Every man wants to live long and stay healthy. This is possible by promoting rejuvenation, regeneration, and healing of the living tissue as well as a revitalization of the organ system in the body. To experience optimal health that results in longevity, Ayurvedic physicians use Rasayana therapy.
Rasayana is a Sanskrit word, with the literal meaning: path/source (āyana) of essence (rasa), used in early ayurvedic medicine that refers to the science of lengthening lifespan.
The Rasayana therapy enhances the qualities of ‘rasa’, enriches it with nutrients so one can attain longevity, memory, intelligence, freedom from disorder, youthfulness, excellence of luster, complexion and voice, optimum development of physique and sense organs, mastery over phonetics and brilliance.
Besides being rejuvenator, Rasayanas (usually in form of single/combined herbs and minerals such as shilajit) are nutritional supplements and possess strong antioxidant activity. There are many Rasayanas available including but not limited to, Holy Basil or Tulasi (Ocimum sanctum), Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia), Indian Gooseberry or Amla/Amalaki (Emblica officinalis), Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica), Brahmi (Bacopa monniera), and Ashwagandha or Indian Ginseng (Withania somnifera).
Herbal preparations such as Chyawanprash (Ayurvedic jam made with a base of Amla fruits and typically contains other herbs, ghee, sesame oil, sugar and/or honey), Brahma rasayana (consists of 46 ingredients), Triphala Rasayana and Triphala churna (triphala powder) are also categorized as Rasayanas.
In the rest of the article, I will mainly focus on the uses of Triphala churna. It is an ayurvedic herbal formula composed of equal parts of the three fruits of Haritaki (Terminalia chebula), Bhibhitaki (Terminalia bellirica), and Amla/Amalaki (Phyllanthus emblica or Emblica officinalis). The latter is considered to be a universal panacea in the traditional Indian system of medicine the Ayurveda.
Benefits of each fruit
Haritaki or Harada: It has a bitter flavor that is associated with the vata dosha or humor that governs all movements in the mind and body. It treats imbalances and diseases of the vata humor by acting as laxative, astringent, lubricant, antiparasitic, alterative, antispasmodic, and nervine. Hence, it is useful in treating acute/chronic constipation, anxiety, nervousness, and fatigue. Of the three fruits, Haritaki possesses the most laxative effect and contains anthraquinones similar to that found in rhubarb and cascara.
Haritaki is a powerful antioxidant that acts on eyes, brain, nerves, and wounds to heal faster.
Bhibhitaki or Bihara has as a primary flavor of astringent, while the secondary is sweet, bitter, and pungent. It treats imbalances associated with kapha dosha. Dosha governs all structure and lubrication in the mind and body. It controls weight, growth, lubrication for the joints and lungs, and formation of blood, bones, fat, muscles, nutritive fluids, marrow, and reproductive tissues.
Bhibhitaki can help purify and balance excess mucus, treat asthma, lungs conditions, allrergies, and hiccups. It is also used for blood purifying, detox, weight loss, and to enhance immunity.
Amla or Amalaki has a sour flavor, corresponding to pita dosha that governs all heat, metabolism and transformation in the mind and body. It is cooling tonic, mild laxative, astringent, alterative, and antipyretic.
It treats fire imbalances that include ulcers, inflamed stomach and intestines, constipation, liver congestion, diarrhea, eruptions, infections and burning feelings throughout the body. Studies have shown that Amla acts as mild anti-bacterial, antiviral, pronounced expectorant, and cardiotonic activity.
Amla contains the highest natural known source of vitamin C, having 20 times the vitamin C content of an orange.
When freshly harvested Amla subjected to prolonged high heat, it loses hardly any of the vitamin C that is present. The same is true of dried Amla fruit kept for up to a year. This heat and age stable form of vitamin C that Amla possesses is thought due to the presence of various types of bioflavonoids and certain tannins (large molecule of bioflavonoids) that inhibit its dissipation.
As seen in the above discussion, Triphala imparts five different kinds of taste: bitter, sour, sweet, pungent, and astringent, all of which are useful in balancing all the three dosha. This is the reason why it is considered by Ayurvedic physicians as one the best Rasayana.
Each one of the fruits in Triphala is known for its health benefits. When combined in Triphala, they impart amplified health benefits due to their unique nutritive tonic (rejuvenating and nourishing) and eliminative (cleansing and detoxifying) properties.
To date, studies have shown Triphala to possess free radical scavenging, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anticancer, antipyretic, analgesic, antimutagenic, wound healing (vulnerary), anticariogenic, antistress, adaptogenic, hypoglycemic, chemoprotective, radioprotective and chemopreventive effects.
Clinical studies have shown Triphala to have good laxative property, to improve appetite, and reduce gastric hyperacidity. Studies have also shown that it was effective in preventing dental caries (anticariogenic), effect of which was equal to that of chlorhexidine.
Indian people are saying that “Don’t have a mother to take care of you? As long as you take Triphala every day, don’t worry, everything will be fine.” According to a prominent doctor of oriental medicine, Dr. Michael Tierra, Triphala has been known and used in India for centuries as a standard household health supplement much as vitamins are in the West.
Ayurvedic physicians use Triphala for many ailments, mostly to treat gastrointestinal disorders. Scientific studies carried out in the past two decades have validated many of the claims from the traditional uses of Triphala.
Triphala has been found to be very effective for helping to control weight gain, high cholesterol, hypertension, liver congestion, chronic constipation and as an adjunctive treatment for many chronic degenerative conditions.
There is a saying in India that if a ‘vaidya’ (ayurvedic expert) knows how to use Triphala properly, he can heal any disease. Triphala can also be mixed with other herbs in compound formulations. Triphala Guggulu, for instance, is much more powerful than Guggulu (Guggul) alone.
A combination of these herbs include Mountain Ebony (Bauhenia variagata), Triphala, Trikatu (combination of Long Pepper, Ginger, and Black Pepper), Guggul (Commiphora mukul), Varuna (Crataeva nurvala), Cardamom (Elletaria cardamomum), Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanecum), Indian Bay Leave (Cinnamomum tamala) is believed to help treating any type of diseases.
Triphala is traditionally taken and works best when taken as a powder. The average dose is from one to two teaspoons of the powder in a little water once in the evening or three times daily for blood and general body purification.
For people with normal blood glucose levels, 1/2 spoon of Triphala can be taken along with a spoonful of honey. The choice of honey is up to your likings as long as it is minimally processed, not exposed to high heat, and not adulterated with any additive including sugar. Manuka, Red Clover or Tualang honey are fine.
It can also be taken regularly once a week to promote balanced cleansing and detoxification. The capsules or tablets are for convenience since many find the powder to have too unpleasant a flavor for some Westerners.
Prevention is better than cure, says Romanian doctors. If you are looking for an anti-aging supplement, you should consider Triphala to be on top of your list. Regular daily intakes of Triphala as preventive measures against many diseases would definitely be very worthwhile.
Dr. Michael Tierra shares a story of how a proper dietary choice and herbs including turmeric and a daily dose of Triphala can possibly be a factor for longevity and optimal health of an elderly. He says,
“I remember meeting a yogic master who was in his late eighties and staying in Santa Cruz for a few months. Being clear of mind and body, he could outwalk anyone, both in terms of speed and distance. Besides his practice of meditation, he considered the fact that his remarkable fitness and health was primarily due to the fact that his diet consisted primarily of Kichari(mung beans, rice, ghee and spices, i.e., cumin, coriander, turmeric and salt) and a daily dose of Triphala as the primary herbal tonic.”
Perhaps, one day, studies will show that Triphala intakes may result in longer telomere, which is associated with longevity.
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