Recently I had a conversation with a student that went a bit like this:
Q. So Prashanti, in class you said that the three Triphala fruits are amongst the most incredibly potent herbs that humans have commonly available to them.
A. Yes, it is true, in dozens of ways they are incredible medicines for all facets of our wellness, supporting tissues, organs and systems all around and within our bodymind.
Q. How can I be sure that the Triphala I use is safe?
A. Traditional knowledge regarding Triphala is to never use the seeds, which can be toxic. ORGANIC INDIA uses only fruit pulp, not the seeds in our Triphala Formula.
Q. You taught us that hyperbole is part of Vedic exegesis, so in this case is the tradition just being hyperbolic, and exaggerating?
A. Good point, and indeed, the pulp of the Triphala fruits are such incredibly highly potent medicines that we do not want to dilute our Triphala products with the Triphala seeds which rarely have any medicinal use. So preventing dilution of the Triphala pulp may be one reason why the ancients said that Triphala seeds were toxic. But in this case it is also true, the seeds are slightly toxic.
Q. So how can a fruit be powerful medicine if part of it, the seed or pit, is toxic?
A. Most of the seeds and pits of the fruits we love are toxic actually. Triphala is no exception here. For instance, the pits/seed fruits including cherry pits, peaches, plums, apples, pears, and apricots, contain cyanogenic glycosides, which are slightly toxic. And yet we eat a lot of these fruits. By the way, this is exactly why you always eat sweet almonds and never eat bitter almonds, though you can use bitter almond oil on the skin. You are right in that often the chemistry of a plant is pervasive throughout the plant, which is why we can use Bael leaves instead of Bael fruit to support GI issues, but usually the phytochemistry of the seed of the plant is unique. Part of the plant’s strategy to survive is to make sure its seeds are not eaten by animals or bugs, so it makes sense that many pits are toxic.
Q. So what companies use the whole fruits with the seeds?
A. That is not for me to say here, but for you to find out. So ask your herb source about Triphala, but do not “lead the witness,” per se, just ask questions and then be quiet and let them talk and see where it goes. It is up to the consumer to keep the herb company aligned with truth and to support them in doing what is right. An herb company that is either not informed and/or not transparent is the first sign that perhaps your support should go elsewhere.