Triphala, a Hindu word meaning "three fruits," is a herbal preparation known in the Indian subcontinent for centuries. In Ayurvedic or traditional Indian medicine, triphala aids the digestive system, resolves high blood pressure and headaches, and improves skin tone and condition. Modern uses include conditioning of damaged hair and promotion of new hair growth.
The Three Fruits
Amlaki (amla or Indian gooseberry), haritaki (chebulic myrobalan), and bibhitaki (belleric myrobalan) are the three plant compounds that go into the triphala mixture. Each of these compounds has a specific role, with bibhitaki the ingredient said to promote good health of the skin and hair. Ayurvedic literature promotes triphala as contributing to longevity by helping the digestive system. There have been no clinical studies done on triphala's effect on hair condition or new-hair growth, however a study done at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute found that triphala inhibits cancer-cell growth in laboratory mice. The Bhabha Research Centre in India found similar results.
Those seeking beneficial effects from triphala can take it in a tablet form. A more traditional method is to cut and grind the herbs into a powder, mix with warm water, and drink as a "tea." Three doses of one gram each are recommended, between meals, otherwise users take a single dose of three grams in the evening.
Using Triphala Powder
To promote new hair growth using triphala, the user consumes it orally, either by tablet or by grinding the dried extracts together, mixing into warm water and drinking. The powdered form works more quickly and is more effective. The triphala mixture can also be applied directly to the hair. The user allows the hair to soak for several minutes in the mixture before washing. The same treatment can be carried out on the skin.
Triphala powder is often recommended for cleaning oily hair, which should be washed and shampooed frequently. Triphala is preferred over ordinary store-bought commercial shampoos, many of which have harsh detergents that help lathering but that can also damage hair.
Triphala can be taken with sweets or honey to balance the strong acidic taste. Normal digestion can interfere with its beneficial effects, so users avoid taking triphala before meals. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not reviewed triphala for its safety or efficacy, however, most vendors of triphala in capsule form advise pregnant or nursing women, and anyone suffering from chronic diarrhea or other serious intestinal illnesses, not to use it.