Terminalia chebula (Aralu) : අරළු

Terminalia chebula (Aralu) : අරළු

Terminalia chebula, commonly known as Haritaki in Sanskrit, Aralu in Sinhala, and Myrobalan in English, is a deciduous tree that belongs to the Combretaceae family. It is native to South Asia and is widely distributed in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and other parts of Southeast Asia. The tree is highly valued in traditional medicine systems like Ayurveda, Siddha, and Unani for its numerous health benefits.

Botanical Description

  • Scientific Name: Terminalia chebula
  • Family: Combretaceae
  • Common Names: Aralu (Sinhala), Haritaki (Sanskrit), Myrobalan (English)
  • Habitat: This tree thrives in tropical and subtropical regions, often found in deciduous forests and along riverbanks.

The tree can grow up to 30 meters in height and has a characteristic rounded crown. The bark is dark brown and often fissured. The leaves are elliptical, dark green, and arranged oppositely. The tree produces small, yellowish-white flowers that are clustered in terminal spikes. The fruit, which is the primary part used for medicinal purposes, is a drupe, yellow to orange-brown when ripe, with a single seed inside.

Traditional Uses

Ayurveda and Siddha Medicine:

  • Digestive Health: Aralu is known for its mild laxative properties, making it beneficial for treating constipation and promoting regular bowel movements.
  • Detoxification: It is considered a powerful detoxifying agent that helps cleanse the digestive system and eliminate toxins from the body.
  • Respiratory Health: Used to treat respiratory conditions like cough, asthma, and sore throat.
  • Immune System: Regular consumption is believed to boost the immune system, helping the body resist infections.
  • Anti-inflammatory: Aralu has anti-inflammatory properties that can help alleviate conditions like arthritis and other inflammatory disorders.
  • Skin Health: Applied topically, it can help treat skin conditions such as wounds, ulcers, and fungal infections.

Modern Medicinal Research

Modern research has corroborated many of the traditional uses of Terminalia chebula. Some key findings include:

  • Antioxidant Properties: The fruit is rich in tannins and other phenolic compounds, which have strong antioxidant properties, protecting cells from oxidative stress.
  • Antimicrobial Activity: Studies have shown that extracts from the fruit have significant antimicrobial activity against a range of bacteria, fungi, and viruses.
  • Anti-diabetic Effects: There is evidence that Aralu can help regulate blood sugar levels, making it potentially useful in managing diabetes.
  • Cardiovascular Health: Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties may help protect against heart disease by reducing cholesterol levels and improving vascular function.

Culinary Uses

In addition to its medicinal uses, Aralu is sometimes used in culinary practices:

  • Preservatives: The fruit's high tannin content makes it an effective natural preservative.
  • Herbal Teas: Aralu is often used in herbal tea blends, valued for its health-promoting properties.

Environmental and Cultural Significance

Terminalia chebula plays a significant role in the ecosystems where it is found. Its fruits are a food source for various wildlife species, and the tree itself helps in maintaining soil stability due to its extensive root system. Culturally, it holds a place of reverence in many South Asian traditions, often associated with longevity and health.


Terminalia chebula, or Aralu, is a remarkable tree with a multitude of health benefits backed by both traditional wisdom and modern science. Whether used in traditional medicine, modern pharmacology, or even in everyday wellness practices, it continues to be a valuable resource for promoting health and well-being.

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