HARITAKI – Terminalia chebula
Sanskrit: Haritaki, Abhaya, Pathya
Haritaki is considered one of the most important Ayurvedic herbs. It is a very large tree growing throughout the deciduous forests of India and Sri Lanka up to 2000m.
The name Haritaki is described as the ‘remover of diseases’. It is also called ‘Abhaya’ which means ‘fearless of any disease’. It is said to have originated when a drop of immortal nectar (amrita) fell from heaven to earth. There are 7 types of Haritaki described in texts according to the geological origination; Vijaya, Rohini, Putana, Amrita, Abhaya, Jeevanti and Cetaki.
Rasa [taste] – Mainly astringent and all tastes except salty.
Virya [action] – Heating
Vipaka [post-digestive effect] – Sweet
Guna [quality] – Light, dry
Tannic acid, Chebulinic acid, Gallic acid etc. Resin and a purgative principle of the nature of Anthraquinone and Sennoside.
Rejuvenative, tonic, laxative, nervine, expectorant and anthelmintic. Its other prabhava is that while it is a laxative it is nourishing as well. Its sweet post-digestive quality nourishes dhatus upto shukra dhatu and enhances the immunity.
Terminalia chebula fruits are used to treat indigestion, constipation, dysentery, jaundice, piles, dysmenorrhea, lacrimation, chronic ulcers and wounds. It is a digestive aid, liver stimulant and act as a gastrointestinal prokinetic agent and a mild laxative.
T.chebula has proven gastrokinetic effect i.e. it helps in moving the contents of stomach earlier. So it can be used after surgeries and as adjuvant with other drugs that interfere with gastric motility as antihistaminic, atropine like drugs.
It reduces lipid deposits in the blood and liver. You can use it with honey to help reduce cholesterol. It stimulates the liver and protects it further by expelling the waste excretory products from the intestines.
Haritaki astringes all leakages from the body. It sends accumulated vata downwards and helps to clear wheezing and asthma. The herb protects epithelial cells against influenza-A virus, supporting its traditional use for assisting in recovery from acute respiratory infections. It can be used as an Eye drop/wash in all sorts of eye disorders – inflammation, conjunctivitis. You can gargle the decoction in sore throat, swill for stomatitis, gingivitis and periodontal disease.
By delaying stomach emptying, poor gastrointestinal motility leads to dyspepsia. Moreover, delayed gastrointestinal transit is linked to idiopathic slow transit constipation. Terminalia chebulahelps to improve gastrointestinal motility. The spasmogenic effect of Terminalia chebula on the gut helps to increase the water content in the feces and the fecal number. Hence, Haritaki could be used as an effective remedy for both dyspepsia and constipation.
Fruit of Haritaki could help to heal chronic peptic ulcer. It reduces the growth of the ulcer lesions by stimulating mucus production. It could be effective in eliminating ulcer induced by overgrowth of Helicobacter pylorus bacteria or prolonged intake of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Haritaki has a wide antibacterial activity. It helps to inhibit growth of harmful E. coli and C. perfringens bacteria. However, the antibacterial effect of Terminalia chebula does not affect the growth of the beneficial bacteria in the intestines. Hence, intake of Haritaki helps to preserve the normal intestinal flora. It is salutary in digestive upset or dysentery caused by parasites or infection (Shigella spp), inflammation of mucus membranes, flatulence and borborygmus [stomach rumbling]. It increases the digestive fire and clears undigested residues [ama]. And its astringency and mucus membrane healing effects can benefit prolapse, ulcers, intestinal permeability and ‘leaky gut syndrome’.
Researches show that an aqueous extract of Haritaki exhibits antifungal activity against a number of dermatophytes and yeasts. It is useful against the pathogenic yeast- Candida albicans, dermatophytes- Epidermophyton floccosum which causes tinea pedis, tinea cruris, tinea corporis and onychomycosis, Microsporum gypseum which is the causative agent of scalp or the glabrous skin infections in humans and Trichophyton rubrum (Athlete’s foot fungus).
Pregnancy [due to its laxative and descending nature].
2.5 – 5g as powder
Dr. Indunil Weerarathne
03 December 2011