Indian Gooseberry: What Is the Amla and What Are the Health Benefits?

Amla Health Benefit Facts

Superfruit with the highest natural vitamin C concentration on the planet. This superfood has incredible nutritional values, loads of antioxidants and phytonutrients.

Common Name(s): Aonla, Phyllanthus Emblica, emblic, emblic myrobalan, myrobalan, Indian gooseberry, Malacca tree.

Species: Emblica Officinalis Gaertn.

Syn.: Phyllanthus Emblica L.

Family: Phyllanthaceae

Nutrients composition: Nutritional value (per 100 g)
Calories 58 Fiber 5 g
Proteins 2.34g Fat 0.28g
Carbohydrates 13.7 g Calcium 25 mg
Iron 1.2 mg Carotene 9 microgram
Thiamine 0.03mg Riboflavin 0.01mg
Nicene 0.2mg

Amla berry vitamin composition:
Vitamins Value per 100 g
Vitamin A, IU 290 IU = 87 mcg
Vitamin C 720 mg
Vitamin B6 0.1 mg

One of the most important foods in Ayurvedic medicine, Amla is known for multiple health benefits. Amla berry is the king of wholefood antioxidants by boasting more antioxidants than any other wholefood. Amla has the highest level of vitamin C in plant life at 720 mg per 100g.

Although it tastes a little bitter and sour, Amla is widely used in India for culinary purposes, as a fresh fruit and in herbal medicine. Since modern science has been looking into the amazing health benefits of this superfood, Amla is gaining popularity and renown in the Western World.

Amla is a celebrated superfood that protects the liver, increases fertility, balances acidity and improves overall health. The fruit can also combat ulcers as it can inhibit the production of gastric acids while promoting the secretion of mucus.

Amla has many therapeutic uses. It has antioxidants, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties. Science has proven that consuming Amla stimulates immunity by triggering the natural killer cells. Amla is effective in decreasing stress and toning the nervous system; its anti-aging property is beneficial in preserving kidney function. As a cardiovascular tonic, Amla reduces cholesterol by stimulating the decomposition and inhibiting the production of bad cholesterol, regular consumption of Amla also reduces arterial plaque making it a powerful ally of the cardiovascular system.

Health Benefits of Amla Powder:
Amla powder is rich in Vitamin C and contains a huge amount of antioxidants that protect human cells from free radicals. The antioxidants improve immunity by helping the body fight all kinds of diseases. To give a perspective to this fact, whole Indian gooseberries contain:
75 times the antioxidant power of goji berries
50 times of raw blueberries
60 times of pomegranate
13 times of black raspberries
2.5 times of acai berries
Twice of ground turmeric

Anti-inflammatory and Anti-aging properties
Amla powder is a common natural cure to treat heartburn and excess acidity in the digestive system due to the polyphenol extracts present in the fruit. Amla is considered to be a great alternative to chemical based heartburn medicine. The high amount of antioxidants in Amla powder helps in slow down the aging process as well. As per a study held in 2006, Amla showed enhanced mitochondrial spare respiratory capacity that can help in the age-related disorders in the human body.

Chromium is another potent natural compound found in amla powder that helps regulate blood sugar levels and increase insulin production. The anti-hyperglycemic and lipid-lowering properties of Amla have shown to drastically reduce blood glucose levels. These compounds also help the body reduce bad cholesterol and triglycerides, which increase high-density lipoprotein.

Anti-cancer properties
Abundant scientific research has shown the fruit extract of the Amla has potent anticancer properties. The bioactivity in the fruit extract is considered to be principally mediated by polyphenols, especially flavonoids and tannins.

Assists In Weight Loss and purifies blood
Weight loss is one of the most noticable benefits associated with amla powder. The consumption of fiber-rich amla powder keeps the stomach filled for longer duration as fibers are harder to digest, and thus takes more time before someone is hungry again. Furthermore it is quite low in fat, 100 grams of Amla powder only contain 2 grams of fat (2% total fat). Regular consumption of Amla powder is recommended to increase the hemoglobin levels in the human body which helps purify the blood.

Expands Blood Vessels And Lower Blood Pressure
This specific benefit of amla powder is due to the higher mineral content. Phosphorus, magnesium & iron have a combining effect of dilating the inner lining of the blood vessels which prevents the vessels from contracting and support higher blood flow.

Scientific research:
Amla’s 6 times more antioxidant compared to wheatgrass and spirulina
A 2009 lab test shows the total antioxidant activity of aqueous extract of amla, spirulina and wheatgrass at 1mg/ml concentration to be 7.78, 1.33 and 0.278 mmol/l respectively.

Anticancer Properties of Amla
The data published in a 2011 study highlights the enormous potential of naturally occurring molecules from Amla as pharmacological agents for the treatment of cancer.

Amla improves age-related disorders while decreasing oxidative stress
According to a study held in 2006, Amla demonstrated enhanced mitochondrial spare respiratory capacity which improves age-related disorders in humans.

Amla’s anti-diabetic property
A 2011 study with 32 participants showed significant improvements in blood glucose in people with and without diabetes.

Amla Powder
Amla powder is prepared simply by drying up the Indian gooseberries. Though amla powder has the same nutritional benefits as the whole fruit, it is a much easier and convenient form of acquiring the nutrients contained in the fruit.

Why is it a superfood?
Amla has the highest concentration of natural vitamin C in all plant life. Ayurvedic doctors claim that Amla is a super-ingredient that helps eliminate the underlying cause of several diseases. Since ancient times it has been used for medicine preparations as it contains high amounts of nutrients with a pallet of health benefits. All parts of the Amla tree have medicinal properties, the fruit is the most potent. The fruit is loaded with polyphenols (gallic acid, corilagin, ellagic acid, etc). Polyphenols are antioxidants that prevent harm caused by the free radicals in the body. It also helps the body fight different types of cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Amla is known as a potent source of iron, Vitamin C, and calcium. This superfood is a storehouse of vitamins & minerals and, hence, should be part of everyone’s daily diet.

The vitamin C content of Amla juice is around 921 mg/100 cc, 20x more than any citrus fruit. One small amla berry is equivalent to the vitamin C of two medium oranges. It’s the highest vitamin C content of all plant life. Consuming amla in the powder form or capsules is a good substitute when the fresh fruit is not available.

Amla’s history:
Cultural references:
Amla enjoys a special significance in Indian mythology where it is believed to be the first fruit to be created. It is also part of Sanskrit Buddhist tradition, as half an Amala fruit was the final parting gift to the Buddhist sangha by the great Indian emperor Asoka. This is illustrated vividly in the Ashokavadana (biography of the emperor Asoka) in the following verses: "A great donor, the lord of men, the eminent Maurya Asoka, has gone from being lord of Jambudvipa [India] to being lord of half a myrobalan [amla fruit]." This act became such a famous deed that a stupa was positioned to mark the place of the event in modern-day Patna city and is known as the Amalaka stupa.

Medicinal history:
Amla Berry is a fruit that has been revered in India as a blood purifier, nutritive tonic, and restorative mucous membrane tonic. Amla Berry is also one of the three fruits in the Ayurvedic preparation Triphala, which forms the base for the rejuvenating Chyavanprash. A large range of phytochemical components in amla including tannins, alkaloids, and flavonoids have been used to induce specific biological activities. It is an ingredient of several Ayurvedic medicines as it eradicates excessive salivation and body heat. Countless research has been done to evaluate its role as an antioxidant. Amla is proven to be very useful in ulcer prevention, improving memory and for diabetic patients. Amla tonic has a lipolytic & hematinic function useful to prevent indigestion, controls acidity and serves as a natural anti-aging source.

Where is the plant usually grown?
Amla trees grow in India, the Middle East, and some southeast Asian countries where they are also commercially cultivated. The deciduous is planted in tropical areas and is usually found on the hill slopes up to 2000 meters.

Amla berry closeup

Plant’s anatomy and harvesting:
The Amla tree is small to medium in size, reaching 1 – 8m (3.5ft – 26ft) in height. The branchlets are not exposed or finely bloomed, they are 10 – 20cm (4 – 8in) long, usually broad-leafed. The leaves are simple, attached by the base and closely set along branchlets with light green color, resembling pinnate leaves. The flowers are greenish-yellow. The berry is nearly spherical, light greenish-yellow in color with a smooth and hard appearance dominated by six vertical stripes.
The ripening season of the plant is autumn where the berries are harvested by hand. The taste of Amla fruit is bitter, sour, and astringent, it’s quite fibrous. In India, it’s common practice to eat amla steeped in salt and red chili powder to make the sour fruit palatable. Amla can grow in both light and heavy soils under tropical conditions. The young plants are taken care of more particularly by protecting them from the hot winds as they easily die. The Amla tree is usually propagated through seeds. It requires proper sunlight to grow and is irrigated during the monsoon season. It starts bearing fruits in five to seven years from the day of planting.
The seeds of the Amla trees are acrid and sweet, known to have antipyretic and aphrodisiac properties, they are useful in treating biliousness, vomiting, leucorrhoea, and vata (in Indian medicine vata is linked with cold). They yield around 16% of yellowish-brown oil constituting 44% linoleic acid, 28.4% oleic acid, 4.8% linolenic acid, 2.2% stearic acid, 3.0% palmitic acid, and 1.0% myristic acid.

Dried Amla - Picture courtesy: