What Is Amla?
Amla is fruit and is one of the three ingredients in the famous ayurvedic formulation triphala which itself indicates its medical importance. Here in Tamilnadu, we call it nellikai and is widely consumed for it’s medicinal uses. Amla tree is medium in size with small leaves set closely together. Here in our home, my mother used to always advise us to consume amla regularly.
Amla has an astringent taste but once we swallow, it leaves a sweet taste in the mouth. There is a famous saying in Tamil about the taste of amla that goes like this “முன்னே கசக்கும் பின்னே இனிக்கும்” which means that every hard work is bitter in the starting but the results will be sweet just like amla. Amla stores well and here in Tamil Nadu we get different variety of amla pickles and amla soaked in honey is also quite famous.
Amla Botanical & Common Names
The botanical name of Amla is Emblica officinalis or Phylanthus emblica linn. It is called Indian gooseberry in English, Nellikai in Tamil, Amla in Hindi, Nellika in Malayalam, Usiri in Telugu, Nellikkai in Kannada, Amlaki in Bengali and Amla in Punjabi and Gujarati.
100 grams of amla contains around 44 calories, .8 grams protein, .5 grams fat, 10.2 grams of carbohydrates, 4.3 grams of fibre and .31 mg of iron, 25 mg of calcium, 10 mg of magnesium, 27 mg of phosphorus, 198 mg of potassium, .12 mg of zinc, .07 mg of copper, .144 mg of manganese and 27 mg of vitamin C.
10 Top Medicinal Uses Of Amla
Apart from the medicinal uses mentioned below, it also has antipyretic (treats fever), anti inflammatory, antioxidant, analgesic(reduces pain) and hepatoprotective properties.
1. Anticancer Properties
The anticancer property of amla is due to the presence of of polyphenols especially tannins and flavonoids. Ellagic acid (tannin) present in amla is effective against colon, prostate and breast cancer cell lines. Corilagen (tannin) is effective against ovarian and liver cancers and also hepatocarcinoma.
Pyrogallol (tannin) is effective against lung and gastric cancer cell lines. Chebulagic acid (tannin) is effective against breast, prostate, leukaemia and colon cancer cell lines. Gallic acid (tannin) is effective against breast and lung cancer cell lines. Quercetin, a flavonoid present in amla is effective against numerous cancer cell lines.
2. Amla Metabolic Diseases
High blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol are considered metabolic diseases and consuming amla regularly helps with all these three diseases. In a study, patients who were given 1 to 3 grams of amla powder per day observed reduction in blood glucose and cholesterol levels after 21 days compared to the people who did not receive amla powder.
Amla also helps reduce blood pressure and here is a study supporting this claim. Along with reducing elevated blood pressure and cholesterol levels, it also improves insulin resistance caused due to high fructose diet.
3. Gastroprotective Properties
Traditionally amla juice has been used for treating various stomach ailments including ulcer and diarrhoea. It has a protective effect and helps heal stomach wounds very very effectively. If you are suffering from ulcer, consume a cup of amla juice on a regular basis. We also use amla for treating indigestion and it is very very effective, just chew on a fresh amla as often as you can to improve digestive health.
4. Treats Neurological Disorders
Neurological disorders like depression, epilepsy and stress and neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dementia and huntington’s disease affect lot of people around the world. Amla with its high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties has a protective effect on our brain and helps prevent all neurological disorders. Amla also helps improve memory and can be a very excellent alternative therapy for Alzheimer’s disease.
5. Prevents Kidney Stones
Chebulinic acid, chebulagic acid, gallic acid, ellagic acid and quercetin present in amla helps prevent the formation of kidney stones. Amla also has a protective effect on our kidneys, several studies show that amla has a protective effect and prevents kidney damage, age related kidney dysfunction and also normalises kidney function. This is due to the high amount of antioxidants present in amla.
6. Antimicrobial Properties
Amla has powerful antimicrobial properties and is effective against various bacterial strains, viruses and plasmodium. It is also a powerful anticaries agent, it is effective against Streptococcus mutans and Lactobacillus which cause dental caries. An interesting study was done on the effect of chewing amla based gum on oral microbiome, there was increase in salivary flow rate and reduction in total bacterial count after 75 to 80 minutes.
7. Snake Venom Neutralization
Another very interesting use of amla is its anti snake venom activity. The plant extract is effective against Vipera russelli and Naja kaouthia venoms. Here in our village, we used to have snake bites (but now it is greatly reduced) and herbs were used as a first aid always as it takes some time to reach the neighbouring town. It is very important to us to get to know effective anti venom ingredients like amla that are easily available to us.
8. Treats Anaemia
Traditionally amla has been used for treating anaemia. In our village, people who are anemic are given amla soaked in honey everyday. This traditional use has been proven through research too. A study was done on 302 women who were divided into four groups. The group that were given 20 ml of gooseberry juice three times a week improved their hemoglobin levels almost to the level of the group that took iron tablets! Many Indian women suffer from anemia and consuming just 2 tbsp of amla juice weekly thrice can be done by everyone as it is very cheap and without any side effects.
9. For Skin Care
Amla has antibacterial and wound healing properties making it effective for treating various skin problems. It promotes procollagen production and also inhibits UVB induced photoageing in human skin. Not only topical application but oral consumption of amla juice also improves skin conditions like skin elasticity, skin thickness, stratum corneum water content and wrinkle around eyes. We add amla powder to bath powder recipes and it is very effective in treating many skin problems.
10. For Hair Care
Amla is a very very popular hair care ingredient as it stimulates hair growth and protects against hair loss. The nutrients vitamin C, phosphorus, calcium and iron present in amla enhances hair growth and more importantly it inhibits 5-alpha reductase enzyme which converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone which is the reason for androgenic alopecia. We use amla in the form of hair packs, hair serums and hair oils for promoting hair growth.
Usually one to two amla per day will be good. If you are taking amla powder, start with half teaspoon a day and increase the dosage once your body gets used to it. If you are taking amla tablets, follow the instructions given in the bottle as the dosage per capsule can vary from brand to brand. Amla hair oil, hair packs and face packs can be used regularly for long durations of time without any side effects. The face pack and hair pack can be used weekly twice or thrice and amla hair oil can be used every single day.
Amla Side Effects:
As far as I know amla is safe to be consumed on a regular basis in moderation but for people who are suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, having it in empty stomach might cause discomfort. Also it has drug interactions with platelet and diabetic medications.
Where to get Amla?
Apart from fresh amla, we get dried amla, amla murabba, amla soaked in honey, amla juice, amla hair oil, amla powder, amla based face creams and hair packs and amla tablets in the markets too. We can get all these products in all the departmental stores in India, you can also order them online too.
5 Top Ways To Use Amla For Skin Hair & Health
1. Amla Hair Oil
Amla hair oil is made by pounding amla and boiling it along with coconut oil till there is no moisture left. The oil will last well at room temperature for a few months and is very effective in conditioning the scalp and also for promoting hair growth. It can be used as a daily application hair oil.
2. Amla Juice
Amla juice can be made in many ways. In my opinion, amla juice doesn’t taste good on its own so I always prefer to add it to juices to mask the taste. Try making the juice when the amlas are still fresh for better taste. You can find all my favourite amla juice recipes here.
Amla murabba is nothing but amla cooked in sugar syrup. It is so easy to make it at home and is a good substitute for packaged sweets filled with preservatives and colours that we get in the markets. You can find the recipe for it here. If you don’t want to make it at home, you can also order it online too.
4. Amla Hair Pack:
Amla hair pack can be made easily with just two ingredients. Grind amla into a fine paste along with little water and extract the juice. Mix it with fenugreek powder to form into a paste, let it gel for about 5 minutes and then apply as a hair pack. This hair pack treats all scalp problems from dandruff to itchy scalp and is also good for people suffering from androgenic alopecia.
5. Amla Bath Powder
I usually make a bath and face wash powder with amla powder, besan, orange peel powder and kasturi turmeric powder. It is very effective for reducing dark spots and blemishes. For using, you can mix it with either rose water, rice water or milk depending upon your skin type, you can find the recipe for it here.