By: Nutrition expert- Vidula Kozarekar, Mumbai.
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Emblica officinalis Gaetrn (Phyllanthus emblica), commonly known as Indian gooseberry or Amla, is an edible fruit which is borne on a deciduous tree of the same name. All parts of the Emblica officinalis (EO) tree i.e., fruits, bark, leaves, seeds, flowers, and roots are known to have medicinal properties. EO is native to the tropical and subtropical regions of Southeast Asia including India, China, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Mascarene Island. EO is a vital medicinal plant in Ayurveda which is the ancient holistic system of medicine practiced in the Indian subcontinent (1).
Several health rejuvenating Ayurvedic formulations have been prepared using EO fruit as a primary ingredient (2). It has traditionally been used for different medicinal purposes including: rheumatic pains, gonorrhoea, asthma, haemorrhage, jaundice, dyspepsia, nausea, constipation, diarrhoea, eye disease, brain health, intestinal ailments, diabetes mellitus, coronary heart diseases, and various cancers (3), (4).
Modern science has shown Amla to have hypoglycaemic, anti-inflammatory, anti-hyperglycaemic, anti-hyperlipidemic, and antioxidant properties in animal and human studies (5), (6), (7).
It is a plant that is used in its entirety and so presents the herbalist with excellent value for money! The ripe fruits are generally used fresh, but dried fruit are also used. The green fruit is described as being exceedingly acidic. The dried fruit is sour and astringent. The flowers are cooling and aperient. The bark is astringent. There are two forms of Amla, the wild one with smaller fruits and the cultivated form sometimes called “Banarsi” with larger fruits.
Nutritional Value of Amla (15)
- Raw Amla provides 600 milligram Vitamin C per 100 gram.
- Pressed juice provides 920 milligram / 100ml.
- Dehydrated Amla provides 2500 to 3500 milligram Vitamin C per 100 gram.
- Dried and powdered Amla provides 1800 to 2600 milligram Vitamin C per 100 gm.
Pharmacological importance of Amla:
- Potent Antioxidant
Due to its high Vitamin C content which on an average is ~600 mg/100 g, EO is well-known as an immunity boosting food. In addition to vitamin C, EO is a rich source of antioxidants, including polyphenols, which confer EO its free radical scavenging potential (8).
Substantive evidence validates the antioxidant and cytoprotective properties of EO in several disease models including Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cardiac diseases, inflammatory disorders, hepatic diseases, atherosclerosis, cancer, and pulmonary fibrosis (9), (10), (11), (12), (13), (14).
- Anti-hyperlipidemic activity
Amla contains high amounts of vitamin C in the natural form as well as cytokine-like substances identified as zeatin, Z-riboside, Z-nucleotide, flavonoids pectin, and 30% tannins. Tannins present in Amla retard the oxidation of vitamin C, while pectin has been reported to decrease serum cholesterol levels in human beings. The flavonoid content of Amla was analyzed for its biological activity and found to possess a potent hypolipidemic effect (15).
- Antidiabetic activity
Many recent studies reported in the literature have shown that Amla can effectively reduce the glucose level in blood by inhibiting gluconeogenesis and glycogenolysis (16).
- Anticancer activity
It has potent free radical scavenging activities that might prevent reactive oxygen species induced DNA damage and oncogenesis. Amla extracts have anti-inflammatory activities that might prevent inflammation related cancers (17).
- Antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral
Medical studies conducted on Amla fruit suggest that it has antiviral properties and also functions as an antibacterial and antifungal agent (18), (19).
Amla powder is mixed with red sandalwood (Pterocarpus santalinum) and prepared in honey to relieve nausea and vomiting. One tola (a unit of weight used in India, equal to the weight of one silver rupee 11.7 grams or 180 troy grains) of the seeds soaked in a tinned vessel during the night, and ground next morning, with cow’s milk and taken in 7 tolas or 1/4 seer of milk (one seer in India was 0.9331 kg) is a good remedy for biliousness. Another remedy for this condition is to take the fruit which is often dried and used as a medicine and can also be used cooked, preserved and used in pickles, or made into confection (18).
Amla are nutritious, low-calorie fruits that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They are a wonderful, healthy fruit to include in your diet as a snack or flavourful addition to meals.
- Treadway Linda (1994) HerbalGram, (31), 26.
- Udupa K.N. (1985) Journal of Ayurveda, 3.