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Year : 2013  |  Volume : 34  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 331-334  

Haritaki (Chebulic myrobalan) and its varieties

1 Research Officer (Ayurveda), National Research Institute of Ayurvedic Drug Development, CCRAS, Department of AYUSH, Ministry of H and FW, Govt of India, 4 CN Block, Sector V, Bidhan Nagar, Kolkata, West Bengal, India
2 Research Officer in Charge (Botany) , National Research Institute of Ayurvedic Drug Development, CCRAS, Department of AYUSH, Ministry of H and FW, Govt of India, 4 CN Block, Sector V, Bidhan Nagar, Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Date of Web Publication17-Dec-2013

Correspondence Address:
Kshirod Kumar Ratha
Research Officer (Ay.), National Research Institute of Ayurvedic Drug Development, CCRAS, Department of AYUSH, Ministry of H and FW, Govt of India, 4 CN Block, Sector V, Bidhan Nagar, Kolkata - 700 091, West Bengal
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0974-8520.123139

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Haritaki (Terminalia chebula Retz., Family: Combretaceae) possesses a great therapeutic value and is widely distributed in India, up to an altitude of 1500 m. Though Terminalia chebula Retz is the only botanical source of Haritaki, the uses of its varieties along with their sources, identifying features and therapeutic uses are described in Ayurvedic classics and other medical literature. In the present study, a detailed review has been carried out on different varieties of Haritaki.

Keywords: Chebulic myrobalan , Haritaki, Terminalia chebula

How to cite this article:
Ratha KK, Joshi GC. Haritaki (Chebulic myrobalan) and its varieties. AYU 2013;34:331-4

How to cite this URL:
Ratha KK, Joshi GC. Haritaki (Chebulic myrobalan) and its varieties. AYU [serial online] 2013 [cited 2023 Jun 3];34:331-4. Available from: https://www.ayujournal.org/text.asp?2013/34/3/331/123139

   Introduction Top

Haritaki (Terminalia chebula Retz) is held in high esteem in Ayurveda for its properties to prevent and cure diseases. It has enjoyed the prime place among medicinal herbs in India since ancient times. It is called the 'King of Medicines' and is always listed first in Ayurveda because of its extraordinary therapeutic benifits.

Data on this medicinal plant is available in all Ayurvedic classics as well as in the Nighantus and works on the materia medica of Ayurveda. The details of the plant are also mentioned in Tibetan literature and various floras of medicinal plants. It is found throughout India up to an altitude of 1500 m. [1] Fruit rind is used as medicine and is one of the ingredients in Triphala (three myrobalans). This plant is used externally in wound healing, fungal infections, inflammations of the mucous membrane of the mouth, and internally as a rejuvenative, astringent, purgative, stomachic, and laxative. It is useful in asthma, piles, and cough. [2],[3]

In Ayurveda seven varieties of Haritaki fruits, namely, Vijaya, Rohini, Putana, Amrita, Abhaya, Jivanti, and Chetaki has been described.[4]

Ancient scholars have described its varieties along with its sources, identity features, and therapeutic uses. Many scholars have studied the pharmacological screening of the drug. However, Vaidya Bhagawan Dash [5] has only tried to correlate the variety of the plants in the context of Ayurveda and Tibetan medical science. Hence, a comprehensive study to discover collective data on the variety of haritaki (Chebulic myrobalan) mentioned in Ayurvedic as well as other literautures are carried out for botanical standardization.

   Materials and Methods Top

Information on the varieies of Haritaki was collected from all ancient literatures of Ayurveda and the lexicons of Medicinal plants (Nighantus), recent literature, journals, and information gathered from the internet. Comprehensive data was prepared after refrerring with the Herbarium of the Regional Research Institute of Himalayan Flora, Tarikhet, 'Acronym-RKT,' under the guidance of the taxonomist of the institute.

   Results Top

The following information has been gathered with regards to the variety of Haritaki (Chebulic myrobalan) on the basis of the review done.

Variety of Haritaki in different classics

In Ayurvedic literature the classification of Haritaki varies considerably. A statement providing information regarding the variety of Haritaki in different Ayurvedic texts and Nighantus is given in [Table 1]. [5],[6],[7],[8]
Table 1: Variety of Haritaki mentioned in the different classics of Ayurveda

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In Tibetan literature, according to Bdud-rtsi- snying-po, Haritaki is also classified into seven types. They are; (1) Rnam par rgyal ba (Vijaya), (2) Bum gyi mgrin (Kalasa Kantha), (3) Gso byed (Ayuh Vardhak), (4) Bdud-rtsi (Amrita), (5) Jigs med (Abhaya), (6) Phel Byed (Vriddhikari), and (7) Skam Po (Suska) [5]

In Hooker's flora of British India, apart from Terminalia chebula, six other varieties of T.chebula are mentioned: [9]

(i) Terminalia chebula Retz.(variety chebula proper): Fruits, one- to one-and-a-half inches, ellipsoidal or obovoid, from a broad base, more or less glabrous, and five-ribbed, are abundant in northern India at 1000 to 3000 ft

(ii) Terminalia chebula ( var. typica ) : They have a young ovary and are shaggy without calyx teeth. They are distributed in Deccan, Ceylon, and Burma

Terminalia chebula ( Var. citrina ): They have a young ovary, are quite glabrous, with ovate fruit, and a round base. It is common in northern India, from Kumaon to Bengal and in Chhota Nagpur

(iii) Terminalia chebula ( Var. ) : The fruits of these are much smaller than the other variety. Generally found in Bihar up to an altitude of 1000 ft

(iv) Terminalia chebula ( Var. tomentella Kurz .): They have a young ovary, are glabrous, fruit is ovoid, and hardly one inch in diameter

(v) Terminalia chebula ( Var. gangetica Roxb): They have fruits with brown silky hair, which covers the twigs. It may be a very good variety. The fruit is similar to that of chebula, distributed in Northwest India

(vi) Terminalia chebula ( Var. parviflora Thwaitos Enum.): They have fruits that are more acutely ribbed.

Two principal varieties recognized by Brandis are;

(a) Ordinary variety: They are the widely spread form, with young shoots, silky-tomentose, leaves are glabrous when fully grown, and the ovary and calyx outside are glabrous or hairy (described by Kurz T. chebula and T. tomentella Kurz.

(b) Tomentose form: Tomentose branchlets, leaves panicle, ovary and calyx densely and softly clothed with long silky hairs (Possibly T. gangetica). [10]

Identification of different varieties of Haritaki

The physical characteristics and therapeutic attributes of various types of Haritaki are described in the classical texts of Ayurveda, with a view to help in their identification.

According to the ancient lexicons of medicinal plants, Vijaya has the shape of a gourd, Rohini is round in shape, Putana contains a proportionately bigger stone, Amrita is fleshy, Abhaya contains five ridges, Jivanti is golden in color, and Chetaki has three ridges. [5]

In Brang-ti-pa, a Tibetan literature as quoted in Shel phreng, the variety Rnam par rgyal ba (Vijaya) is characterized by closed lips and a fine neck, Gser mdog (Knaka Varna) is of golden color, round shaped, and contains five or eight ridges (Wrinkles). Sa Chen (Mamsala) is fleshy. Bigs byed (Vindkya) is black and stoneless, and Snung (Suksma) has many wrinkles. [5]


Ayurvedic literature has revealed the habitat of Haritaki to be the Himalayas (sub-Himalayan tract). This has been considered as the main growing region for the plant (Haimavati). Although all the classics are not of unanimous opinion but majority of them have stated that Vijaya grows in the Vindhya Mountains, Chetaki and Putana grow in the Himalayas, Rohini grows in Sindh (Jhansi), Amrita and Abhaya in Champa (Madhya Pradesh), and Jivanti in Saurashtra. [11],[12]

Tibetan literature has stated that the origin of Vijaya is only from the Gandhamardana mountain range, whereas, Abhaya grows on the eastern side, Mamsala on the southern side, Suska on the northern side, and Rohini on the western side. [5]

Therapeutic attributes

Ayurvedic classics have vividly described the therapeutic effect of the different varieties of Haritaki. With regard to the effect, all the classics are not unanimous and the various effects stated are: Vijaya is given more importance as it is useful in all kinds of diseases, for both purificatory measures and preparation of malt (Avaleha)-based products, Rohini is useful in consumption and wounds, Putana is useful for external application, the Amrita variety is useful as a purgative, Abhaya is for eye disease, Jeevanti is medicine for oleation therapy, Kalika is effective in removing the foul smell of the ulcer, and Chetaki for purgation.

In Tibetan literature, the different parts of the Haritaki tree has been used for a special therapeutic purpose. The roots clear the diseases of the bone, the stem clears muscle diseases, the bark is useful for skin diseases, the branches are useful in vascular disorders, leaves are useful for visceral diseases, and the fruit for vital organs, including heart diseases. [5]

   Discussion Top

From the detailed review, it can be inferred that Haritaki (chebulic myrobalan) is an important plant used in Ayurveda as well as in other indigenous systems of medicine. It is one of the ingredients of the renowned formulation Triphala (Three myrobalans). The mythological origin of the plant represents the immortal nature of therapeutic attributes in the human body. In Ayurvedic and Tibetan literature, the classification of Haritaki varies considerably. However, in both systems, the total varieties of Haritaki accepted are seven.

In fact only two types (big and small) of Haritaki are available. The big variety, available everywhere and used in the preparation of Ayurvedic proprietary medicine, is the Vijaya variety, useful for both rejuvenation and purificatory purposes. The small variety (trade name − Jangi haritaki) is the Chetaki variety mentioned in the classics. These are immature, unripe, small, stoneless fruits used for purgative purpose.

Although the seven varieties of T.chebula are described by Hooker; only two varieties are found and the others are their sub-varieties, namely, Terminalia chebula var. chebula. The leaves and shoots are hairless or only hairy when very young, and in Terminalia chebula var. tomentella (Kurz) C.B.Clarke, the leaves and shoots are silvery to orange and hairy.

Botanically only two more species have been found, which are, Terminalia citrina Roxb in Assam and Bengal and T. pallida in South India, which yields another kind of Haritaki, used as a substitute and adulterant of Haritaki, respectively, in different regions.

In Ayurvedic literature, although the plant is mentioned in Brihatrayee (the three main lexicons of Ayurveda Charak-Susruta-Vagbhatt), its variety is not described by them. Nighantus have only stated the different varieties of Haritaki (i.e. Vijaya, Rohini, Putana, Amrita, Abhaya, Jivanti, and Chetaki), based on the region where the fruit is harvested, as well as the color and shape of the fruit. Furthermore, two varieties of Chetaki, namely, black and white, are described by Bhavamishra in Bhavaprakashnighantu. The Black Variety Chetaki, 'Krisnaatwekaangulamata' (Black chebulic myrobalan of only one fingerbreadth size) described by Bhavamishra may be compared with the black small-sized fruit of Haritaki (Jangi Haritaki/immature fruit of Haritaki) of the present time, which is available everywhere. 'Churnarthachetakisasthaa' told for manufacturing the powder form of medicine for laxative purpose, the Jangi Haritaki (Chetaki) is mainly used. The other variety (white) the Golden/Big variety, which is six-angula (six fingerbreadths) in length may be one of the variations of the large variety of Haritaki available in the market, which is used in the manufacture of preparations like, Abhayarishta, Agastyaharitakee, Vyaghriharitakee Avaleha, etc.

   Conclusions Top

Haritaki is an important and popular drug used by the practitioners of traditional medicine. In this article, an attempt has been made to review the relevant literature.

With regard to the exact botanical standardization of all the varieties of Haritaki, it is advisable to explore and collect the samples from all the regions of the country, along with the analysis of their active principles and screening of their pharmacological activities, on the basis of the properties mentioned in the Ayurvedic classics, before giving any conclusive remarks. However the botanical source of different varieties of Haritaki includes Terminalia chebula var. chebula, Terminalia chebula var. tomentella (Kurz) C.B.Clarke, Terminalia citrina Roxb. and T. pallida.

   Acknowledgment Top

The authors are thankful to the Director General, CCRAS, for the constant encouragement and the facilities provided.

   References Top

1.Chopra RN, Nayar SL, Chopra IC. Glossary of Indian medicinal plants. New Delhi: CSIR; 1956. p. 242.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Shastry JL. Dravyaguna vijnan (pt-2). Varanasi: Chaukhamba Orientalia; 2005. p. 209-15.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Cooke Theodore. Flora of Bombay (pt-1). Calcutta: Botanical Survey of India; 1967. p. 195-205.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Chunekar KC. Bhavaprakashnighantu. Varanasi: Chaukhamba Bharati Academy; 1999. p. 3.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Dash bhagawan, the drug terminalia chebula in ayurveda and Tibetian literature. Available from: http://www.thlib.org/static/reprints/kailash/kailash_04_01_01.pdf. [Last cited on 2012 Jan 21].  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Chunekar KC. Bhavaprakashnighantu. Varanasi: Chaukhamba Bharati Academy; 1999. p. 4-5  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Sharma PV, Sharma GP. Kaiyadevnighantu. 1 st ed. Varanasi: Chaukhamba Orientalia; 1979. p. 45.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Bapalal Vaidya. Nighantu Adarsa; Chaukhambha Vidyabhavan, I Edn, 1968. p. 551-4.  Back to cited text no. 8
9.Hooker JD. Flora of British India (pt-2).London: Oxford; 1854. p. 443-9.  Back to cited text no. 9
10.Brandis D. India Trees. Dehradun, India: Bishen Singh Mahendra Pal Singh; 1987. p. 308.  Back to cited text no. 10
11.Bhatt VJ. Rajanighantu by Narahari. Calcutta: Siddheshwar press; 1933. p. 287-8.  Back to cited text no. 11
12.Chunekar KC, Pandey GS, editors. Bhavaprakashnighantu. Varanasi: Chaukhamba Bharati Academy; 1999. p. 4-5.  Back to cited text no. 12


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