Phyllanthus emblica (or Emblica officinalis) /Emblic myrobalan/Indian gooseberry also known as Amalaki or Amla in common language, belongs to the wide family of Phyllanthaceae. Not only the fruit, but also the nut (seed), leaves, bark and flowers of the wondrous plant are being used.
A look at its history…
An ancient Seer, Chyavan, was rejuvenated by Ashwinikumar by a preparation, chiefly containing fruits of Amla. Since then, Amalaki is used as a traditional household plant in India. On Amalaki Ekadashi day the Amla tree is worshipped. It is believed that Hari himself resides in this tree. This day also marks the beginning of Holi festival. Amalaki Ekadashi is observed during the waxing phase of the moon in Phagun month (February – March). An interesting story was once narrated by Sage Vasishta and is found in the Brahmanda Purana. People who observe a fast on this day listen to a recital of Amalaki Ekadasi Vrat Katha during the fast.
Biochemistry of the fruit…
Amla contains bioflavones, flavones, polyphenols, flavonoids, carotenoids. The major constituents in the fruit are-gallic acid, ellagic acid, phyllemblic acid and emblicol and the minor ones are-alkaloids viz., phyllantidine and phyllantine: pectin and minerals. It is the richest source of Vitamin C. 10g of fresh fruit contains 600-900mg of Vitamin C. We can also say that, the amount of Vitamin C present in a mid-sized amla is four times an orange and eight times the amount found in a tomato. According to the recent findings, fruits lose Vitamin C more rapidly when dried in the sun than in the shade.
Useful Ayurvedic Attributes…
Rasa: All rasas present except Lavana
Karma: Rasayana, Pramehaghna, Shukrala, Deepana, Keshya, Medhya, Chakshushya, Anulomana
Importance in Ayurveda…
The Indian Gooseberry has been given a very important place in Ayurveda. In ancient India it was believed that Amrit / Ambrosia (heavenly nectar) contained all rasas thereby, it could impart immortality. In that sense Amalaki and Hareetaki stand next to Amrit since they exhibit five rasas. In Ayurveda, the amla fruit by itself is considered a rasayana for pitta.
It has been mentioned in the Charaka Samhita that of all the rasayanas (ayurvedic formulations revered for their positive influence on the physiology) Amalaki is considered one of the most potent and nourishing. The Charaka Samhita says, "Amalaki is the best among rejuvenative herbs." Charaka specifically mentioned that it is a great rasayana that helps protect people from disease and keeps away the manifestations of premature ageing.
Properties as many as vibrant colors of Amla…
Amalaki is effective in the treatment of amlapitta (peptic ulcer) and in dyspepsia. The fruits show anti-atherosclerotic effects in rabbits and rats. The fruit extract has anti-mutagenic activity on certain directly acting mutagens in some strains of Salmonella typhimurium. It also has antimicrobial activity. It is considered as a strong antioxidant may be due to presence of high levels of super oxide dismutase. It improves appetite and taste, curative, antacid, biliousness. Small dose causes constipation while large dose is laxative.
Use it as…
1. Phyllanthus emblica is commonly used as a tonic especially in winter season in India.
2. The leaf is used in conjunctivitis, bronchitis and leucorrhoea.
3. Amlaka Rasayana is useful in both acid-peptic ulcer and non-ulcer dyspepsia.
4. The dried fruit powder is applied to hair and skin for increasing the hair growth and lustre.
5. It is also one of the ingredients of the most famous ayurvedic preparation-Triphala.
6. Amla is a chief ingredient in the Chyavanprash, one of the flagship formulae described in Ayurvedic text.
7. It is used for Satmimakran as Rasayani (Chyavanprashadi kalp-Charaka)
In short, this fruit can be consumed any time in any relation to food without the fear of vitiation of the Dosha.
How much of it should be taken?
Cecotion: 5g boiled in 80ml water till 20ml left (twice daily after meals)
Contributions in Foods and Nutraceuticals (use in Nutraceuticals)
Amla is a fruit, which is since ages, used as a pickle in traditional households. Many nutraceutical products are being researched and manufactured by various successful nutra companies like Himalaya, Amway, etc. These products may be used as a preventative agent or a curative agent. Due to the emerging spread of various infections, the need of production of Amla supplements seems to be in need. Amalaki is a natural fruit and hence being a dietary product, large doses are harmless.
From the Grandma’s pouch…
Since amla has various therapeutic properties it is been used on a regular basis in each Indian home. Freshly prepared amla juice, was and is being used in every home in India and also in foreign countries. Amla is been cut into small pieces and pickled with salt and turmeric (haldi) and is given to the children of the house, each day.
Is there a Room for further research?
Very less research is being done, till date on this wondrous fruit. There is definitely a lot of room for further R&D. Amla concentrates can be prepared and used in various food preparations for incorporating high vitamin C content in foods. Amla juice could be blended with coconut water and consumed on a regular basis. Coconut itself being a great nutraceutical with various properties, the added amla may enhance its properties furthermore. Amla juice could also be mixed with aloe vera juice. This mixture added to coconut juice can prove beneficial. Such different permutations and combinations should be tried, studied and researched. But to prove the benefits of the above, stringent R&D needs to be done.
So we can conclude saying…
"Nutraceuticals in Ayurveda" is a new and an emerging, advanced modern world, concept in the present, and the upcoming new era, in which the population is more conscious for "what" they eat and not "how much" they eat. In this era, use of nutraceuticals is going to be more of a preventative measure than curative one. Hence, amla should not be only considered as a fruit, but more of a nutraceutical. Consuming amla daily will help to suppress the bad harmful effects of the present day eating habits and the lifestyle of junk eating!
Glossary of the words:
Anuloma- one of the sub-type of laxative property.
Chakshushya- beneficial to eyes.
Deepana- stimulation to digestive functions.
Dosha- the three humours of the body namely vatta, pitta and kapha which vitiate the dhatus.
Karma- drug action, biodynamic effect of drug.
Laghu- light ; easy to digest
Medhya- causing or generating intelligence, mental vigour or power.
Rasa- juice of any medicine.
Shukrala- semen promoter and spermatogenic.
Tridosha- three doshas-vatta,pitta,kapha.
Vipaka- post digestion metabolic state.
1. Vaidya VM Gogte. Ayurvedic Pharmacology and Therapeutic Uses Of Medicinal Plants. Bhavan’s Book University;2000.
2. Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s Swami Prakashnanada Ayurveda Research Centre. Selected Medicinal Plants of India. Chemexcil; 1992; pg-231-234.
3. Indian Drug Manufacturers Association Mumbai. Indian Herbal Pharmacopoeia;2002.pg-214-222.
About the author
Nidhi Shukla, Research Fellow, Kasturba Health Society - Medical Research Centre (MRC-KHS), ICMR Advanced Centre of Reverse Pharmacology in Traditional Medicines. She completed her graduation in Microbiology and Post graduation at Guru Khalsa College of Arts, Science and Commerce, Kings Circle, Mumbai. Her project topic thesis in nutraceuticals was ‘Preparation of calcium supplements using eggshells’. Her area of interest is working on cell lines and she is currently working in the same area at MRC-KHS.