Research Highlight

Ayurvedic formulation fights radiation

doi:10.1038/nindia.2017.3 Published online 12 January 2017

Triphala, the popular ‘three herbs’ formulation of India’s Ayurvedic system of medicine, provides protective effect against X-ray radiation, a joint study by Japanese and Bangladeshi researchers has found1.

The researchers fed triphala to mice for three weeks and exposed them to X-ray radiation (6.4 Gray). More than 80% of the mice not treated with triphala died but 50% of those treated survived. In a separate in vitro experiment, the researchers found that HeLa cells – a type of cultured human cells – treated with triphala had a higher survival rate than untreated cells when exposed to X-rays.

Triphala is known as a bowel tonic, and as a formulation supporting healthy respiratory, cardiovascular, urinary, and nervous systems. But the chemicals responsible for its beneficial effects are largely unidentified due to a lack of suitable assay systems. The researchers used a simple bio-assay system with human cells to understand the molecular basis for the beneficial effects of triphala and to identify the useful chemicals in its constituent herbs.

It is likely that the antioxidant activity of triphala plays a role in its protective actions against X-ray radiation, the researchers say. Marthandan Valiathan, who heads India’s task force on Ayurvedic biology, said attempts to isolate the effective compounds of triphala have remained a challenge.


1. Takauji, Y. et al. Triphala, a formulation of traditional Ayurvedic medicine, shows protective effect against X-radiation in HeLa cells. J. Biosci. (2016) doi: 10.1007/s12038-016-9639-4