Amla, commonly known as Indian Gooseberry, or to give it it’s scientific name Emblica officinalis is a wild fruit that grows abundantly in the vast deciduous forests of the Indian subcontinent. It is a sour tasting fruit, best known for it’s exceptionally rich vitamin C content, and has been a mainstay of traditional Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years.
Such is the importance of the Amla fruit in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, that the Amla Tree (Phyllanthus emblica) is widely considered to be sacred. This Tree can grow up to 18 metres in height, but the fruit is always hand harvested as a mark of respect for it’s numerous health-giving properties.
Amla is also used in Triphala as one of three primary ingredients. Triphala is a traditional ayurvedic formula used primarily to improve digestion and regularity.
The Health Benefits
Amla is most well-known for being one of the richest sources of vitamin C on the planet. 100 grams of fresh Amla provides approximately 680mg of vitamin C – over twenty times higher than the content of an orange. Both the bark and the leaves of the tree it grows on are also rich in vitamin C.
Many of the health benefits of Amla are thought to lie in the rich concentration of tannins – large antioxidant structures that act synergistically with the vitamin C, improving it’s absorption and utilisation by the body.
Amla in Ayurveda
According to the science of Ayurveda, Amla can be used to pacify all three doshas – vata, pita, and kapha – and as such, is used in numerous treatments and remedies. In Sanskrit it is referred to as Sarvadosha Hara, meaning “to remove all diseases.” Traditional uses of the Amla fruit include:
- Treatment of coughs, colds and sore throats: Traditionally, the dried fruit powder is combined with raw honey and taken as a remedy for coughs, colds and sore throats. A citrus fruit, such as lemon or lime, is sometimes added to this mix. Amla is thought to have anti-viral and antiseptic properties, which help to eliminate cold causing bacteria.
- Mouth ulcers: Amla is often prescribed to those who suffer frequently with mouth ulcers, or other signs of vitamin C deficiency. It is either taken as a juice, or used topically directly on the affected area.
- Urinary tract infections: Juice from the fruit is sometimes given to help clear up urine infections, as it is thought to help remove toxins from the urinary tract.
- Diabetes: Amla juice is combined with Karela (bitter gourd) juice and given to diabetics to stimulate the pancreas and help regulate blood sugar levels. Patients using this formula to treat diabetes are often instructed to drink a cup 20 minutes before a meal.
- Digestion: Amla fruit is often given as a remedy to those with troublesome digestion, particularly if the patient is suffering from excess stomach acids. Amla fruit has a cooling effect on the digestive system which helps to balance stomach acids, and is also rich in soluble fibre to promote regularity.
- Hair Care: Amla Oil is often found in traditional hair care products, as it is thought to improve hair growth and pigmentation. Interestingly, preliminary research has indicated that Amla can exhibit a hair growth promoting effect stronger than that of Minoxidyl, an over the counter pharmaceutical medication often prescribed for hair loss1. However, further research is needed to support this claim.
Human studies on Amla have been very limited up until this point, however there is initial evidence to back-up the theory that Amla can help in the management of blood sugar. Preliminary evidence has suggested that 3g of the fruit is as effective as 5mg glibenclamide, an anti-diabetic prescription medication. The same study also indicates that Amla may reduce overall cholesterol and Triglycerides – although again, further research is needed.
In Vitro studies on Amla have shown it to exhibit potential anti-cancer compounds.
- In a study on drosophila flies, feed containing amla increased their lifespan from 42 days to almost 77 (though there was a large variation in the increase in lifespan). Fertility in the flies was also increased.
- Studies on mice have shown amla to:
- Excert antioxidant protective effects in brain cells.
- Demonste an increase in memory and learning to a similar degree to Piracetam (A cognitive boosting medication).
- Exhibit antidepressant effects.
- In rats has reduced cholesterol and triglycerides.