Organ fat is very hard to lose; it is generally the last fat to go as one loses weight. Terminalia Belerica helps your body to access and burn organ fat, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Terminalia Chebula has been found to be a potent antioxidant as well as a protectant against radiation.[vii] The herb also protects a genetic sequence called a telomere that exists on chromosomes. Telomeres shorten as they age, and when they get very short the cell stops functioning and dies. It has been found that supplementing with Terminalia Chebula extends cell life up to 40%--and that that the herb protects cells against oxidation.[viii] This herb was found to stop proliferation of and kill breast cancer cells, prostate cancer cells, and osteosarcoma (a malignant bone cancer) cells.[ix] And to add one more thing, Terminalia Chebula has also been found to support healing and proper function of the liver.[x]
Triphala, the blend of these three herbs, has increased activity beyond its individual constituents. Studies have shown it to decrease cancer risk, improve digestion, and boost the immune system.[xi] [xii] [xiii][xiv] In my practice I have seen many people solve skin problems, rid themselves of constipation or loose stools, and improve their metabolism. I recommend taking ½ tsp one to three times per day.
[i] Scartezzini P, Antognoni F, Raggi MA, Poli F, Sabbioni C. Vitamin C content and antioxidant activity of the fruit and of the Ayurvedic preparation of Emblica officinalis Gaertn. J Ethnopharmacol. 2005 Oct 12; [Epub ahead of print]
[iv] Lambertini E, Lampronti I, Penolazzi L, Khan MT, Ather A, Giorgi G, Gambari R, Piva R. Expression of estrogen receptor alpha gene in breast cancer cells treated with transcription factor decoy is modulated by Bangladeshi natural plant extracts. Oncol Res. 2005;15(2):69-79.
[vii] Naik GH, Priyadarsini KI, Naik DB, Gangabhagirathi R, Mohan H. Studies on the aqueous extract of Terminalia chebula as a potent antioxidant and a probable radioprotector. Phytomedicine. 2004 Sep;11(6):530-8.
[viii] Na M, Bae K, Kang SS, Min BS, Yoo JK, Kamiryo Y, Senoo Y, Yokoo S, Miwa N. Cytoprotective effect on oxidative stress and inhibitory effect on cellular aging of Terminalia chebula fruit. Phytother Res. 2004 Sep;18(9):737-41.
[xi] Naik GH, Priyadarsini KI, Bhagirathi RG, Mishra B, Mishra KP, Banavalikar MM, Mohan H. In vitro antioxidant studies and free radical reactions of triphala, an ayurvedic formulation and its constituents. Phytother Res. 2005 Jul;19(7):582-6.