Amla, also known as Phyllanthus emblica, Emblica officinalis, and Indian gooseberry, has been revered in the ancient Ayurvedic system of medicine for thousands of years and is possibly one of the most important plants in the Indian school of medicine’s healing pantheon.
The berries of the plant offer a vast range of nutrients that help maintain optimal health and guard against illness. Among the ranks stand vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B1, B5, and B6, and minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, copper, phosphorous, manganese, zinc, and selenium.
The fruit is used either individually or in combination in herbal preparations to prevent and treat many ailments from cancer to the common cold. It’s used as an anti-inflammatory and fever-reducing agent, and supports liver and digestive function thanks to its diuretic, laxative, and restorative properties.
A paper authored by researchers from the Father Muller Medical College in India entitled “Amla (Emblica officinalis Gaertn), a wonder berry in the treatment and prevention of cancer” states that, “Preclinical studies have shown that amla possesses antipyretic, analgesic, antitussive, antiatherogenic, adaptogenic, cardioprotective, gastroprotective, antianemia, antihypercholesterolemia, hepaprotective, nephroprotective, and neuroprotective properties.”
The researchers note that amla may contribute to the treatment and prevention of cancer due to the berry’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory potential and its ability therefore to protect against the harmful effects of chemotherapy and radiation. Further mention is also made of amla’s tumor-busting phytochemical content, which includes “gallic acid, ellagic acid, pyrogallol, some norsesquiterpenoids, corilagin, geraniin, elaeocarpusin, and prodelphinidins B1 and B2” — all of which may inhibit and/or prevent the growth and spread of tumors and cancerous cells.
Free Radical Protection
Free radicals are produced either as a byproduct of cell metabolism or as a result of exposure to external factors such as pollution and radiation. When these compounds build up within the body they create a situation known as oxidative stress, which is a major contributor to many chronic and degenerative ailments such as cancer and autoimmune disorders. They’re also a major factor in the aging process itself.
Many studies have explored the free radical scavenging ability of amla. On such study, summarized in an article published by BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine, tested in vitro amla extract against a host of free radical compounds including superoxide, nitric oxide, and hydrogen peroxide, among others. After a course of tests, the researches determined that amla extracts were a potent and effective source of natural antioxidants.
Amla also displayed its potent ability to protect against free radicals in a study published in Plant Foods for Human Nutrition. The super-food was chosen out of approximately a thousand different kinds of herbal extracts as being one of the four most effective at scavenging the damaging molecules.
Another study, published in the Journal of Cosmetic Science, found amla extract to be highly effective at protecting the skin against ultraviolet-B (UVB) irradiation-induced collagen damage.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body cannot produce sufficient insulin, or when the insulin that the body produces does not work accordingly. Diabetes is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, where a massive 9.3 percent of the population have the disease. However, amla may offer a natural alternative for those who are currently dependent upon prescription medication to tame their condition.
Research conduced by the Department of Pharmacy at the University of Sargodha in Pakistan, which was published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, explored the anti-hyperglycemic and lipid-lowering properties of amla in normal and diabetic human volunteers. The results showed a large decrease in blood glucose levels both in the normal and diabetic volunteers who had been given between 1 and 3 g of amla berry powder each day. Large decreases in cholesterol and triglycerides were also observed in both the normal and diabetic volunteers who had consumed at least 2 g of the powder per day. In addition, the diabetic volunteers who’d been given a 3 g dose of the powder per day also saw a decrease in lipids by the end of the study.
The study abstract reports that: “The present study evaluated the anti-hyperglycemic and lipid-lowering properties of Emblica officinalis Gaertn fruit in normal and diabetic human volunteers. The results indicated a significant decrease (P < 0.05) in fasting and 2-h post-prandial blood glucose levels on the 21st day in both normal and diabetic subjects receiving 1, 2 or 3 g E. officinalis powder per day as compared with their baseline values. Significant (P < 0.05) decreases were also observed in total cholesterol and triglycerides in both normal and diabetic volunteers on day 21 that were given either 2 or 3 g E. officinalis powder per day. However, diabetic volunteers receiving only 3 g E. officinalis powder exhibited a significant (P < 0.05) decrease in total lipids on day 21. Both normal and diabetic volunteers receiving 2 or 3 g E. officinalis powder significantly (P < 0.05) improved high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol and lowered low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol levels.”
Amla can serve as a key plant ally as the autumnal months start to unfold. The changes in the seasons often come hand in hand with coughs, colds, and flu symptoms. Amla contains large quantities of vitamin C, which is known to boost our immune systems. Just one cup (150 g) of the berry contains a staggering 69 percent of the recommended daily intake of the nutrient.
Vitamin C has been found to be effective at preventing the onset of the common cold and may reduce the duration of the illness. Certain cells that make up the immune system require vitamin C to perform their tasks, such as T-cells that play a central role in cell-mediated immunity.
Cholesterol And Atherosclerosis
Within the Ayurvedic system, amla is reported to be effective in the treatment of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. A research paper, published by the Indian Journal of Pharmacology, documents a study that aimed to analyze the efficacy of amla in patients with type 2 hyperlipidemia. Hyperlipidemia is a large risk factor for the development of atherosclerosis (accumulation of plaque in the arteries) and also has a strong association with coronary artery disease. The authors state that amla produced a significant hypolipidemic effect along with a reduction in blood pressure.
They explain, “There is immense potential for medicinal plants used in various traditional systems. Among the several herbs, Emblica officinalis (Amlaor Indian gooseberry) is one of the herbs described to possess multiple therapeutic activities. Its use has been described in Ayurveda and Unani medicines. Mostly, all parts of E. officinalis are used in clinical practice: e.g, root bark in stomach ulcer; bark in gonorrhea, jaundice, and diarrhea; leaves in conjunctivitis and inflammation; fruits as digestive, laxative, and antipyretics. In addition, it has been shown to reduce cholesterol level in experimental animals and in clinical studies.”
Further evidence has emerged from the Toyama Medical and Pharmaceutical University in Japan, where scientists tested amla on animals. The researchers were studying the effects of amla on low-density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation and cholesterol levels. They found the oxidized LDL level in serum was significantly decreased in animals administered amla. Because LDL is crucial for delivering cholesterol to cells, which is vital for the production of vitamin D and steroid hormones, it is paramount that it remains intact, and amla offers a protective mechanism for this. Such results suggest that amla may be effective for hypercholesterolemia and the prevention of atherosclerosis.
How To Take Amla
Amla is available in various different forms such as dried berries or powder (within or without capsules). The dried berries can be used to brew healing and immune boosting teas and beverages, whereas the powder can be swallowed in capsules or blended with fruit smoothies. Fresh amla berries can be juiced to provide a nutrient-dense shot.
Amla is also commonly found within the traditional Ayurvedic formula known as triphala, or three fruits, where it is accompanied by powder made from vibhitaki and haritaki fruits.
Examine.com states that, “Unless otherwise specified, most benefits associated with Emblica officinalis are from the fruits of the plant. The fruits themselves (dry weight) or their powder are taken in the dosage range of 1-3g daily with the higher part of this range being seen as more effective.“