India is richly endowed with a wide variety of plants of medicinal value. These plants are widely used by all sections of the society, either as folk remedies or as traditional medicines of the Ayurveda, Siddha, and Unani systems. Terminalia chebula (commonly known as Black Myrobalan or Chebulic Myrobalan) is a medium to the large deciduous tree, native to South Asia from India and Nepal east to Southwest China, and South to Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Vietnam. The tree yields a fruit which has an abrasive seed but a fleshy pulp. The seed, called “Harda” is also used in Indian cooking. The plant is highly regarded in Ayurvedic and Tibetan medicines. T. chebula has been extensively used in traditional Indian medicine (Ayurveda, Siddha, and Unani) system. The Sanskrit name for T. chebula is “Haritaki” which has multiple meanings of taking away all diseases (harayet), of being green in natural color (harita) and of growing in the abode of Lord Shiva (Hara), the Himalayas. In Sanskrit, “Haritaki” is also known as “Abhaya” which refers to the “fearlessness,” as it provides in the face of the disease. It is considered to be a Rasayana (with literal meaning: Path [ayana] of the Juice [rasa], or Elixir vitae) and balances Tridoshas (loosely translated to three energetic forces in the body). Beneficial properties of T. chebula comprise Jwaraghna (treats fever), Kashaghna (treats cough and cold symptoms), Virechnopaga (reduces purgation), Vayasthapana (reduces the aging process), Grahi (treats diarrhea), Chakshushya (improves vision), Shulahara (reduces pain), Deepana (enhances stomach fire), Pachana (helps in digestion), Rochana (stimulates appetite), Arshohara (treats piles), Kusthahara (treats skin disease), and Shothahara (reduces inflammation).”The Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of India” mentions the following therapeutic uses of fruits of T. chebula: Arsa (piles), Aruci (loss of appetite), Gulma (abdominal glands), Hrdroga (heart disease), Jirnajvara (chronic fever), Visamajvara (irregular fever), Kasa (cough), Pandu (anemia), Prameha (diabetes), Sirorgoa (diseases above the neck), Sotha (inflammation), Tamaka Swasa (bronchial asthma), Vibandha (constipation), Udavarta (reverse movement of vata), Udararoga (diseases of the abdomen). In India, fruits are available in the market. They are conventionally used as a mild laxative and as an astringent against wounds and abscesses. In dental care, the dried powder is applied against stomatitis and against ulcers of the gum. The plant is used as an antidote against bites of snakes. Kadukkai is a local name of T. chebula used by tribal of Tamil Nadu in India, and they use it to cure several ailments such as fever, cough, diarrhea, gastroenteritis, skin diseases, candidiasis, urinary tract infection, and wound infections. In China, the drug is a remedy against a sore throat, cough, and diarrhea. In Tibet, the dried fruit is used against ulcers and dysentery.
Monograph/Pharmacopoeia details: M onograph of T. chebula is listed in “The Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of India” (Part-I and Volume-I) and also reported in various formulations in “The Unani Pharmacopoeia of India.” Fruit of T. chebula is part of “The Siddha Pharmacopoeia of India.” T. chebula fruit extract is also part of The Herbal Medicines Compendium, published by the U. S. Pharmacopeial Convention. The monograph prioritization committee of the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia has included T. chebula in their future priorities. EU Novel food catalog states that “according to information available, the use of fruit and bark of T. chebula is known in food supplements in the EU before May 15, 1997.”
A number of glycosides have been isolated from T. chebula, including the triterpenes arjunglucoside I, arjungenin, and chebulosides I and II.T. chebula fruit is generally known forits high contents of phenolic compounds, including phenolic acids, flavonoids, and tannins. The fruit is also reported for their high content of Vitamin C (ascorbic acid). The main compounds among tannins (hydrolyzable tannins) are chebulagic acid, chebulinic acid, corilagin, punicalagin, terchebulin, and terflavin A. Several phenolic acids, such as ellagic acid, gallic acid, hydroxycinnamic acids, and their derivatives, are also reported. Flavonoids from the fruits include quercetin and methylated derivatives of quercetin. Table 1 shows the chemical compounds and their derivatives of T. chebula.
Acute and rutinchronic toxicity results of T. chebula are given in Table 2 and showed its safety. In various clinical trials, T. chebula was found safe as well. In a clinical study at the Center for Applied Health Sciences (Stow, OH), a standardized aqueous extract of T. chebula fruit was tested with 105 healthy overweight men and women. Results suggested that T. chebula supplementation improved knee and overall joint health. All biomarkers of safety remained within normative limits during the study. In another study, a mechanical pain model was used to evaluate analgesic efficacy and safety of single dose (1000 mg) of T. chebula. Twelve healthy volunteers were randomized to take either a single dose of two capsules of T. chebula 500 mg each or identical placebo capsules in a double-blinded manner. Results revealed T. chebula considerably increased pain threshold and pain tolerance compared to placebo. Both the study medications were well tolerated. Efficacy and tolerability of aqueous extracts of T. chebula and Terminalia bellerica versus febuxostat and placebo on reduction in serum uric acid levels were tested in 110 eligible participants with hyperuricemia for 24 weeks. Of 110 eligible participants, only 88 participants completed 24 weeks of treatment. There was a highly significant reduction in mean serum uric acid levels after 24 weeks of treatment compared to baseline in all the four active treatment groups, i.e., T. chebula 500 mg, T. bellerica 500 mg, T. bellerica 250 mg, and febuxostat 40 mg (P < 0.001). All treatments were well tolerated. The wide spectrum of pharmacological, medicinal properties, and safety profile of T. chebula makes it one of the most versatile plants.
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