Amla is arguably the most important plant in Ayurveda medicine. Its high vitamin C content gives it a very strong antioxidant activity. Amla has a variety of benefits, including antidiabetic, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory effects. Read on to learn about all of amla’s potential health benefits.
What is Amla?
Amla (Emblica officinalis), also known as Indian Gooseberry, is a popular plant that has been used in Ayurvedic and Unani medicine systems for centuries. Ayurveda is one of the oldest known medicine systems in the world, originating in India more than 3,000 years ago.
Although all parts of the plant were used, the fruit was used the most and believed to have the most medicinal power. Modern science has confirmed this, as the fruit has been found to contain the most active compounds.
The fruit is yellowish-green in color and has a globular shape. In addition to its medicinal uses, it is also commonly used to make different vegetable dishes, pickles, and chutneys (sauces) .
Murabba, a popular dessert in South and Central Asia, is made by keeping the amla fruit in a sugary syrup .
Amla also helps with the graying of hair. Drying the fruit and then boiling in coconut oil until solidification prevents graying. The water in which the dried amla pieces are soaked in is also nourishing and should be used as the last rinse when washing the hair .
Active Compounds in Amla
Although all parts of the amla plant have medicinal properties, the fruit has the most significant beneficial effects. Compounds found in the fruit include tannins, alkaloids, and phenols .
The main tannins in amla, which contain strong antioxidant properties, include :
- Emblicanin A and B
Phenolic compounds include:
- Gallic acid
- Ellagic acid
Amla fruit is also a rich source of vitamin C (478.56 mg/100 ml), even more than oranges, lemons, and tangerines. It also contains some minerals and amino acids .
Health Benefits of Amla
1) May Help Prevent and Fight Cancer
Cell and animal studies have found amla to be successful in fighting cancers of the :
Amla did not negatively affect the growth of healthy lung cells, proving its safety .
Extracts of Amla were toxic to cancer cells in rats. Both the amla extract and chyavanaprash, an herbal formula that is 50% amla, slowed tumor growth. Total tumor volume decreased by 60% following amla consumption .
The amla extract increased the lifespan of rats with tumors by 20% while chyavanaprash increased lifespan by 60.9% .
Cancer is commonly caused by damage to DNA that leads to suppression of anticancer genes. Mutations caused by DNA damage are also common causes of cancer .
Amla extracts increase the activity of O6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase, an enzyme that removes harmful mutations in immune cells .
- Cesium chloride
- 3,4-benzo(a)pyrene: a compound found in tar, tobacco, and grilled meats and is caused by incomplete burning of materials
- Benzo[a]pyrene: a compound similar to 3,4-benzo(a)pyrene
- Cyclophosphamide: an immunosuppressive drug that can treat certain cancer (leukemia), but can also cause cancer years after treatment
One of the most dangerous aspects of cancer is that it can spread from one area of the body to another (metastasis). Kaempferol, a constituent of amla, prevented breast cancer cells from spreading .
2) May Protect Against Radiation
Amla is also radioprotective, meaning it protects against damage from radiation. Radiation is a common form of cancer treatment. Providing rats with fruit pulp of amla for seven days before lethal radiation increased survival rates from 0 to 87.5% .
High levels of cholesterol can play a role in causing different heart diseases, including heart attacks, and strokes.
HDL cholesterol (HDL-C) is considered to be the good form of cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (LDL-C) is thought to be the bad form of cholesterol.
A study of 60 patients with high cholesterol levels (> 240 mg/dl) found that 500 mg amla daily for 42 days increased HDL-C and reduced LDL-C and total cholesterol levels The effects were similar to the popular statin drug Zocor (simvastatin) .
4) Reduces Triglyceride Levels in the Blood
High level of triglycerides (TG) fats in the blood are linked to low levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), insulin resistance, obesity, and increased risk for heart disease. Amla reduced levels of TG in the blood of 60 patients [25, 22].
5) May Prevent Hardening of Arteries
Amla prevents hardening of the arteries by reducing the buildup of molecules such as LDL-C, cholesterol, and TG. This not only reduces chances of strokes but also provides better blood flow [21, 22, 26].
Rats intentionally fattened showed increased HDL-cholesterol levels following amla fruit extract supplementation, which contributes to its antiatherogenic abilities. Many heart diseases such as coronary artery disease are prevented and treated through such antiatherogenic effects [26, 27, 22].
6) Has Anti-inflammatory and Antioxidant Properties
The vitamin C in amla accounts for 45-70% of its antioxidant activity .
Amla leaves also reduce inflammation in rats .
7) Is Antibacterial
An extract called Triphala, which includes amla and two other popular herbs, inhibited the bacteria Salmonella typhi, which is resistant to multiple antibacterial drugs .
The study looked at 54 different herbal extracts and Triphala had one of the strongest antibacterial effects .
A cream made up of different herbs, including amla, called Basant inhibited the growth of the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria, which is resistant to common antibacterial agents such as penicillin, tetracycline, nalidixic acid and ciprofloxacin .
Pentagalloylglucose (PGG), a compound found in amla, contains antiviral properties against the influenza A virus .
Incubating the virus in PGG reduced the total level of the virus .
PGG also prevented the virus from leaving infected cells (viral budding) and spreading to new cells .
Basant, a cream made up of different herbs including amla, showed inhibitory effects against both HIV and human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV-16). The concentration of Basant needed was far below toxic levels .
9) Is Antifungal
Basant, a cream made up of different herbs including amla, showed inhibitory effects against the fungi Candida glabrata, Candida albicans and Candida tropicalis. All three fungi are resistant to common antifungals such as azole drugs and amphotericin B .
10) Promotes Balance in the Body (Homeostasis)
In stressed rats, amla maintained :
- Glucose tolerance
- Sexual behavior
- Behavioral wellness
- Cognitive function
- Immune system function
11) May Protects the Kidney
Amla fruit extracts decreased blood pressure and levels of both iNOS and COX-2 in the aorta of rats .
12) May Protect the Heart
Amla protects the heart by lowering fat levels in the blood and preventing narrowing of the arteries .
Quercetin and gallic acid in amla reduced the toxicity in the heart and protected the heart from damage .
13) May Protect the Skin
Amla protects the skin against oxidative stress caused by free radicals and metals .
14) May Protect the Gut
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) can cause stomach ulcers .
Amla fruit extracts decreased the formation of ulcers in rats given NSAIDs .
15) May Protect the Liver
Amla extract reduced damage to the liver due to arsenic. Amla reduced oxidative stress in DNA and prevented liver cells from dying (necrosis) .
16) May Increase Wound Healing
Amla applied topically over wounds in rats increased the rate of wound healing closing times .
Triphala, which includes amla and two other popular herbs, also increased wound healing in rats .
The extract improved the wound closing through increased levels of collagen, the protein responsible for wound closure. It also decreased the bacterial count leading to less infection .
17) May Increase Hair Growth
Amla applied topically increased hair follicle count by 91% and hair growth in rats. Amla was more effective than the popular hair growth medication Rogaine .
18) May Enhance the Immune System
Amla increased the lifespan of rats with tumors by 35% .
19) May Improve Memory
Amla fruit extracts increased short term memory in rats, who were able to solve mazes at quicker rates after amla supplementation .
Amla also reversed amnesia in the rats .
20) Lowers Blood Glucose Levels
Three weeks of amla fruit powder supplementation reduced blood glucose levels in 12 healthy people and 12 diabetics .
21) May Reduce Fever
A rat study showed that amla fruit extracts reduced fever. The effects of the amla extract were comparable to common fever-reducing medicines such as aspirin .
22) May Reduces Coughing
Amla fruit extract decreased the number of cough efforts, the cough frequency, and the cough intensity in cats .
Amla improved symptoms of a cough better than dropropizine, a common cough medicine .
Amla is thought to reduce coughing by increasing mucus in the airways. Mucus prevents the receptors that cause coughing from becoming irritated .
23) May Help Arthritis
Amla fruit extract decreased cartilage breakdown in the cartilage cells of arthritis patients .
Long-term protective effects were seen in up to 50% of the patients’ cells .
24) Can Help Treat Dyspepsia
25) May Prevent Diarrhea
Amla extracts reduced occurrences of diarrhea in mice by decreasing the buildup of fluid in the intestines .
26) May Reduce Pain
Amla decreased writhing due to pain in rats by 41.8% .
Limitations & Caveats
1) May Not Be Useful for Severe Diabetics
Severe diabetics sometimes cannot produce insulin. For these patients, amla may not improve their blood glucose levels and other remedies may be needed .
2) Amla Research in Humans is Limited
There have been few clinical trials in humans using amla, as most of the research is in test tubes or rodents. While animal research is promising, trials are needed to confirm the effectiveness of amla in humans.
Side Effects & Precautions
One study noted that some of the users noticed a slight pain in the stomach, but it was not severe enough to keep them from completing the study .
However, there has not been sufficient data to prove any seriously harmful side effects of amla consumption.
Amla lowers blood sugar levels. Therefore, people who suffer from low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) are advised to consume amla with caution .
Many of the studies above studying amla use differing amounts of amla, so it is difficult to pinpoint an exact recommended dosage. The fact that there are not many human studies also makes it difficult to find a dosage for humans.
However, in one study using amla powder, 0.5-3 grams of amla powder daily (or 0.25mg-0.5mg twice daily) was enough to lower blood cholesterol levels. 3 grams of amla powder lowered glucose levels in diabetics [21, 53].
The different amla supplements each have capsules of either 500mg or 350mg of amla. However, when looking at the % daily value of amla needed both supplements to say that a daily value has not been established as of yet and do not give a recommended intake.
Mostly amla has been used for hair. People have been generally happy with the amla oils as it helps their hair grow back and makes it look young and healthy. The oil is also inexpensive, which people enjoyed.
However, many users did complain about the pungent smell. One user noted that the smell was too strong and gave her headaches, which caused her to stop using the product.
Many use amla supplements as a source of vitamin C. It is a good alternative to other vitamin C supplements as it is allergy-free.