Amla, or Indian gooseberry, is considered as dhatri, or motherly figure. Thanks to its health benefits, amla has also been worshipped in Indian culture since ages.
Ayurveda, which is the oldest health system in the world, appreciates and uses amla to treat a host of diseases and promote positive health.
Amla [Emblica officinalis, or emblic myrobalan], is called amalaki in Sanskrit. It is extensively used as a rejuvenator in ayurveda. It is also used widely in combination with other two [chebulic and belleric] myrobalans [fruit-bearing plant species] as triphala. Amla is, indeed, the key ingredient in the popular ayurvedic recipe, Chyavanaprasha. More than anything, it may be called as "King of Rasayana" [rejuvenation], owing to its multiple health benefits.
Amla in ayurvedaAyurveda describes amla as a cooling, astringent, digestive, laxative, stomachic, and aphrodisiac medicine. It also has anti-pyretic, anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties. Due to its numerous therapeutic effects on various organs and systems, it has been found to be useful in problems ranging from chest diseases such as cough, asthma, and bronchitis, digestive ailments like dyspepsia, hyperacidity and ulcers and anaemia, jaundice, diabetes, bleeding conditions, eye diseases, allergic and other skin problems to gynaecological problems.
Food and digestionAmla strengthens absorption and assimilation of food. It improves digestion and stimulates our taste buds to relish food better. It can be used by everyone without fear of gastric irrita-tion, or increased acidity. It can also be used to ease "too much heat" - a popular belief - in the body. It aids in better absorption and assimilation of iron from the gut. It also acts as a laxative in large doses due to its high fibre content.
Amla is best used as an ingredient in our diet regularly. It can be used as an alternative to tamarind, lemon or such other fruits to add flavour to food. It can be used as dry powder, fresh juice; or for dressing, by grating it coarse, or fine. It can also be used to prepare chutneys [paste] to be used as an adjuvant in our meals. It can be preserved for a long time in sugar syrup or as pickle and used regularly.
Amla is one of the best sources of natural vitamin C. It contains 20 times more vitamin C than an orange. Even when it is dried, or baked, it contains tannins, which prevent loss of vitamin C. Vitamin C, an anti-oxidant, fights free radicals, which cause many chronic and grave diseases like arthritis, high blood pressure, heart problems, Alzheimer's, cancer, and so on. Vitamin C is also required for our body's natural defences and healing mechanisms.
Look goodAmla boosts absorption of calcium. Thus, it helps in the formation, maintenance, and repair of bones, teeth, nails and hair. It also helps maintain youthful hair colour and retards premature greying. In addition, it supports the strength of the hair follicles. This translates to less thinning of hair with age.
Amla enhances protein synthesis by means of which bodily tissues, especially the muscles, are strengthened and toned up. It is, therefore, very useful to athletes and those who exercise regularly for maintaining muscular health and eliminating toxic products, the result of muscle activity.
Physiological benefitsAmla is useful in reducing LDL ["bad"] cholesterol and thus preventing arterial blockages that may cause heart attack or stroke.
Amla, when consumed in its natural form, as raw fruit or dry powder, can reduce chest congestion and facilitate the removal of sputum from the respiratory tract. It can soothe and heal inflamed airways and thus, is useful in cough, bronchitis, and other problems of the respiratory system.
Amla is also known to act as a very good brain and nerve tonic. It improves memory, tolerance, and nervous function.
Exposure to chemicals and consumption of chemically-treated food or drinks results in the accumulation of toxins in body tissues. This affects the functioning of the liver. Amla helps in elimination of toxins. It strengthens the liver in the process. Regular use of amla will result in an efficient defence system in the body against harmful substances.
The fresh juice of amla acts as a diuretic; it also normalises acidic urine. It is helpful in burning urination and urinary infections.
It is known that amla is beneficial during chemotherapy and radiotherapy due to its adaptogenic[balancing effect on your body's systems] and rejuvenating properties.
Amla for common ailments
Dry CoughTake half tsp amla powder mixed with a little ghee [liquefy the ghee]. Take frequently.
PilesTake wild amla juice, or powder, with cream top of yoghurt, twice a day.
White vaginal discharge [leucorrhoea]Take 1 gm amla powder with one tsp honey and one tsp crystal sugar mixed together, thrice a day.
Internal bleeding [Rakta Pitta]Wild amla one gm, with one tsp honey, thrice a day.
HiccupsWild amla powder with long pepper [or, black pepper]. One gm amla, with 3-4 pinches of pepper.
Slow and burning urinationJuice of amla, half cup [approx 30 ml], twice a day. This should be supplemented with extra fluid intake and/or liquid diet.
DiabetesAmla and turmeric, as juice or powder, twice a day, before food; use two tsp each for juice and half tsp each for powder.
Despite its supreme safety and therapeutic value, it is useful to consult an expert in ayurveda or herbal medicine to have a more specific and individualised prescription to suit your amla needs - especially when you have medical, or surgical, concerns.
Add Amla to Your DietAmla fruits are available at local fruit sellers. Amla is seasonally available from, October to January in India. You can buy fresh amla and make a murabba [sugar syrup preparation] with either whole fruits or grated amla. You could also make an amla pickle that is tangy and spicy. In case you prefer a drink, you can choose Amlana, which is a cool appetizer, or an amla-ginger punch.
Ready-to-eat packaged Amla also is available in a number of stores. Normally these are local brands. Options like dehydrated amla, amla in tablet form, packaged amla juice, amla pickles, amla chutney, amla candy are a good bet for trial.
You could even start off on Triphala or Chyawanprash both of which contain amla as a major ingredient.