Pancha Karma—or five actions—is a five-part detoxification therapy that is a mainstay in Ayurveda. In an effort to direct toxins (ama) into the gastrointestinal tract for elimination, an individual will experience these five Ayurvedic therapies, along with ingesting certain herbs.
A common herbal formula used is triphala. As the name suggests, the “tri” in triphala stands for the number three and “phala” means fruit. The three fruits that make up this formula are haritaki, amalaki, and bibhitaki.
These three herbs support the three constitutional types, vata, pitta, and kapha.
Haritaki (Chebulic myrobalan) tones the muscles of the gut, increases digestive fire (agni), and clears toxins (ama); making it a signature herb for vata. Haritaki possesses all tastes (rasa) except for salty, has a heating energy (virya), light and dry qualities (gunas), and has a balancing effect on vata, pitta, and kapha.
Amalaki (Emblica officinalis) supports repair of the intestinal mucus membranes that may become irritated from imbalanced pitta and is well known for its high vitamin C content. Amalaki also possesses all tastes (rasa) except salty, with an emphasis on the sour taste. Its energy (virya) is cooling. Its qualities (gunas) are light and dry and amalaki mainly reduces vata and pitta. An extra note of importance here would be to remember that amalaki is a great rejuvenative as it increases life sap or the essence of all the bodily tissues. This is known as your ojas!
Bibhitaki (Beleric myrobalan) helps remove mucus from the gut wall and improves sluggish kapha type digestion. Bibhitaki is made up of the astringent and sweet tastes (rasa) and has a heating energy (virya). It is dry and light in its qualities (gunas), and balances are three-vata, pitta, kapha but may aggravate vata in excess.
These three fruits help to tone, cleanse, stimulate, and ultimately, rejuvenate the digestive tract.
If you practice Ayurveda you will learn many uses for triphala. During Panchakarma, your practitioner will recommend how it can best serve you. Triphala comes in powder, tablet, and tincture form.