Triphala has long been a mainstay of Ayurvedic medicine. It is an herbal preparation long thought to promote general and digestive health. But can it help your IBS? Here’s an introduction to Triphala and what research has to offer in terms of its effectiveness for your IBS symptoms.
What Is Ayurvedic Medicine?
Ayurvedic medicine is a system of health care that originated in India over 3000 years ago. Ayurveda gets its name by combining two Sanskrit words, with the resulting translation of “life science.” It continues to this day to be a primary form of healthcare in India and often may be combined with the tools of Western medicine. The focus of Ayurveda is the use of herbal supplements and dietary and lifestyle changes.
What Is Triphala?
Triphala is translated as “three fruits,” as it consists of the fruits of the amalaki, bibhataki, and haritaki trees. To prepare Triphala, the fruits are first dried, ground into powder form and then combined in three equal parts.
The compounds in each of the three fruits of Triphala are thought to have beneficial effects on the human body. Let’s take a look at each one in turn:
Amalaki (Emblica officinalis): The fruit of the amalaki has a very high vitamin C content. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is lauded for its antioxidant and anti-aging effects.
Haritaki (Terminalia chebula): The fruit of the Haritaki tree contains high tannin levels. Tannins have been shown to have natural antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral qualities. Haritaki is viewed in Ayurvedic medicine as providing immune system support and is often recommended as an overall body panacea. In the area of digestion, haritaki is thought to have antispasmodic effects, and therefore would be recommended for use in easing abdominal pain and normalizing bowel movements.
Bibhitaki (Terminalia belerica): The fruit of the bibhataki tree contains levels of gallic acid, tannic acid, and glycosides. These compounds are thought to give bibhataki antioxidant and antispasmodic qualities.
According to the Ayurvedic system, Triphala is most generally used as an overall body tonic, thought to be effective in cleansing and detoxifying the system. It may be recommended for use for arthritis, headaches, and liver problems. In terms of digestive health, Triphala is thought to be helpful in addressing:
What the Research Says
There does not seem to be much in the way of clinical trials regarding Triphala and its effects on the digestive tract. Animal studies of Triphala suggest that the preparation may have anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, and anti-cancer qualities, as well as to perhaps be helpful in weight loss.
Human studies have been conducted in terms of its usefulness for dentistry, specifically for preventing gum disease and cavities.
Can Triphala Be Helpful for IBS?
Although the lack of clinical research on Triphala for digestive health prevents us from drawing any firm conclusions as to Triphala’s use in IBS, there is something to be said for a compound that has been used as a remedy for thousands of years.
Due to Triphala’s laxative qualities, it would not be helpful for you if you have diarrhea-predominant IBS (IBS-D). Triphala would thus be an option for you if constipation is your primary IBS symptom. And the all-fruit nature of the supplement may be a plus in terms of its antioxidant properties.
On the other hand, no medical studies show its safety, much less efficacy, so as with all over-the-counter remedies, use caution and be sure to check with your healthcare provider before trying Triphala.
One last consideration is the FODMAP content of Triphala. FODMAPs are carbohydrates found in ordinary foods that can contribute to IBS symptoms. As of this writing, the supplement has not been evaluated for its FODMAP content and therefore may not be appropriate for use if you are following the low-FODMAP diet.