Terminalia beleriea has deep roots in Indian mythology as well as in Ayurveda. It is part of a compound rasayana preparation of three myrobalan fruits, known as Triphala (or trifla) , which is important in both Indian and Tibetan traditional medicine. The name Vibheekaki indicates that regular use keeps a person healthy and free from disease. The fixed oil from the seeds is used for cooking.
The tree is found commonly throughout the forests of India, Sri Lanka and other Asian countries, in different climatic conditions apart from very arid zones, up to an altitude of about 1200 m. It is also cultivated in gardens, parks and at roadsides.
A large deciduous tree reaching up to 29 m (Plate 62). The trunk and stems are straight with a characteristic blue-grey, cracked bark. The leaves are broadly elliptical, about 10-25 em in length and 5-8 cm in width, coriaceous, alternate and mainly directed toward the apex of the branches. The flowers are in axillary spikes, pale greenish-yellow with an unpleasant odour. The fruits are globular, grey, hairy and about 1-2 em in diameter.
The fruit is used extensively by many ethnic groups of India and neighbouring countries to treat a variety of ailments and is considered to be a tonic, hepatoprotective, antiviral, purgative, hypolipidaemic, astringent and antidiarrhoeal. It is also reputed to improve immunity and bodily resistance to infectious disease and is therefore used for coughs, sore throats, and eye and skin diseases such as conjunctivitis and leprosy. The preparation Triphala is widely prescribed for liver disorders and gastrointestinal problems.
The seeds are generally used to treat wounds of ruminants.
Belleric acid, the glycoside saponins bellericoside and bellericanin, and sterols such as ?-Sitosterol have been isolated from the fruit.
Phyllembin, ellagic acid, gallic acid, ethyl gallate, chebulagic acid and hexahydroxydiphenic acid ester3,4 are present.
A fixed oil is extracted from the seed.
Antioxidant activity: Free radical-induced cellular damage is involved in several pathological conditions such as cancer, rheumatism, liver injury, ischaemic heart disease and ageing. Triphala, which contains T belerica, showed scavenging activity against mitochondrial lipid peroxidation. The phenolic compounds present were credited for the antioxidant activity.
Cardiovascular activity: In vivo and in vitro studies have shown cardiovascular activity, including negative inotropic and chronotropic activity as well as hypotensive effects. This was attributed to cholinergic activity.
Hypolipidaemic activity: When T belerica was given to animals in which arteriosclerosis had been induced by feeding a cholesterol-rich diet, significant decreases in the cholesterol level of the liver and aorta were observed.
Antimicrobial activity: Antibacterial activity was shown against a wide range of bacterial organisms." Sukshma Triphala was active against Clostridium tetani12 and several viruses such as the vesicular stomatitis virus and a rotavirus.
Hepatoprotective activity: The fruit is hepatoprotective and this is thought to be due at least in part to the presence of gallic acid. When administered orally it showed a good protective effect against carbon tetrachloride-induced hepatotoxicity as shown by an improvement in serum transaminase and bilirubin levels and a significant inhibition of microsomal lipid peroxidation and a reduction in triglyceride levels in the liver. This supports the traditional use of T belerica in the treatment of liver disease.
Antiulcer activity: The fruit was effective in reducing the total acidity and peptic activity and increasing the mucin content, which suggests a role in ulcer management. Triphala Churna was found to be effective in ulcers'induced by pylorus ligation, aspirin and prednisolone. A documented case of healing a leg ulcer and generation of new tissue growth showed its potential use in the management of other types of ulcer.
Antiobesity effects: Triphala Guggulu is an antiobesity agent, reducing weight, skinfold thickness and circumference of hips and waist in obese subjects. Clinical studies also revealed the preparation to be safe.
Use in rye disorders: Myopia and hypermetropia were controlled by Triphala Gritha, an ancient Ayurvedic recipe which contains the fruit of belleric myrobalan as one of the main ingredients. Also Sukshma Triphala has been recommended for the management of anjananamika (stye) of eye disease.
Antimutagenicity: This effect was attributed to the polyphenols present in the fruit.
Hypoglycaemic activity: The preparation Triphala showed hypoglycaemic activity.
Antiinflammatory effects: Classical combinations containing T. beleriea have been found to be useful in the treatment of rheumatic diseases.
T. beleriea is a safe and well-tolerated herb when used at recommended doses and in the form of Triphala. The fixed oil is purgative in large doses.