There are 2 common varieties of Indian gooseberries, one is smaller and the other is big and round and it is commonly called amla in Northern India and peria nellikai in Tamil. It is also popularly called amalaki fruit in Sanskrit. Both varieties of amlas are packed with vitamin c and is very good for health but the bigger variety has more health benefits and is regarded very highly in Ayurveda. We should try to include amlas in our diet a lot to get all the heath benefits it offers.
My niece loves gooseberries and whenever she visits, she loves picking goose berries and making a salad out of it. Though she doesn’t know cooking much, her salad is one of the best. She used to pick fresh gooseberries, remove the seeds, cut them into fine pieces and then add pomegranate seeds to it along with salt, homemade sambar powder and little bit of raw coconut oil to it. This salad is crunchy, sweet and sour and one of the richest source of vitamin c and very very tasty.
When I was younger, I used to spend most of my time playing under the amla tree. Me and my playmates used to love collecting amlas and we use to mix it with the divine combination – (uppu & milagu podi in Tamil) salt and homemade chilli powder mix for eating it. Amlas in any form is packed with vitamin c and you can also use dried amla, if you don’t get fresh amlas in your place. You can also try using good quality amla powder | nellikai powder.
We also use amlas extensively for making homemade products for the hair and they really are very effective. I love only the smaller variety for eating as it tastes really good but after getting to know the benefits of the bigger variety of amla, I am trying my best to include it in my diet a lot. I have also found tasty ways to include it in my diet like honey in amla, dried amla, etc.
These also store well and are best done when the amlas are in season. Try getting organic amlas and make sure to buy mature ones and try making the products when the amlas are still fresh. Side effects of amalaki: As far as I know it is safe but for people who are suffering from acidity, having it in empty stomach might cause discomfort.
Benefits Of Amla For Hair, Skin & Health:
1. Amla Hair Pack For Hair Growth:
Few days back, my sister sent me a bag of amlas from her farm. The first thing I made with it is this homemade amla hair mask. There are plenty of reasons for us to lose our hair and the one factor on the top of that list, is a scalp with weak hair. I personally feel, regular home made hair packs helps to strengthen the roots of the hair nicely, without the harsh chemicals from the store bought ones.
This amla hair pack is rich in vitamin c. It helps to prevent dandruff and also helps to strengthen the roots thus preventing hair fall, if used regularly. This hair pack also prevents premature greying. Amlas in any form, be it a home made hair oil, hair pack or a hair rinse is really great for the hair. Try to use organic variety gooseberries for this hair pack. I have used the regular full fat milk and it also conditions the hair well.
To make this amla hair pack, first pound the amlas in a mortar and pestle and remove the seeds from it. Boil the amlas in a double boiler using full fat milk. If we boil amlas directly in milk, the milk will curdle. I used a bamboo steamer for steaming them. Once it is fully steamed, grind it to a fine paste with the milk used for steaming the goose berries. The smoother the mixture, the easier it will be to apply on the scalp. Enjoy using it as a hair pack!
2. Amla Hair Oil For Hair Loss:
This homemade amla hair oil is especially useful for people, who have a drying and thinning hair. Amla hair oil promotes hair growth, conditions the hair well and brings the natural shine to it, if used regularly. Usually this oil is used as pre-shampoo treatment.
This amla hair oil is massaged well into the scalp and left for at least 30 minutes before washing the hair with arappu | mild shampoo. Coconut oil is used as a base for this oil. I can’t think of a better oil for hair than coconut oil but try using virgin coconut oil. I use the coconut oil that we get from the coconuts in our farm.
To make this oil, remove the seeds from the goose berries and grind them finely without adding water in a blender. Squeeze out the juice and measure it. Take equal quantity of coconut oil and heat them together till the moisture evaporates. Cool and strain. You have made your own wonderful hair oil!
3. Amla Hair Rinse For Hair Growth:
This amla hair rinse prevents dandruff and itchy scalp very effectively. We get many amla based shampoos, hair oils and hair packs in the market. But when we make our own products, we know what goes into it and it is always better than a store bought one. To make this hair rinse, first remove the seeds from the amlas. Boil water in a wide pan along with amlas.
Once the amlas have softened, take it off the flame. Add all the fresh henna leaves at once and close with a lid. When you open the lid after a few minutes, you will find that the henna leaves have lost their bright green color. Let the henna leaves steep in the water till the water comes to room temperature. Strain and discard the henna leaves and amlas. Use it as a final hair rinse after you shampoo your hair.
4. Amalaki (Nellikai) In Honey:
Last week, I was reading a medical journal in which a person had described his experience with anemia. Due to some illness, his red blood count had gone dangerously low. After struggling for some time to improve it, he was advised to take amlas that are soaked in honey, by an ayurvedic practitioner. He had reported that his anemic level raised remarkably after consuming them daily. Vitamin c in the amlas, help in iron absorption and honey is wonderful in raising the blood count.
Though I don’t like fresh amlas, I love this amlas soaked in honey. They taste wonderful and doesn’t have any bitterness at all. Regular consumption of this amla in honey increases the blood count. It is especially important for Indian women, as almost 55% are anemic. We get honey soaked amlas in shops too, but they are very expensive. To make amla in honey at home, wash the amlas and pierce it all over a fork. Arrange the pricked gooseberries in a glass bottle and pour pure honey on top. Close with a lid and keep it in sunlight for few days, till the amlas leach out water completely.
Now take the amlas alone in another dry bottle and pour fresh honey on top, now this amla in honey mixture will last a long time. There is also an another method- deseed the amlas, after cutting it in half, dry in sunlight till the water has completely dried out. Once the amlas come to room temperature, add the honey till it is full immersed and wait for the amlas to soften. Both methods need hot sunlight, choose the method you prefer and find convenient. This can be safely consumed by pregnant women.
5. Amalaki | Nellikai Juice:
Nellikai juice has amazing health benefits and it can be made easily at home. It is rich in vitamin c and is a natural blood purifier. It is good for digestion and treats mouth odor and it is also a perfect weight loss food. It also wards of cold if consumed regularly and treats acidity too. When making amla juice, make and drink it immediately. All the recipes for amla juice is made with white sugar and I find it takes the real benefit out of the juice.
Because we are adding the sugar and making a pulp out of the fruit and straining it, the juice spikes up our blood sugar and it is not ideal for people who are trying to loose weight and even diabetic and older people can’t consume it on a daily basis. When I was trying out different recipes, I really like this recipe as it does not spike the blood sugar level like sugar based nellikai juice and everyone can consume this juice even daily without any side effects and it also keeps one satiated for a long time.
It also aids in digestion and treats all the stomach disorders. To make the juice, wash the goose berries and remove the seeds. Take the cut gooseberries, 2 tbsp of fresh yogurt that is not sour, a small pinch of salt & pepper, a small piece of fresh ginger and ice cubes in a blender. Whip it till it is frothy and your homemade healthy amla juice is ready. This drink if had often will give a nice glow to the skin, especially if given to children.