Role of Terminalia chebula on Gastrointestinal Mucosa


Rakhi Mehra*, Renu Makhija, Neera Vyas

ACRI, CCRAS, Deptt. of AYUSH, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Govt. of India.

*Corresponding Author E-mail:; Website: http.//www.




It is today's need to understand the nanotechnology of manufacturing the ancient conventional drugs which advantages will certainly be more fruitful when reevaluate the standardization of manufacturing process of conventional medicine. As conventional medicine is having a potential risk of interactions between micronutrients affecting absorption and bioavailability. The antimicrobial action of Teminalia chebula especially on gastrointestinal tract is considered in supplementation of soothing to mucosal lining. Haritaki (Terminalia chebula), a common herbaceous plant is extensively used in preparation of many Ayurvedic medicines. Haritaki is used as a purgative, for flatulence, indigestion, gastroenteritis and Vata Dosha. Ellagic acid present in T. chebula has a potent inhibitory action on microorganisms like C. perfringens and E. coli. It is commonly advocated for increasing the gastrointestinal motility thus relieving the symptoms of gastroparesis for better bioavailability and fast absorption of the micronutrient. Fruits contain the chemical substances chebulinic acid, gallic acid and tannic acid. The presence of anthraquinone and sennoside are responsible for the purgative action. Studies have also shown the additional antibacterial activity of T. chebula on Helicobacter pylori. Reports have shown the extract of T. chebula to be effective against a broad spectrum of pathogens comprising of both gram positive as well as gram negative microorganisms. Ethanedoic acid was identified by spectroscopic analysis to be the biologically active compound present in the fruit of T. chebula responsible for the antimicrobial activity especially on gastrointinal mucosa as in broader way microbial biocompatibility to include all of the mechanical, physiological, immunological, cytological, and biochemical responses of the human body. chebula.             


KEY WORDS: Haritaki, Terminalia chebula,Vata doshas, antibacterial, Ethanedoic acid, microorganisms.



In Hindu mythology it is said that when Indra (King of deities) was drinking nectar in heaven a drop of the fluid fell on the earth and produced Haritaki.  Benefits of Haritaki to mankind have been compared to the importance of a mother to a child in ancient Ayurvedic text where it has been further elaborated that a mother may get angry on her children but Haritaki never hurts its users. According to Charaka it is as useful and nourishing as mother’s milk[1] [2]. Hence called the "King of Medicines""nectar".


Latin Name:

Terminalia chebula




Haritaki, Abhaya

Plant Part:



Haritaki is a herbaceous plant. The tree is tall about 50-80 ft. in height. It has rounded crown and spreading branches. The fruit or drupe is about 1-2 inches in size. It has five lines or five ribs on the outer skin. Fruit is green when unripe; and yellowish grey when ripe. Fruits are collected from January to April. Fruit formation starts from November to January.


There are three varieties of haritaki fruits, as per their stages, available in the market, namely, balaharitaki – raw fruit, chambhari or rangari haritaki – half ripened fruit and survari – fully ripened fruit. Ayurvedic pharmacognosy has described 7 varieties of haritaki fruits viz. vijaya, rohini, putana, amrta, abhaya, jivanti and cetaki.


Sanskrit Name:

Haritaki- one which is originated from Hari's (God's) home or which is green in nature; here green stands for faith and fertility. One which carries away all the illnesses from the body.

Abhaya-  makes a person fear free from all the diseases and discomforts.

Pathya-  an all time good herb for everyone.

Amrita-  like nectar for the body.

Haritaki is a gentle natural laxative and detoxifier and is a common Ayurvedic remedy for constipation and diarrhoea.



Guna/Qualities:                                Light, dry

Rasa (taste):                                     Sweet, sour, pungent, bitter,

                                                            Astringent (dominant) only salt is 


Virya (active principle):                  Heating.

Vipak(post-digestive effect):         Sweet

Doshas (constitutions):                   Balancing for all doshas, especially



Ayurvedic Properties of Terminalia chebula on the gastro-intestinal tract:

·        Anulomani-Removes excess vata from the system

·        Shodhani-Assists natural internal cleansing

·        Rasayani-Nourishes and rejuvenates the tissues

·        Promotes healthy digestion and absorption

·        Deepana Ignites the digestive fire making even micro nutrients available to the body

·        Aayushya/Vayasa sthapani- Means it enhances the longevity of the person

·        PaushtikiHaritaki nourishes the body up to the tissue level

·        LekhaniHaritaki scrapes out the unnecessary deposits and toxins out of the body


Chemical Composition of the Fruit of Terminalia chebula:

The myrobalan fruit has tannin (24-32%) which comprises of Chebulagic acid, Chebulinic acid, Corilagin and gallic acid. Resin and purgative principle of anthraquinone and sennoside nature is also present[7]. It has 18 amino acids, sugar, phosphoric acid, sucicinic acid and some other acids in minute quantities. The concentration of tannin decreases in fruit as it matures and the acidity increases. Chebulin isolated from the dried fruits possesses antispasmodic activity resembling that of papaverine. The fruit is antiviral, coagulant and hypoglycemic. It acts as a gentle laxative and helps in smooth evacuation.



Pharmacological actions of Terminalia chebula:

Studies have shown that ethanedoic acid present in fruits of T. chebula had strong and moderate inhibitory activity against Clostridium perferinges and Escherichia coli respectively but with no adverse effect on the growth of other lactic acid producing bacteria[8]. Fruits of the plant appear to have evolved complex antibiotic compounds to cure various diseases like cancer, cardiovascular, digestive and pathogenic bacteria. Chebulagic acid from Haritaki has shown antispasmodic action like that of Papaverine. Fruit contains a constituent which has a wide antibacterial and antifungal spectrum [9], and also inhibits growth of E.coli, the most common organism responsible for urinary tract infection [10]. The fruit pulp exhibited laxative activity [11] T. chebula fruit ethanol extract showed a broad spectrum of activity against CLSI reference bacterial strains. It showed maximum activity against S.typhi, S. epidermidis and B. subtilis[12] Antibacterial activity of T. chebula extracts against several bacterial strains have been reported[13,14,15]  It is effective in inhibiting Helicobactor pylori[15] Terminalia chebula was found to increase the percent gastric emptying (86.57 +/- 6.65%; p < 0.01).[16]  It was found that gallic acid and its ethyl ester, isolated from Terminalia chebula, displayed potent antimicrobial activity against several bacteria, including methicillin-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus. A crude extract of Terminalia chebula is reported to have potent and broad spectrum antibacterial activity against human pathogenic Gram positive and Gram negative bacteria. Although its traditional use as a laxative is well established, Haritaki has been shown to increased gastric emptying time. At levels of essential micronutrients present in foods, most micronutrients appear to utilise specific absorptive mechanisms and not be vulnerable to interactions. In aqueous solutions and at higher intake levels competition between elements with similar chemical characteristics and uptake by non-regulated processes can take place. Ascorbic acid has a strong iron absorption promoting potential and in iron deficient populations ascorbic acid supplementation improves iron status. This action appears to be balanced with a protective effect on the gastrointestinal mucosa, with the improvement in the secretary status of Brunner's glands involved in the protection against duodenal ulcer. Haritaki has proven gastrokinetic effect i.e. it helps in moving the contents of stomach earlier. So it can be used after surgeries and as adjuvant with other drugs that interfere with gastric motility as antihistaminics, atropine like drugs.


Contraindication of Haritaki:

·        Persons who suffer indigestion after eating a lot of dry foods.

·        Persons who are emaciated by over use of sex, wine and poisons and addictive substances and by fasting too much.

·        Persons who are feeling pangs of hunger or who have fasted for a long time, who are very thirsty.

·        Persons who feel great thirst as the complications of some disease like dehydration after diarrhea or vomiting.

·        In Acute fevers.

·        Persons who are very weak.

·        During pregnancy.

·        Persons who are travelling a lot by walking.

·        Persons who have suffered blood loss during accidents, injury or otherwise.

·        Persons who are suffering from excessive and acute Pitta aggravation.


The contraindications mentioned above are relative. Haritaki has astringent taste and hot active principle according to Ayurveda. It is for this reason that it was not suggested to take in the above mentioned conditions.


Terminalia chebula and Abdominal Disorders:

In Ayurveda Haritaki is the best for 'Srotoshodhana' or purifying the channels of body. It is a Yogvahini, as it is absorbed quickly thus acting on the digestive, absorptive, assimilative and excretory processes, thus improving all the dietary imbalances. Harad is a stomachic, as it boosts up the functioning of the stomach and intestine and thus facilitates digestion. The laxative and tonic properties of Haritaki help in constipation and haemorrhoids As a natural laxative and purgative, it removes undigested food and accumulated toxins from the gastrointestinal tract. It strengthens and nourishes the tissues and supports proper function of the colon, lungs, liver and spleen. Haritaki is traditionally used as a remedy for all vata disturbances, including constipation, emaciation, flatulence and indigestion. Based on its comprehensive properties, it promotes appetite and helps in proper digestion. It increases the frequency of stools and has got the property of evacuating the bowel completely [7]. It stimulates the liver and protects it further by expelling the excretory waste products from the intestine.


Terminalia chebula in Gastroparesis:

Gastroparesis is a relatively common and often disabling condition that is characterized by a broad range of clinical presentation ranging from dyspeptic symptoms to nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, malnutrition, frequent hospitalizations and incapacitation. Refractoriness to the standard therapy of antiemetics and prokinetics along with their mild  side effects like drowsiness, lassitude and akathisia and more severe ones like extrapyramidal effects, dystonia and tremors paves way for the use of herbal drugs which are cost effective and with no side effects. Haritaki can serve to act as an effective alternative to modern prokinetic drugs like metaclopramide. Active research in developing newer prokinetics holds great promise for the future management of this challenging entity. Terminalia chebula can serve as an useful alternative to prokinetic drugs available today.


Terminalia chebula is for all seasons:

Ayurvedic texts explore its full potential by advising to take it daily throughout the year - Ritu Haritaki [22] using it as a seasonal tonic with different items in different seasons. Want to follow the lead. This seasonal use of Terminalia chebula can be one of the cheapest and effective tool to elevate the health, detox the body and keep you free from diseases. Through the herbal detox process, this herb would prove to be adaptogenic.


Ayurveda describes six different seasons in the year - in each one of them the climatic conditions and weather is of particular nature. These are -  Shishira (Late Winter), Basanta (Spring), Grishama (Summer), Varsha (Rainy), Sharada (Autumn), Hemanta (Early winter).




The World Health Organization[3]estimates that about 80% of the populations living in the developing countries rely almost exclusively on traditional medicine for their primary health care needs[4].In India, herbal drugs are being used since centuries long before the advent of modern medicine[5].Conventional therapy provides treatment for antibacterial infections and other gastrointestinal problems but there is an ever increasing risk of antibiotic resistance and threats of other side effects to the patients with continuous use of these drugs hence continuing need for new solutions where herbal drugs provide the answer.[6] The strength of drug delivery systems is their ability to alter the pharmacokinetics and biodistribution of the drug. Nanoparticles have unusual properties that can be used to improve drug delivery. Where larger particles would have been cleared from the body, cells take up these nanoparticles because of their micronutrients. Complex drug delivery mechanisms are being developed, including the ability to get drugs through cell membranes and into cell cytoplasm. "Ayurvedic medicines, for the last so many years, are being prepared by milling and grinding" and the classical method, technique of ingredients they prepared and the way the outcome observed as Terminalia chebula is having fastest efficacy in bio assimilation in gastrointestinal mucosa. Internally, Terminalia chebula is used in a vast range of diseases. The usage of Terminalia chebula (haritaki) is recommended in kapha diseases with rock salt, in pitta diseases with sugar and in vata diseases with the ghee. There is a specific mention of the anupana (addictives) with which Haritaki should be combined, with reference to the season. In varsa ritu (July-August), it should be taken with rock salt, in sarad ritu (September-October) with sugar, in hemanta ritu (November- December) with sunthi, in sisira ritu (Janaury-February) with pippali, in vasanta ritu (March-April) with honey and in grisma ritu (May-June) with jaggery. Common gastrointestinal ailments, tumours, ascites, piles, enlargement of liver-spleen, worms, colitis respond very well with Terminalia chebula (haritaki). Hyperacidity is curbed with haritaki powder, black raisins and sugar. For purgation, triphala powder is recommended with water. In abdominal pain due to flatulence, it is given with jaggery and ghee. The most popular combination of haritaki, musta, sunthi and jaggery is an effective panacea for diarrhea, dysentery, flatulence etc. Haritaki medicated ghrta is beneficial in chronic fever. The decoction of Terminalia chebula (haritaki) or triphala is given along with honey in hepatitis, with great benefit.



The effect of Terminalia chebula of a given micronutrient on absorption and utilisation as gastro-intestinal friendly definitely improve micronutrient status in a population. The strength of drug delivery systems mentioned in Ayurveda enhance its pharmacokinetics and bio distribution. Awareness of interactions, combined with a balanced evaluation of the dietary intake of the population with regard to absorption promoting, inhibiting substances and the risk for multiple deficiencies, could lead to more effective strategies to improve micronutrient status by Terminalia chebula. The facts of healthy role of Terminalia chebula on Gastro intestinal mucosa also open a new vista to fortified or negate this medicine through many clinical trial.



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Received on 28.07.2012       Modified on 12.08.2012

Accepted on 02.08.2012      © RJPT All right reserved

Research J. Pharm. and Tech. 5(9): September 2012; Page 1183-1186