Amla-The Indian Gooseberry

Phyallanthus emblica (synonym –Emblica officinalis, Family Euphorbiaceae) is known to the world as Indian gooseberry.
The herb of Amala (or also Amalaki and Amla) is probably the most efficient herb in treating several diseases as described in Ayurvedic pharmacopeias such as Bhavprakasha Nighantu and Sharangdhara Samhita. The better known fact about the herb amalaki is its content of vitamin C (Ascorbic acid). The fruit of Indian gooseberry has approximately 700 mg of ascorbic acid [1], which is thirty times the amount a medium sized orange contains.


Though the all parts of Amala tree carry medicinal properties, it is the fruit that is referred to as the main drug. Charaka, the father of Indian medicine categorizes Indian gooseberry under the section of rasayana that helps in keeping away the manifestations of early ageing and debility due to various reasons.

The English name of amalaki, Indian gooseberry denotes that the herb is indigenous to India. The tree of amla is small to medium sized, reaching approximately 20-25 feet. The berries or fruits ripen in autumn and contain Lavanavarjit Pancha Rasa, five out of six total tastes (all tastes –sweet, pungent, astringent, bitter, sour but except salty) described in Ayurvedic text Charaka Samhita.

The fruit of Indian gooseberry
The fruit of amala is laxative, acrid, aphrodisiac, tonic, diuretic, cooling and trichogeneous (helps in growing healthy hair). In addition to its rich source of vitamin C, it also contains tannic acids, sugar, iron, calcium, proteins, phosphorus and carbohydrates. The fresh fruit (berry) juice of amala is given in dyspepsia, burning sensation in urine or body and other digestive disturbance. The essence of amala fruit is powerful diuretic and is given as general tonic and anti-bilious agent.

The fruit of Indian gooseberry is rich in antioxidants and hence is recommended for general maintenance of the body. Dried amla fruit powder is advised in case of hyperchlorhydria (hyper acidity), ulcerative colitis and various types of ulcers. Also, amla is one of the best blood purifiers as it calms down the pitta dosha (Bhavaprakasha Samhita).

Amala fruit properties

  1. It strengthens the body by expelling the body toxins and hence, improves the immunity.
  2. It is highly nutritious and used as tonic for enhancing vigor and vitality. Traditionally, the herbal fruit is used as anti-diarrheal and anti inflammatory agent [2].
  3. The fruit of amalaki possesses anti-plasmodial and cytotoxic activities and hence can be used in malarial fevers [3].
  4. A compound (1, 2, 4, 6-Tetra-O-galloyl-β-d-glucose) from Phyllanthus emblica L is likely to exert anti-Herpes Simplex Viral activity by deactivating extracellular viral particles and suppressing its biosynthesis in host cells [4].
  5. Experimental studies reveal that amlaki and some of its phytochemicals like gallic acid, elaeocarpusin, ellagic acid, some norsesquiterpenoids, pyrogallol, corilagin, geraniin, and prodelphinidins B1 and B2 possess anticancer properties [5].
  6. It has potent anti-diabetic properties. According to one research, Emblica officinalis powder can improve the levels of high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol simultaneously lower low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol [6].

Traditional use of Indian gooseberry
In India, the fruit of amalaki has been used in various therapies, treatments and cooking traditionally. This is due to its multiple health benefits including alleviating the pain as natural anti inflammatory agent [7]. Traditionally the fruits of Indian gooseberry have been used for food processing and also to prepare various types of chutneys, achaars and murabbas, especially in South India. In Andhra Pradesh, the state of South India, the people use berries to prepare the special Andhra daal (lentil dish). In other parts of India, amala is also used as mukhwas, the mouth freshener (the berries are soaked in either sugary syrup or sprinkled with rock salt and stored in air tight jar) to have after meals.

The amala pickle contains nutritious values and hence is consumed with main course of meals. Irrespective of the season where other pickles are not recommended (for example pickle of mustard in summers), the pickle of amala can be eaten without worrying about health.

The scientific reason of using Amala in food processing
An extensive screening of herbal extracts based on superoxide radical scavenging activities followed by characterization of antioxidant action was done in order to learn their anti oxidant properties as a whole. Various herbs were chosen for the experiment including Indian gooseberry, the amalaki. Among all, the amalaki fruit was one of the herbs that proved to be heat-resistant. The result revealed in research thus gives important information while choosing amalaki, the potent antioxidant as a foodstuff or food processing [8].

References:
1.     http://horticulture.kar.nic.in/APMAC_website_files/Amla2.htm

2.      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20506691

3.     http://www.academicjournals.org/AJPP/PDF/%20pdf2009/December/Soh%20et%20al.pdf

4.      http://library.umassmed.edu/ejournals_rss.cfm?id=4572

5.     http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21317655

6.      http://www.bioportfolio.com/resources/pmarticle/171089/Effect-Of-Amla-Fruit-emblica-Officinalis-Gaertn-On-Blood-Glucose-And-Lipid.html

7.      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20596897

8.   http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=emblica%20fruit%20heat%20resistance

Author: Dr Maulik Vyas

I am a holistic Doctor with 10 yr of experience in medical/health and wellness industry. Also, I am a professional content writer with 1000s of articles published across the web. I'm available for content writing, natural treatment consultancy, business ideas about healthcare/wellness industry. I am the proprietor of company named Mouls Incorporation.

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