Since the dawn of human civilization, food has been an important force in shaping human history. The British sailed around the world in the search of spices and sugar. Food has not only triggered several wars but has also been used to control and end them. Even the origin of human civilization as we see it today can be attributed to the change in lifestyle of early humans. The pre-Historic man decided to give up the hunter-gatherer lifestyle and instead settled down and started farming. In modern times too food plays an important role in our lifestyle and health.
“Let food be thy medicine, thy medicine shall be thy food” is a famous quote by Hippocrates, the father of Medicine. Several medical sources state that health and disease begin in the gut. Consequently, we need to watch what we eat to maintain our health.
Ayurveda has identified and used the herbal medicine Harad for maintaining an individual’s gastric health. Harad is also known as Haritaki in Sanskrit, Myroblans in English, Karkchettu in Telugu and Harada in Gujarati and Marathi. The Sanskrit name Haritaki has several meanings to it. It refers to the haritak dye present in the plant as well as the nature of its ability to cure a wide range of afflictions (harayet). Scientifically denoted as Terminalia chebula, Harad is found all over the Indian sub-continent. Indian mythology claims the origin of the plant to be from the Amrita or Ambrosia that fell on Earth as the God Indra was drinking it.
Varieties of Harad
Terminalia chebula is a medium to large-sized tree, found scattered throughout the Indian sub-continent. It bears dull white or yellow flowers and small ellipsoid fruits. The flowers of Harad are known to have a strong and unpleasant odor, while the fruits have a bitter taste to it. The fruits are dried and powdered for use as Ayurvedic medicine. There are three varieties or types of Harad. However, the three varieties are just the different stages of maturity of the fruit. The Small Myroblan refers to the immature fruit, the Yellow Myroblan denotes the larger, somewhat matured fruit and the Large Myroblan refers to the fully matured fruit. As the fruit matures, it changes color and obtains a characteristic yellowish-green hue.
Depending on the region from which it is obtained, its shape and medicinal properties, Harad has further categorizations as well. They are
- Vijaya – has gourd-shaped fruits, found in the Vindhya mountain range and is the most commonly used variety
- Amrita – has fleshier fruits with better cleansing properties, is found in the Champa region
- Jivanti – has a distinct yellow/golden color fruit, found in the Sourashtra regions
- Putana – smaller fruit with larger seeds, this variety is obtained from the Himalaya Mountains and is extensively used for external applications.
- Rohini – round-shaped fruit commonly available in the Sindh regions
- Chetaki – best used in the powder or churna form, found in the Himalayan regions. Chetaki has two sub-varieties which are the white and black or Shweta and Krishna varieties.
- Abhaya – the fruit is five-lobed, is found in the Champa regions and is used to treat eye disorders
Health Benefits of Harad
This medicinal herb has a myriad range of beneficial actions linked to it. Its greatest use is in the Ayurvedic formulation, Triphala. People with even the most basic knowledge of Ayurveda will surely have heard of the herbal formulation known as Triphala (literally translating to that which contains three fruits). This herbal formulation focuses on increasing the functioning and efficacy of an individuals’ gastrointestinal tract, which subsequently benefits the entire body. Ayurvedic texts describe Triphala as a key formulation for the treatment of gastric ailments. The three major constituents of this polyherbal formulation are
- Haritaki (Harad)
In Tibet, Harad is termed as the “King of Medicines” because of its ability to remedy a wide range of ailments. The major phytochemical constituent of Terminalia chebula is tannins. Some of the more well-known and important properties of Harad are discussed below.
The primary medicinal property attributed to this herb is its effect on the gastrointestinal tract. Harad can alleviate indigestion, constipation, reduce blood sugar levels, reduce the levels of cholesterol causing agents, etc. Recent reports have theorized that Harad also has the property to help in weight loss by reducing random cravings and effectively detoxifying the body. The detox activity is prompted by the enhanced functioning of the gut system.
Harad contains a well-characterized tannin compound known as Gallic acid. Studies show that this compound is medically active and exhibits anti-carcinogenic, anti-oxidative and anti-mutagenic effects. The major property attributed to this compound, however, is its potent anti-inflammatory action. The application of Harad on inflamed areas of the body results in a considerable reduction of swelling. Additionally, studies have reported that the anti-inflammatory response of Harad was exhibited when administered in patients suffering from Arthritis.
The anti-bacterial property of Harad has been widely known and used since ancient times. Consequently, this allows Harad to be used for cleaning cuts or wounds. Another excellent way to utilize the anti-bacterial property is by rinsing your mouth with a Harad based mouthwash. Studies have shown that doing so significantly reduces the bacterial levels in the oral cavity.
Enhances Wound Healing
Wounds that are treated with Harad are shown to heal quicker and more efficiently as compared to untended wounds. The enhanced rate of healing has been attributed to the potent anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties of Harad. Tannins, which are the major phytochemical constituents of Harad are responsible for the above-mentioned action. Due to its anti-bacterial property, bacteria were unable to attach or grow in the open wounds treated with Harad, allowing for easier and faster wound healing.
The King of Medicines
The versatile “King of Medicines” can be consumed or utilized in a variety of ways. The simplest way to consume Harad is to mix the powder in warm water (or any liquid of choice) and drink it. Harad can also be taken in combination with either honey or Gud or mishri to mitigate the sour-astringent taste of Harad. For external applications, a paste of Harad can be applied on the desired areas. Currently, we at Amrutam have curated three products that provide the benefits of Harad to you. The Pileskey Gold Malt, which contains the potent Triphala formulation along with several other herbs and spices. The Amrutam Tablet is our home-brewed Triphala mix and the Zeo Malt which is our Ayurvedic mix for stomach related issues. However, we at Amrutam are hard at work creating a single herb churna – Harad. This single ingredient herbal powder will focus on providing the concentrated health benefits of Harad to the consumer.
Avicenna, regarded as the father of early modern medicine, is quoted to have said “There are no incurable diseases – only the lack of will. There are no worthless herbs – only the lack of knowledge”. We at Amrutam place great value on learning and passing on information about herbs, Ayurveda, yoga and other aspects of life that allows for a healthier lifestyle.
As always, this article has been created after consulting various books, reports, and articles over many hours to ensure the delivery of genuine and trustworthy content.
Reference 1: Haritaki (Chebulic myrobalan) and its varieties
Reference 2: 5 times food has changed the course of history
Reference 3: Therapeutic Uses of Triphala in Ayurvedic Medicine
Reference 4: Tannins and Human Health: A Review