While constipation is often associated with winter and Vata aggravation, it can also become a problem in the summer months. Vacation travel can aggravate Vata and soaring temperatures reduce our internal fire, leading to sluggish digestion. Add in the temptation to eat ice cream and enjoy iced drinks and it is not surprising that despite the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, constipation can be a summer time hazard.
One of the best herbal remedies for keeping the digestive tract healthy and toned is the traditional Ayurvedic formula, Triphala. The name “Triphala” means “the three fruits”. It is comprised of the Indian fruits amalaki, bibhitaki, and haritaki. These three fruits work together to support the elimination process. They also help to balance all three doshas.
Amalaki is a fruit that supports intestinal repair. Amalaki has a sour flavor and is cooling, astringent and mildly laxative. It is used to treat Pitta imbalances, including ulcers, inflammation of the stomach and intestines, liver congestion and constipation. In various studies, Amalaki has been shown to have a mild anti-bacterial property, as well as pronounced expectorant, anti-viral and cardio-tonic activity. It has been shown to help lower cholesterol and is high in vitamin C, having 20 times the vitamin C content of an orange. While appropriate for all doshas Triphala is particularly effective for balancing Pitta.
Bibhitaki acts to pull the old mucus off the intestinal wall. Bibhataki is astringent, tonic, digestive and anti-spasmodic. While its primary flavor is astringent, it has secondary flavors of sweet, bitter, and pungent. It targets imbalances associate with Kapha dosha. Specifically, Bibhataki purifies and balances excess mucus. It is helpful in treating asthma, bronchiole conditional and allergies.
Haritaki strengthens the intestinal muscles so that it can contract more efficiently when the bowels need to move. Traditionally it is used for heart conditions, spastic colon and other intestinal disorders. It’s believed to have a variety of positive health effects on the heart and brain. It has an anti-inflammatory and is calming to Vata.
Most laxatives act as irritants to the bowel, and over time can actually cause the body to require the use of more laxatives. During each meal, the intestinal tract produces a certain amount of mucus that helps lubricate it. If we are not eating enough fiber or if we are eating foods that create ama or compromise our digestion, digestive mucus can up in the digestive tract, clogging the little hair-like villi that help the body absorb its nutrients. With the overuse of laxatives, the mucosa can become desensitized. This creates a very sluggish and non-responsive bowel. Triphala helps to cleanse the mucus off the digestive villi, making for a more efficient digestive process. Triphala is designed to restore the muscular function and contractibility of the intestinal wall.
In traditional Ayurveda medicine, Triphala has important uses beyond its ability to stimulate digestion, relieve constipation and cleanse the gastrointestinal tract. It is also is said to:
Reduce serum cholesterol
Stimulate the immune system
Contain 31% linoleic acid
Have a marked cardio-protective effect
Reduce high blood pressure
Improve anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties
Ayurveda also recommends Triphala in the treatment of diabetes and in the treatment of eye diseases.
Contemporary research on Triphala has shown preliminary evidence that Triphala has significant immunostimulatory effects on cellular immune response. Increases in the absolute number of these cells may provide a novel adjuvant therapy for HIV/AIDS positive people in terms of immunological improvement.
Triphala is available in power and tablet form. The powder can be quite bitter in taste, so many people prefer to take it in tablet form. The Raj Maharishi Ayurveda Health Spa sells an organic version of this traditional formula in their herb shop under the name of Digest Tone.
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