Amla is one of the most important foods in Ayurvedic medicine with an incredible list of health benefits. A whole book could be written on all of the potentially beneficial uses of the Indian gooseberry, also known as amalaki.
For a short summary, amla has been primarily used in Ayurveda as a rejuvenator of many of the body’s organs and functions, to boost the immune system, slow down the aging process and promote good general health and longevity.
It is considered especially beneficial for the digestive system, improving the absorption and assimilation of the food you eat.
The benefits of amla are also believed to include improving liver function, reducing inflammation and having a cooling effect throughout the body.
Amla is even said to be good for your appearance, improving skin tone, protecting the eyes, preventing hair loss and gray hairs and aiding in weight loss.
Many more amla benefits have been written about and I’m sure a good practitioner of Ayurveda could advise on more specific uses.
While I have great respect for amla’s important place in thousands of years of Ayurvedic tradition, this page will focus on some of the most interesting recent scientific research to support the health claims of this wonderful superfood.
Antioxidant Levels in Amla
Powdered amla fruit is something I personally use most days (sometimes several times a day) ever since reading about the beneficial effects it can have on your health.
My research has shown that these amalaki benefits come primarily from its rich array of antioxidants, rather than an unusually high vitamin C content which some websites list (and which may not be the case – see What Is Amla for details).
These amla antioxidants, so far identified, including ellagic and gallic acid, emblicanin A and B, punigluconin, pedunculagin, chebulinic and chebulagic acid, quercetin, corilagin, isostrictiniin and the list goes on and on with even harder scientific names to spell.
I think the important thing to note here is not so much the individual antioxidants names, but rather just how many of them there are in this one amazing superfood.
Free radicals, or reactive oxygen species as they are known in scientific circles, such as superoxide, singlet oxygen, hydrogen peroxide, DPPH, hydroxyl, nitric oxide and many others are strongly implicated as a factor in many debilitating diseases and are proposed as one of, if not the main cause of aging of our bodies.
Detailed scientific analysis of the free radical scavenging properties of amla showed it to provide powerful antioxidant protection against these damaging compounds.
In fact, in another recent study of the antioxidant potential of approximately a thousand different kinds of herbal extracts, Indian gooseberry was one of only four superfoods chosen for their ‘prominently potent ability to scavenge superoxide radical‘, and hydroxyl radical (another damaging reactive oxygen species) as well as displaying resistance to being damaged by heat.
Taking amla as a supplement can help to protect your skin against external factors like ultraviolet light and environmental pollution that age it.
Now a new scientific study has shown that an extract of amla (Phyllanthus Emblica) can provide significant protection against free radicals from the UVB radiation in sunlight that breaks down skin’s connective collagen and leads to wrinkles and sagging skin. More proof of the benefits of amla for your appearance.
Cancer Protection with Amla
One of the most interesting and important areas of amla research is in the field of cancer prevention. Alongside its powerful antioxidant effects, the Indian gooseberry has been reported to possess anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic, chemopreventive, antiproliferative and immunomodulatory properties that are beneficial in the prevention and treatment of cancer.
Studies have also shown that, along with being an exceptional free radical scavenger, Amla can protect your DNA against damage from certain carcinogens and dangerous heavy metals.
While there are many compounds in amla likely to work synergistically against diseases like cancer, one called pyrogallol was shown specifically to have antiproliferative effects (prevents cancer cells spreading) on lung cancer cells in both in vitro and in vivo studies (5).
Other scientific research has also found pyrogallol effective against different types of cancer and suggested it be studied further with a view to using it as a cancer treatment (though whether this will be considered potentially profitable enough remains to be seen).
Amla Powder Benefits for Diabetes
A recent scientific study compared the effects on fasting blood sugar of powdered amla versus a leading diabetic drug designed to bring down blood sugar. In the study just 3 grams of powdered amla a day was shown to be even more beneficial and effective than the prescription drug at controlling fasting blood sugar levels.
It’s necessary to note at this point but I’m not advising anyone to go off drugs given to them by their doctor. Diabetes is a serious, often life-threatening disease and needs to be treated as such.
In fact, if amla’s effect on blood sugar is this powerful, taking it might be cautioned for diabetics also taking prescription drugs for blood glucose, in case it actually drops levels too far. It would be best to discuss taking it with your physician if you are currently being treated for diabetes.
There may well be a case to be made though for the benefits daily amla supplementation to help prevent the damage that leads to the diabetic condition in the first place.
Type 2 diabetes is a disease that is increasing in our society at an alarming rate. Even children are now being diagnosed. Replacing processed, high sugar supermarket junk with natural superfoods would be a great start to avoiding this debilitating disease and this article has some other important tips.
Cholesterol Reduction and Heart Disease
Heart disease, still the biggest killer of Americans, is a disease of oxidation and inflammation. Given that, it’s not surprising that a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory like amla would have a positive effect against it.
Research so far points to the health benefits of Indian gooseberry having multifaceted protective properties against developing cardiovascular problems later in life.
In the same study listed above concerning diabetes and blood glucose, researchers were surprised to see the volunteers tested also significantly improved their high density lipoprotein cholesterol levels (the beneficial type of cholesterol) and reduced their low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (the bad kind).
Doctors can give you drugs (with side effects) to lower your LDL cholesterol. But it’s not often that a substance will also raise your HDL cholesterol at the same time, without reported side effects. These valuable health benefits were observed with just 3 grams of amla powder a day.
Extracts from amla fruit have also been shown to inhibit lipid peroxidation, a significant factor in developing cardiovascular disease.
Other studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of Indian gooseberry at inhibiting the creation of advanced glycation end products that contribute to endothelial dysfunction and atherosclerosis.
Amla benefits also include preventing blood cells from sticking to endothelial linings and thickening blood vessel walls – usually the first step toward heart disease – as detailed in this scientific study.
Prevention is Better Than a Cure
Amla scientific research like this is interesting, but it is unlikely to ever tell the true story of all the benefits of amalaki. Individual isolated compounds may show great potential in studies, but it makes far more sense that the full spectrum of antioxidants and other beneficial substances found in amla work together inside our bodies in ways too complex to replicate in the lab.
I also feel that there is far too much emphasis on finding a miracle cure for diseases that are already in late stages of development. Surely a more important use for potentially anticarcinogenic, blood sugar controlling and heart protecting superfoods such as amla is in helping to prevent diseases like cancer, diabetes and atherosclerosis from ever developing in the first place.
To this end I’d recommend reading How to Use Amla coming up next for some suggestions on how to add it to your daily diet, as well as dosage and side effects information.
Powdered Indian gooseberry is inexpensive, easy to take and, as this page has hopefully shown, may help enhance your health and protect you against some of the most serious diseases.
Had you read about the many health benefits of amla before, or even heard of the Indian gooseberry at all? This superfood seems to be widely unknown in America so please share this page if you think it could help others. Hopefully, with all it’s beneficial properties and the weight of supporting scientific research coming out, amla won’t stay a secret for long.