I'm waiting for the moment Triphala becomes an official "super food". I really hope that doesn't happen because although they have a saying in India - if you don't have mother, take Triphala - meaning that Triphala looks after you as a mother would, this idea of mindlessness around taking super foods without checking in to see whether your body needs or wants it, seems counter intuitive.
Triphala has 5 of the 6 tastes - except salty. It is known for assisting with weight loss, eye infections,clearing the lungs from mucousy congestion and detoxifying the skin. But it is mostly known and becoming quite popular with clearing and rejuvenating the colon..
Although it is prescribed for constipation, I would consider that it's not as much a laxative as it is a tonic for the bowels helping them to function better so you don't get constipation in the first place. You won't necessarily feel a powerful purge with Triphala as you would with senna or castor oil, but if you take it over time it will give your bowels strength as well as helping with the downward energy of Vata. When Vata goes in the wrong direction, it can cause things from GERD to hiccups to neck pain to a hiatal hernia. Since Vata is responsible for the movement of our body, it's especially important her movements go the way as nature intended.
Another thing of note when it comes to Triphala is that Vata does not move when it's dry, it constricts the channels and causes stagnation. Depending on where the Triphala is sourced, it can be more astringent than others, and also depending on when it's taken, such as a dry climate, it can actually have the reverse effect.
Traditionally to work as an aperient it is taken at night, usually 1-2 caps or 1/2 tspn steeped as a tea unless otherwise advised from your Ayurvedic practitioner. Some clients, and including myself, have been fine taking Triphala over the Summer when there was enough heat to open the channels to find when the cold hit, the exit channels also seemed to shut up shop.
I have been getting around this by taking 1/2 cup of hot milk with a teaspoon of ghee at night. That of itself can help with a mild constipation, if it is due to a lack of lubrication. I like to take triphala because of it's nurturing effect so it does me well to take both.
Another way is as a kashayam. You steep the triphala powder in water overnight, drink the water in the morning (not the sediment), fill with more water and do the same in the evening. Then discard the sediment and start again. This is a much gentler way to take in the goodness.
And I have been referencing Vata constipation. If it relates to Kapha, then the reason may be different. It is always worthwhile to check in with a practitioner to understand the symptoms of the whole system so you can use herbs wisely. Triphala or any herb, is only as good as the diagnosis it matches and even though Triphala is considered a tonic, it still must be used within the right protocols and the body given a break now and then to reset itself.