[Tri-phalā (Three Myrobalans) as Described in the Second Part of the Bower Manuscript, the Nāvanītaka]

Yakushigaku Zasshi. 2015;50(1):46-63.
[Article in Japanese]


In India, since ancient times Tri-phalā (meaning "three fruits" in Sanskrit) has been considered to be a combination of the following fruits: -Harītakī (Terminalia chebula, Retz.), Āmalaka (Embelica officinalis Gaertn), and Vibhītaka (Terminalia belerica Roxb.). These plants are also listed in the Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of India. Harītakī and Āmalaka have also been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times in Japan under the Japanese names of (see text) (Kariroku) and (see text) (Annmaroku), respectively. Both have been carefully preserved as treasured drugs in the nationally important Shosoin treasure storehouse. This study attempts to clarify the description of Tri-phalā in the Nāvanītaka, which is the second part of the Bower Manuscript (Bower Ms.), and examines the reasons why these plants were combined. This paper begins with a summary description of Tri-phalā in the context of traditional Asian medicine, followed by the delineation of drug selection principles in Ayurveda. Tri-phalā formulas in the Nāvanītaka are then examined. The Carakasamhitā (CS) treats Tri-phalā as a purifier and tonic (rasāyana), describing it as a formula for rejuvenation and longevity. On the other hand, the Susrutasamhitd (SS) regards Tri-phalā as having the efficacy of balancing kapha (phlegm) and pitta (bile), and also as being a medicine to promote excretion and enhance digestive functions for better nutritional intake. It is described to have an effect of curing diseases by keeping the tridhāu (theree element) valance. Tri-phalā is thus used as an ingredient of laxatives for diseases that result from kapha imbalance and tonic. The Aşţāngahŗdayasamhitā (AHS) considers Tri-phalā to have a particular superiority among cure-all medicines with the power to dispel illness. It controls kapha and overcomes blood diseases. Tri-phalā formulas found in the Nāvanītaka were prescribed for the treatment of abdominal tumors induced by vāyu (wind) disorder as well as for coughs caused by pitta and kapha disorder. Tri-phalā was also administered to facilitate nutrient absorption, regulate bowel function, and promote excretion. Tri-phalā thus restores the balance of tridhāu by facilitating water distribution in the body. For these reasons, the optimal combination of Tri-phalā was then established to adjust kapha for most efficient purification effects.

Publication types

  • English Abstract

MeSH terms

  • Fruit
  • India
  • Medicine, Ayurvedic*
  • Plants, Medicinal*