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Rebalance for the New Year With Triphala and Yoga

A rishi documenting traditional healing systems. Credit: Sarah Khan

A rishi documenting traditional healing systems. Credit: Sarah Khan

Last in our series to cleanse and detoxify is triphala, the three fruits. It includes three plum-like fruits that are astringent and high in tannins. It seems appropriate to end this miniseries with fruits that are common, abundant and nutrient-rich in South Asian cultures. Why not explore an Ayurvedic formulation that focuses on the lower intestines, the end of the line, so to speak? And remember to pair your foods and herbs with yoga breathing and asanas to increase the impact.

Origin and culinary and traditional medicine uses of triphala



In this three-month series, learn to pair simple herbal and yoga techniques to build immunity, counter holiday stress and start the New Year cleansed, detoxed and armed to activate your resolutions.

NOVEMBER: Double your body strength with simple yoga postures to stimulate your dynamic immune system:

» Neem and inverted yoga

» Amla

DECEMBER: Anti-stress herbs and calming yoga and breathing exercises:

» Ashwagandha

» Brahmi

JANUARY: Detox herbs to recalibrate, rebalance and activate resolutions:

» Trikatu churna

» Triphala

EAT TO HEAL: Previous articles covering the numerous benefits of herbs and foods:

black pepper | cilantro | cinnamon | cardamom | holy basil | nutmeg| ginger | turmeric | thyme | bay leaf | parsley

Native to temperate and tropical Asia, the trees that bear the triphala fruits are abundant. Triphala churna is a powdered preparation of three equally proportioned myrobalans, Emblica officinalis (Amla), Terminalia chebula (Haritaki) and Terminalia belerica (Bibhitaki). Ayurvedic healers employ this fruit formulation tonic extensively to treat several disorders of the gastrointestinal system (as a gentle colon cleanser, digestive aid, diuretic and mild laxative) and cardiovascular system (high blood pressure). Though exact mechanisms of action are not known, the time-tested results based on millennia of observations are later borne out in biomedical research studies. Triphala fruits are such an integral and abundant component of subcontinent and Asian food cultures that the general population knows to consume them for their high nutritional and medicinal value.

Contemporary research

Each fruit possesses a great number of beneficial plant chemicals. When studied individually in test tubes, in animals or in people, the favorable effects are large and all encompassing. The three fruit extracts demonstrate powerful antioxidant capacity. They effectively scavenge and eliminate free radicals that can cause great damage on a molecular level. More recent and promising experimental studies are reviewed in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine and confirm that triphala plant chemicals act as potent antineoplastic, radioprotective and chemoprotective agents. In a recent article in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, triphala powder, when administered according to Ayurvedic principles, significantly stimulated the immune response in a clinical Phase I study.

Yoga for detoxification

Take your yoga postures to a higher level. Continue to engage in all the forward bends, bridge poses and standing and seated twists that gently massage and stimulate your abdominal area. But now remember your yoga teacher’s pleas to pay attention to your breath. Use your breath as an anchor to center. And remember to be mindful of the quality of your breath just like you are mindful of your food. For breath, too, is your food.

For a reliable source for organic plants, botanicals and spices, try Frontier; for Ayurvedic products, try Banyan Botanicals. Before taking any substances, always consult with your chosen health-care professional. To ensure proper yoga training, seek the advice of a certified yoga specialist.

Photo: A rishi documenting traditional healing systems. Credit: Sarah Khan

Zester Daily contributor Sarah Khan writes about food, culture, climate and sustainability. For her second Fulbright, she is presently traveling in South and Central Asia for a year (2014-15) to tell the stories of female farmers as they contend with a rapidly degraded agricultural landscape, gender inequality, poverty and climate change. She will document their challenges and victories in multiple media. To follow her journey, visit her website.

  • BelindieG 1·15·13

    While I’m all for movement and healthy living, I hate to see Zester move into mumbo-jumbo fake science/heath stuff. Your body “detoxifies” every time you sweat, urinate or defecate. Your liver works fine. If Zester is going to publish this sort of story–let’s see links to these medical, peer-reviewed studies, please.

  • katherine leiner 1·16·13

    I say, open your mind and open your heart. Detoxes have been going on for thousands of years!!!!