Triphala, also known as the “queen mother” of remedies in ayurvedic medicine, according to Almine Barton, licensed acupuncturist and owner of Indigenous Medicine Therapies in Bend, Oregon, is an herbal formula that simultaneously cleanses, tones and detoxifies the entire digestive system, which can lead to weight loss. Effective yet gentle, it is used across India where much of the population is vegetarian, requiring formulas that do not counteract with the diet. They say in India, she explains, “if you do not have a mother, it is alright, as long as you have triphala.”
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Ayurvedic medicine dates as far back as 1500 B.C., evolving from traditional Indian healing practices. Sushruta Samhitas, the oldest known volume of Ayurveda, mentions that triphala acts as a balancing agent for the digestive system by cleansing the liver, promoting regular bowel movements and improving nutrient assimilation. Triphala is still in use today by alternative medicine professionals like naturopaths, acupuncturists and ayurvedic practitioners. It can be purchased over the counter in powder or tablet form, but check with your medical adviser before deciding whether you should use it.
The name triphala means "three fruits," referring to the powdered versions of the three medicinal plants emblica officinalis, terminalia chebula and terminalia belerica, according the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center website. Used for centuries in ayurvedic medicine, these fruits provide strong antioxidant, laxative and astringent properties. Triphala guggul contains two additional plant powders, commiphora mukul and Indian bedellium, that are said to boost weight loss.
Triphala tones the tissues of the colon, explains Barton, enhancing peristalsis and promoting regularity, which can help in losing excess weight. In a study at the University of Pittsburgh, 70 overweight people tested three variants of triphala guggul against a placebo group. Over the course of the three-month trial, all three triphala guggul groups “produced significant weight loss and improvements in cholesterol levels.”
The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center reports that triphala is used to relieve constipation, obesity, inflammation, chronic ulcers and high cholesterol. Barton explains that the formula “cleans metabolic waste from the tissues of all vital organs,” while providing nonaddictive laxative properties.
Expect a renewed sense of energy and diminished sluggishness within five to seven days of regular use, says Barton. Triphala contains gallic acid, a strong antioxidant, according to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Western doctors theorize that additional polyphenols and flavonoids may be responsible for the anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antidiarrheal effects seen by ayurvedic practitioners for centuries.