Triphala: An Immune System Regulator
Do you have a flexible immune system?
A healthy immune system isn’t always in high gear: it has the ability to go up and down in intensity in order to properly respond to an immune event. The balanced production of natural immunostimulants and immunosuppressants is called immunomodulation in Western medicine.
In Ayurveda, this process is called rasayana, the branch of Ayurveda that deals with longevity. The rasayana triphala, well known for supporting healthy bowel function, has been found to be a powerful immunomodulator.1
The immune system has the ability to attack dangerous invaders, but it can also attack healthy cells in certain situations, which can weaken the host’s immunity. When a virus repeatedly enters cell after cell, multiplying along the way, the immune system can quickly be overwhelmed.
Damaged healthy cells release free radicals, which call for cytokines to be released. Cytokines, the immune system’s first responders, cannot keep up. They call more cytokines to the theater, triggering a cytokine storm. The main job of cytokines is to call for more killer T cells and neutrophils, the immune system’s warriors.
In the battle between virus and immune system, many immune cells become infected, causing a state of immune confusion, where healthy cells become the target of immune cells and the virus alike.
Immunomodulation is the body’s ability to increase or decrease a cytokine response or an immune cell response (like killer T cells and neutrophils), or to enhance release of antioxidants or macrophages to clean up and organize an immune response.1
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Triphala as an Immunomodulator
Triphala is a combination of three fruits: bibhitaki (Terminalia bellerica), haritaki (Terminalia chebula), and amalaki (Emblica officinalis). Each fruit has immunomodulatory properties, enhanced when they come together in the classic formula triphala.
Triphala supports a healthy immune response in numerous ways, but none is more potent than supporting antioxidant response. Free radicals trigger an overzealous immune reaction, which can trigger a cytokine storm.1
Triphala has been shown to support healthy regulation of cytokines during an immune event, thereby supporting a more efficient immune response. This mechanism is thought to be regulated by the variety of naturally occurring antioxidants found in the three fruits of triphala.1
Triphala has also been shown to boost immunity by increasing release of neutrophils and killer T cells to the immune event site. When the immune system becomes overzealous, triphala supports immunosuppression by helping slow down humoral immunity, cell-mediated immunity, and lymphocyte proliferation.1 Stimulation and suppression of the immune system is part of its natural feedback mechanism, keeping immunity strong.
Triphala employs the circulatory, urinary, respiratory, and intestinal protective effects of amalaki, along with the immune-boosting effects of haritaki and the intestinal and respiratory mucus-balancing effects of bibhitaki.1
Healthy Bowel Function Matters for Immunity
Health and immunity are quite dependent on healthy bowel function. Poor, slow, or sluggish elimination has been linked to low vitamin D, a major driver of immunity, along with mood-related concerns, like excessive worry and sadness.2
Studies also show poor elimination will deplete immune-boosting beneficial bacteria (Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus), while letting immune-compromising bacteria (like E. coli and staph) proliferate.3 One study concluded that slow, intermittent, and chronic hard dry stools can compromise immunity. Once bowel function returns to normal, healthy microbial immune response returns as well.3 In fact, in another study, stool function was used as a biomarker for immune function.4
Triphala to the Rescue
Triphala has been well studied for its non-habit forming support for healthy bowel function. In one study, not only did triphala improve consistency and frequency of elimination, it also supported healthy proliferation of proteins replenishing the brush border of the intestinal villi, supporting their optimal function.5
Inside the intestinal tract, triphala was shown to increase antioxidant levels of glutathione and xanthine peroxidase, which support the intestinal tract’s natural detox and repair processing.5
During each meal, the intestinal tract produces a certain amount of mucus that helps lubricate the digestive tract. Over time, some of this digestive mucus builds up in the digestive tract, clogging the hair-like villi that drive immunity and help the body absorb nutrients and remove toxins.
Triphala helps cleanse mucus off of the digestive villi, making for more efficient digestive and immune function. Here’s how the three fruits support the eliminative process:
- Amalaki supports intestinal skin.
- Bibhitaki pulls off old mucus.
- Haritaki strengthens intestinal muscles to contract more efficiently when bowels need to move.
Triphala Supports Weight Loss + Immunity
There is no shortage of studies linking weight gain to a compromised immune system.6-8 Sluggish elimination is directly linked to poor liver function, as waste and toxic bile from the large intestine drains directly back to the liver via the enteric cycle when bowel function is not balanced.
Triphala has been show in many studies to not only support healthy and natural weight loss, but also support healthy liver, blood sugar, and metabolic function.9-12
In one study, mice were divided into six groups and monitored for 10 weeks:10
- Group 1: normal diet.
- Group 2: high-fat diet.
- Group 3: high-fat diet + triphala.
- Group 4: high-fat diet + amalaki.
- Group 5: high-fat diet + haritaki.
- Group 6: high-fat diet + bibhitaki.
The team measured food and energy intake daily for 10 weeks, and measured the body weight of each mouse every third day.
The results were amazing. All supplemented groups lost significant amounts of belly fat, white the other groups didn’t, suggesting supplementing with these herbs has a significant effect.10
You may already know that triphala is great for digestion and healthy weight, but keep triphala in mind as you do what you can to support your immune system, as well.