Haritaki or Terminalia chebula is a medicinal herb often known as the mother of all herbs owing to its wide range of health benefits. Its fruit constitutes one of the three main ingredients used in preparing Triphala churna, an Ayurvedic supplement that is popular for its numerous health and medicinal properties. It is actually a very large tree that is found growing in the deciduous forests of India and Sri Lanka. Nowadays it can also be seen in Burma, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand, and southern China. Haritaki is believed to help in improving the health of the digestive system as well as in curing a number of health conditions. This herb is widely available in the form of supplements in several natural foods stores and also in stores that sell dietary supplements. It can also be purchased online. It is also known by other names like myrobalan, chebulic myrobalan, Indian gall-nut, ink nut, yellow myrobalan, Kadukkai (Tamil), shilikha (Assamese) hardi (gujarati) katukka (Malayalam), harro (Nepal).
Chemical constituents of Haritaki
The main active constituents of haritaki are gallic acid, chebulagic acid, chebulinic acid and corilagin, which are responsible for its various therapeutic properties. It also consists of sugar, amino acids, phosphoric acid, sucicinic acid flavonoids such as luteolin, rutins, and quercetin. Freah haritaki fruit contains certain amounts of protein, carbohydrate, water and minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium.
Health benefits of Terminalia chebula / Haritaki / Harad
Laboratory experiments and animal studies on the effects of haritaki indicates that this herb possess some impressive qualities that is beneficial for improving your health. Given below are some of the health benefits offered by haritaki:
Haritaki is good for the digestive system
Haritaki is considered be an effective tonic for the digestive system. It improves digestion and helps your body to absorb all the nutrients from the digested food. It has strong laxative properties and is also used to detoxify the digestive system by getting rid of all the wastes and toxic substances formed as a result of metabolism. It helps in curing digestive disorders like constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. The gallic acid found in Haritaki helps in destroying E. coli bacteria in the intestine, thus preventing stomach infection. Haritaki has also been found to be effective in eliminating intestinal worms.
Haritaki helps fight oxidative stress
According to a study published in the 2009 issue of “Cell Biochemistry and Function”, Haritaki may be effective in fighting oxidative stress because of its antioxidant properties. Test were conducted on aging rats and the results showed that using haritaki for treatment helped in improving the levels of several powerful antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, glutathione and superoxide dismutase. These results suggest that haritaki may be helpful in protecting your body against conditions caused by oxidative stress such as aging and many diseases like cancer.
Haritaki may help in lowering cholesterol
Several studies reveal that haritaki may have the ability to lower high cholesterol. A study published in the 2010 issue of the “Journal of Advanced Pharmaceutical Technology & Research” showed that this herb helped in reducing the total cholesterol levels in mice. It was also found that haritaki helped in lowering the levels of triglycerides. The cholesterol lowering properties of haritaki makes it a potential remedy for lowering your risks of heart diseases, strokes and other diseases that may be brought about by the accumulation of cholesterol in the blood vessels.
Haritaki in dental care
According to a study issued in the “Oral Health & Preventive Dentistry”, using a mouthwash containing haritaki may be helpful in preventing dental cavities. The study states that the cavity preventing effect can be attributed to haritaki’s ability to reduce the levels of bacteria in the mouth that are associated with the development of cavities.
Haritaki for treating metabolic syndrome
Experiments conducted on rats having metabolic syndrome indicates that Haritaki may be helpful in treating the condition by lowering the levels of blood sugar. The study suggests that this herb may be beneficial in curing metabolic syndrome.
Haritaki has diuretic properties
Haritaki has been found to have diuretic properties that help in increasing the formation and elimination of urine. This effect helps in preventing urinary tract infections and the formation of kidney stones. By preventing water retention, haritaki also contributes to weight loss.
Haritaki aids in weight loss
Haritaki is believed to be a helpful remedy for people suffering from overweight or obesity. This herb has appetite controlling abilities. It promotes digestion, cleanses the stomach, improves the metabolism of food and its assimilation in the stomach and also helps in increasing the metabolic rate of the body. As the metabolic rate increases, the energy expenditure of the body also increases. Haritaki also helps in the improved utilization of the stored fat in the body by increasing the secretion of bile. All these properties not only help in promoting weight loss but also help in maintaining a healthy weight.
Haritaki can be used to cure ulcer
The fruits of Haritaki tree are considered to be effective in healing chronic peptic ulcer. It stimulates the production of mucus and helps in reducing the growth of the ulcer lesions. Haritaki may be effective in curing ulcer caused by harmful bacteria in the stomach or by the long term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Haritaki has anti-fungal properties
Studies reveal that an aqueous extract of Haritaki shows antifungal properties against a number of yeasts and dermatophytes. It has been found to fight against Candida albicans, which is a type of pathogenic yeast and Epidermophyton floccosum, a dermatophyte that is responsible for causing Athlete’s foot, crotch itch and ringworm infection. It is also effective in preventing scalp infections or glabrous skin infections.
Haritaki for rheumatoid arthritis
Haritaki has been found to be useful for reducing the symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis and lumbar spondylosis (Sciatica). Consuming a paste made by combining haritaki powder and castor oil helps in relieving inflammation and pain associated with these conditions.
Haritaki is anti-inflammatory
Haritaki works as an effective anti-inflammatory agent, when made into a paste with water and applied topically. It also functions as a strong analgesic that helps in relieving pain. This herb is helpful in promoting the faster healing of wounds, cuts and injuries. Haritaki has astringent properties that help in treating disorders like hemorrhoids.
Haritaki for diabetes
Based on animal studies, the extracts obtained from the fruits and seeds of haritaki contain anti-diabetic agents that may help in reducing blood glucose levels.
Haritaki offers reliefs from asthma
A mixture of haritaki powder and jaggery in equal proportions is found to be useful in providing relief from the symptoms of asthma.
Anti-mutagenic effect of Haritaki
Haritaki contains several antioxidant phenolic compounds including tannic acid, chebulinic acid, and ellagic acid that inhibit the growth and proliferation of cancer cells.
Some home remedies using Haritaki
Here are some of the home remedies that make use of haritaki:
For diabetes – Consuming 10 grams of haritaki powder with water or honey on a daily basis helps in combating diabetes.
For nose bleeds – Crushed fruits of haritaki mixed with lemon juice and made into a paste helps in treating nose bleeds.
For eye infections – A paste of haritaki applied topically on the infected area helps in healing eye infections. This remedy is also useful for insect bites.
For sore throat – Combine the powder of roasted haritaki with ghee and consume this mixture for getting relief from sore throat.
For boosting immunity – Cut the haritaki fruits and remove the seeds. Cook the fruit in 4 parts of milk until it turns soft. Cool the mixture and then add some ghee and honey. Consuming this mixture on a regular basis is believed to rejuvenate your body and also helps you attain a healthy immune system.
For acidity – In order to get relief from acidity, eat 10 grams of haritaki powder along with grapes.
For anemia – Mix 5 g of Haritaki powder with equal amounts of jaggery powder. Consuming this mixture two times a day (after meals) for two months can help in curing anemia.
For constipation – Those who suffer from constipation can find relief by consuming 10-15 g of dry Haritaki powder along with warm water, after dinner.
For dysentery –Take half a teaspoon of Haritaki powder with lukewarm water at bedtime.
According to Hindu mythology, Haritaki came into being when a drop of nectar fell to the earth from heaven. This herb can be considered as a wonder drug because of the wide range of health, medicinal and therapeutic benefits it offers. It is an indispensable ingredient in many medicines of the Ayurveda system of medicine.Image Credits: Flickr - Mi Amalaki, Flickr - Satish Nikam