The Benefits of Haritaki

Haritaki
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Haritaki is the name used in ayurveda (the traditional medicine of India) for the fruit of the Terminalia chebula tree. Sometimes referred to as myrobalan, haritaki is one of three fruit that make up triphala (an ayurvedic remedy).

Available in dietary supplement form, haritaki is also consumed as a food. It is said to promote healing from a number of health conditions, as well as improve digestive health.

Why Do People Use Haritaki?

Haritaki is used in ayurveda for digestive conditions, such as constipation and indigestion, and for a variety of ailments ranging from sore throat to allergies.

In addition, haritaki is said to affect the glutathione system. An antioxidant produced naturally in the body, glutathione plays a key role in reducing oxidative stress. Proponents claim that consuming haritaki can help increase expression of the glutathione system and, in turn, protect against a number of diseases linked to oxidative stress.

Haritaki is also said to increase expression of superoxide dismutase, another antioxidant found to fight oxidative stress.

The Benefits of Haritaki: Can It Really Help?

So far, most of the evidence for haritaki's health effects comes from animal-based research and laboratory studies. While clinical trials on haritaki are currently lacking, some research suggests that it may offer certain health benefits.

Here's a look at several study findings:

1) High Cholesterol

Several preliminary studies suggest that haritaki may curb high cholesterol. For instance, a 2010 study from the Journal of Advanced Pharmaceutical Technology & Research determined that haritaki helped reduce total cholesterol in mice. The study's authors also found that haritaki helped reduce the animals' levels of triglycerides (a type of blood fat known to increase heart disease risk when it occurs at elevated levels).

2) Oxidative Stress

Haritaki may help fight oxidative stress and improve antioxidant status in the liver and kidneys, according to a 2009 study from Cell Biochemistry and Function. In tests on aging rats, the study's authors observed that treatment with haritaki helped boost concentrations of several antioxidants (including glutathione, superoxide dismutase, and vitamin C and vitamin E). Given this finding, the authors concluded that haritaki may help protect against age-related diseases.

3) Metabolic Syndrome

Haritaki shows promise in the treatment of metabolic syndrome, a 2010 animal-based study from Phytotherapy Research suggests. In a series of experiments involving rats with metabolic syndrome, scientists discovered that haritaki may help treat the condition by lowering blood sugar levels.

4) Cavities

Using a haritaki-based mouthwash might help prevent cavities, according to a 2010 study from Oral Health & Preventive Dentistry. For the study, 30 people were given either distilled water or a mouthwash made with haritaki.

In their analysis of saliva samples collected after rinsing, the study's authors determined that the haritaki-based mouthwash was significantly more effective in reducing levels of bacteria linked to the development of cavities.

Possible Side Effects and Safety

The safety of long-term use of haritaki isn't known. However, since haritaki may reduce blood sugar levels, there's some concern that using it in combination with blood-sugar-lowering medications may have harmful effects. Given this concern, it's important to talk to your doctor prior to using haritaki in combination with blood-sugar-lowering drugs (such as diabetes medications).

Haritaki supplements haven't been tested for safety.  It's important to note that, due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some haritaki products may differ from what is specified on the product label. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. While consumers face such risks when purchasing any dietary supplement, these risks may be of greater magnitude in the purchase of ayurvedic products, especially those containing a variety of herbs in varying doses.

In addition, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get tips on using supplements here, but it's important to keep in mind that self-treating and avoiding or delaying standard care can have serious consequences.

Where To Find It

Haritaki supplements are widely available for purchase online. In addition, you can find haritaki in many natural-foods stores and stores specializing in dietary supplements.

The Takeaway

While there's some interesting research on haritaki, it's too soon to recommend it as a treatment for any condition. If you're still considering trying it, talk with your primary care provider first. 

For help in staving off metabolic syndrome, try upping your intake of antioxidants. Studies show that loading up on carotenoids (a type of antioxidant found in foods like spinach, sweet potato, red peppers, tomatoes, and kale) may help reduce a number of metabolic-syndrome-related risk factors. 

Sources:

Mahesh R, Bhuvana S, Begum VM. Effect of Terminalia chebula aqueous extract on oxidative stress and antioxidant status in the liver and kidney of young and aged rats. Cell Biochem Funct. 2009 Aug;27(6):358-63.

Maruthappan V, Shree KS. Hypolipidemic activity of haritaki (terminalia chebula) in atherogenic diet induced hyperlipidemic rats. J Adv Pharm Technol Res. 2010 Apr;1(2):229-35.

Nayak SS, Kumar BR, Ankola AV, Hebbal M. The efficacy of Terminalia chebula rinse on Streptococcus mutans count in saliva and its effect on salivary pH. Oral Health Prev Dent. 2010;8(1):55-8.

Rathore HS, Soni S, Bhatnagar D. Hypocholesterolemic effect of Terminalia chebula fruit (Myrobalan) in mice. Anc Sci Life. 2004 Apr;23(4):11-5.

Singh I, Singh PK, Bhansali S, Shafiq N, Malhotra S, Pandhi P, Pal Singh A. Effects of three different doses of a fruit extract of Terminalia chebula on metabolic components of metabolic syndrome, in a rat model. Phytother Res. 2010 Jan;24(1):107-12.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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