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Triphala: A Traditional Herbal Formula Pt. 2

I thought we would do a second article on Triphala for two important reasons.  1: Yes, it is that good to have around.   2: Triphala is a good example to use in highlighting the fact that different medical systems operate from very different perspectives.  Here in the west we focus on taking the herbal tablet to get all of the wonderful benefits to our digestive system that I wrote about last week.  According to Ayurveda – India’s medical system, tasting Triphala gives many powerful medicinal benefits too.

Why such an emphasis on taste?  Taste in the Sanskrit language is the word rasa.  Rasa also means emotion and rasayana is a word for rejuvenation.  In our modern world, we don’t often associate those three concepts together.  But in India, they all share the same root; they all stem from a central association.

Ayurveda believes consciousness is an integral part of the healing process.  Getting sick often had emotional and mental components, as did getting well.  Today we talk about mind/body connection or wholeness.  Ayurvedic theory takes it a lot further by believing 99% of illness originates from an emotional or mental root cause.   Thus, working on a person’s body was not a separate thing from working with their emotions and their mind.  To them, the ability to rejuvenate ourselves is deeply integrated with our ability to balance our emotional space.  To them taste and emotion are deeply interwoven to such a degree that different tastes stimulate different emotions.  By manipulating the tastes we eat, we can adjust our deep emotional imbalances.

Triphala has all the primary tastes but is very high in bitterness.  Bitter slows down the momentum of our desires, and thus leads to a calmer emotional and mental space.  It leads to contentment instead of striving.  As people drink it, they taste the bitterness strongly and that narrowing tone can sometimes be rejected by the mind.  However, as our emotional space comes into deeper balance, the bitterness doesn’t jump out at us so strongly and the taste profile  becomes more pleasing.

Remember: The Ayurvedic medical system has been in use for thousands of years.  Their insights and methods may be different, but they have worked for millions of people.

To wrap up, here is a final way Triphala is used that exemplifies how wildly different our medical theories can be.   Triphala is often used to purify the tongue and the consciousness behind speech.  Thus Triphala is prescribed as a mouth scrub for all people trying to learn a second language.  Just wet your finger or your tooth brush and dust with powdered Triphala.  Gently brush the entire mouth including the sides of the cheeks, tongue, and gums.  The cleansing that happens helps to calm deep imbalances that can lead to dullness of speech, slowness of thought, and inflexibility of the tongue and mouth.  You can also use Triphala scrub to help stop yourself or your children from frequent cursing for the same reasons.

 

Triphala: a traditional herbal formula Pt. 1

Triphala means three fruits.  It is an herbal compound made from three different herbs.  The herbs are from the subcontinent of India where Triphala has been a staple herbal medicine for thousands of years.  As a combination remedy, it has properties that act strongly on our entire digestive system and it is gentle enough to be good for all body types.  Its properties make it broadly applicable and easily usable by a large percentage of the population.

So what does Triphala do?  It stimulates bile, cleanses the blood, gently lubricates the colon and it enhances peristalsis or the movement of material through the intestines.  These factors have the combined effect of enhancing our digestive and eliminatory capacities.  Triphala is often recommended as a part of weight loss programs.  By enhancing several detoxification functions throughout our body, it paves the way for the release of unnecessary weight.

Putting it into Eastern language, it balances all three of the governing tissues: Vata, Pitta and Kapha.  These subtle tissues, when out of balance, overflow from their homes in the digestive system.  This ‘spilling out’ process pulls toxins out of the GI tract as well.  Once toxins are in the body, they build up and create health issues anywhere that they lodge.  Triphala is so highly recommended because it keeps our digestive system healthy; helping keep Vata, Pitta, and Kapha in their homes instead of spilling out into the body.  While the language is different between medical systems, the ideas are essentially the same.  Both systems say quite clearly that unhealthy guts are a significant way for bigger and nastier diseases to develop down the road.

Triphala commonly comes in two forms: tablets and powders.  We like the tablets in America much more than the powder because of Triphala’s taste.  However, it is traditionally served as a tea, where part of its medicinal power comes from tasting it.

CAUTION: Triphala packs intensely bitter and astringent tastes that take time to appreciate.  Prepare for it and don’t let it deter you.

Making Triphala Tea from powder is quite easy.  Start with either a teaspoon or a tablespoon of powder poured into a 12 or 8 oz coffee cup.   Fill it with near boiling water and let it steep.  Medicinal teas always steep longer then beverages, and while you can drink your tea after 20 minutes, in my personal practice I wait 8-12 hours.  By letting it sit a long time, the powder will settle to the bottom so you don’t need to mess with strainers.  When I need Triphala, I will drink two cups a day.  I make a cup after supper and let it sit covered on the counter to drink in the morning.  At breakfast, I will prepare my evening cup and leave it sit covered on the counter until then.

REMEMBER: Standard wellness theory has us looking for ways to halt the momentum of disease early.  Here is a great way to take the teeth out of disease early.