Amla, botanically known as Amilica Embillicus, is a small tree native to the Indian subcontinent that produces plum sized yellow fruit with some amazing benefits for our health.
If you’ve ever read anything about this superfood before you’ve probably heard it’s one of the world’s best sources of vitamin C. Actually, that may not be the case. The true nutritional properties of amla appear to be far more exotic and interesting.
Ahead is why a food most people outside of India have never heard of, could be the key to a higher level of health, well-being and energy in your life.
Amla in Ayurveda
Also known as Indian gooseberry and amalaki, it is one of the most important plants in traditional Ayurvedic medicine and has been prized for its beneficial properties for thousands of years in India. Some of its amazing health benefits of amla will be covered in detail next, but it is primarily seen as a powerful rejuvenator to promote longevity and well-being in general.
In Ayurveda, amla is described as having a cooling effect on the body. It is known as a very beneficial aid to digestion and obtaining more nourishment from the food you eat. As a rejuvenator and aphrodisiac for ‘those who have been weakened by sexual indulgence and wine and poisons’ and to ‘alleviate all varieties of ailments, and impart strength to the intellect and senses’, according to the Caraka Samhita text of Ayurvedic medicine.
Amalaki is particularly revered in Ayurveda because it has a unique balance of sour, sweet, pungent, bitter and astringent tastes all in one fruit and is said to balance all three of the doshas – vata, kapha and pitta. In doing so it is believed to help alleviate the underlying causes of a variety of health problems and even psychological imbalances.
There’s a lot to be learnt from traditional systems of medicine like Ayurveda that have been healing people for thousands of years. From a different perspective, what are some of the specific nutrients and compounds that have been identified in this unique fruit that could help explain why it can have such a powerful effect on your health.
Nutritional Properties of Amla
Amla contains a good spectrum of vitamins and minerals, but unless you have access to the fresh fruit you’re unlikely to eat enough of it for it to have a significant impact on your overall vitamin and mineral intake. What then is in Indian gooseberries that makes them so healthy?
For many years, and based on initial scientific studies, amla was believed to be an extremely rich source of vitamin C. However vitamin C alone would be unlikely to explain the unusually wide range of health benefits so many people report from taking it regularly. As mentioned earlier, amla’s true nutritional properties appear to be far more interesting.
It seems initial tests some decades ago weren’t sophisticated enough to distinguish between certain organic acids and other compounds and classified some of them incorrectly as vitamin C, thus leading to a remarkably high figure.
More recent scientific testing has shown it contains an extremely broad and rich range of antioxidant polyphenols, far more powerful in their various beneficial effects on your body than vitamin C alone.
Some of the more important polyphenols that have been identified so far in amla include gallic acid, ellagic acid, chebulinic acid, chebulagic acid, quercetin, apigenin, ethyl gallate, luteolin, corilagin, isostrictiniin, beta glucogallin and galloyl-glucose.
It is also said to be particularly high in bioactive tannoid principles like emblicanin-A, emblicanin-B, punigluconin and pedunculagin, that exhibit strong oxidative free radical scavenging activity. Interestingly, they are also believed to significantly increase the antioxidant actions of vitamin C.
Most of these polyphenols, bioactive tannoid principles and other compounds are not household names like vitamin C. While some, such as gallic acid have a large body of scientific research behind them, others have only recently been studied (though often with very promising results).
Personally, I think what makes amla such a powerful superfood is not any specific individual element, but rather the incredible range of different antioxidants it contains. These nutrients appear to work synergistically within the body to extinguish oxidative damage from free radicals – a primary cause of disease and aging of our bodies.
Amla is one of those superfoods that, in my opinion, makes supplements formulated in a lab obsolete. That’s why I use this powdered whole fruit in my breakfast smoothies pretty much every day. It certainly seems to wakes you up.
Coming up next is a look at some of the more commonly reported health benefits of Indian gooseberries. Also ahead are some unusual ways to use it to improve your hair and skin as well as a guide to the best dosage and different ways to add amla to your diet and feel its positive effects for yourself.