Can Triphala Help Your IBS?

Learn All About this Popular Ayurvedic Supplement

triphala fruits and vegetables
Dinodia Photos/The Image Bank/Getty Images

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? Let's introduce you to triphala and take a look at 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 health care in India, and often may be combined with the tools of Western medicine. The focus of ayurveda is on 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.

Ayurvedic Uses for Triphala

According 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 Does the Research Say?

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 doctor before trying triphala.

Sources:

Birardar, Y., Jagatap, S., Khandelwal, K. & Singhania, S. "Exploring of Antimicrobial Activity of Triphala Mashi-an Ayurvedic Formulation" Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2008 5:107-133.

Gurjar. S., Pal, A., & Kapur, S. "Triphala and its constituents ameliorate visceral adiposity from a high-fat diet in mice with diet-induced obesity." Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 2012 18:38-45.

Prakash, S. & Shelke, A. "" Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology 2014 18:132–135. .

Continue Reading