Haritaki, also known as the king of medicines in Tibet, is one of three dried fruits that make up the ancient Ayurvedic Triphala formula. This drupe-like fruit, known scientifically as Terminalia Chebula, has been treasured both as a plant and as food for centuries.
Haritaki fruits are oval, with sizes varying between 2 – 4.5 cm long and 1.2 – 2.5 cm wide. Depending upon its variety, Haritaki turns green or black as it ripens. Haritaki fruit tastes sweet, sour, bitter depending upon its types.
There are 7 types of Haritaki: Vijaya, Rohini, Putane, Amruta, Abhaya, Jivanti, Chetak. The identified type depends on the region where the fruit is harvested and the color and shape. Vijaya is the most popular and widely preferred type of Haritaki. It is traditionally grown in the Vindhya Range of West-Central India and is more of a round shape than oval.
Haritaki has a wide range of uses and benefits, from health to food and production. It is known for its ability to boost immunity and prevent/cure many physical and internal ailments.
Physical properties and habitat
Haritaki is a large deciduous tree that can grow up to 30m high with a girth ranging from 1 – 1.5m. It is highly branched with 10-30cm long elliptical leaves, which have 6-8 pairs of veins. Its flowers can be dull-white or yellow, and they are short-stalked. These flowers produce unpleasant smells, so be mindful when approaching one.
Haritaki has been known to grow on various soils and seen thriving on heights of 2000m above sea level. Some of the countries or places this miracle medicine can be found include Tibet, Nepal, Turkey, Iran, Myanmar, Pakistan, and India.
Brief History of Haritaki
Haritaki has a long history dating back 5000 years. It has strong roots in several traditional healing circles, particularly in India’s Aryuvedic and Siddha healing systems, where it has been used for healing and higher consciousness for thousands of years! The use of Haritaki is most profound in India, Nepal, Tibet, Thailand, and in several other areas of South East Asia.
In Buddhism, Haritaki was considered a staple figure symbolizing healing. The plant appears in both hands of all the paintings of the significant healer, the Medicine Buddha. In these paintings, haritaki is referred to as “The Supreme Nectar that Illuminates the Mind”. In classical Ayurveda, Haritaki was widely applied in the treatment and healing of external wounds. Likewise, It was used internally to cleanse the digestive system with its laxative properties.
Haritaki is one of the few herbs with three Ayurvedic doshas — Vata, pitta, and Kapha. Human health depends on the doshas, which are balances of the five elements of the world; air, earth, space, water, and fire. A combination of each element results in three doshas responsible for a person’s physiological, mental, and emotional health.
Studies On The Benefits Of Haritaki
Haritaki is helpful in a wide range of situations, but it is most popularly applied to promote healing from different ailments such as; sore throat, allergies, constipation, and indigestion. The fruit is also widely known for its use in promoting digestive health.
Haritaki contains natural ingredients that possess healing properties, including anticancer, antibacterial, antidiabetic, and antioxidant properties.
Haritaki is rich in vitamin C and other essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. It is very nutritious, containing, and is a source of manganese, selenian, potassium, iron, and plant chemicals like tannic acid, gallic acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid, and behenic acid.
Researchers have isolated Gallic acid and ethyl ester from the ethyl alcohol extract of T.chebula fruit and tested it against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus. It proved effective. T.chebula has also shown antibacterial properties against several bacterial species such as Helicobacter pylori, the cause of gastritis, ulcer, and stomach cancer. This was achieved by using a concentration of 1-2.5 mg/ml of aqueous Haritaki extract.
Aside from gut bacteria, the ethanolic extract T.chebilla is effective against bacteria such as Salmonella typhi, Staphylococcus aureus, and Staphylococcus epidermidis.
HIV is a virus that plagues the world today. And this virus, when caught, has caused a lot of individuals a fortune to treat. Recently, researchers found that Haritaki contains four human HIV-type 1 integrase inhibitors like gallic acid.
T.chebula also helps in the treatment of various sexually transmitted diseases. And today, most people have switched to it as an alternative medicine for treating swine influenza because it’s relatively cheap compared to synthesized drugs.
Researchers have found that the leaves, fruit, and bark of T. Chebula possess a high amount of antioxidants caused by the phenolic compound present in the fruit.
Over the years, antioxidants have been known to inhibit free radicals in our body, which are known to cause ailments like cancer. Hence the reason why it is used in cancer treatments.
According to researcher Sudhanshu Kumar Meher ( MD, Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences ), Haritaki can be used to treat conditions such as weakness of the heart, gout, and blood disorders such as anemia. This is because Haritaki works on the Rakta Dhatu ( roughly translated to Blood).
The Aqueous extract of Haritaki has been shown to offer strong resistance to several dermatophytes such as floccosum, Trichophyton rubrum, Microsporum gypseum, and Epidermophyton) and yeasts like Candida. So individuals suffering from these fungi classes can seek their physician on whether haritaki is the right option for them.
It’s rare to find a fruit that keeps you healthy, both physically and spiritually. Haritaki is one of those fruits! And this is why it has been held in high regard by traditions worldwide for thousands of years.
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