Indian gooseberry (Phyllanthus emblica) or Amla is biologically named as Emblica officinalis. It is deciduous tree of the Phyllantanceae family and known for its edible fruit. The Amla fruit begin full bloom in the middle of the season and then matures fully in late autumn.
Amalaki is also known as amalakai or the Indian gooseberry and it has been in use for thousands of years in India to treat a variety of diseases and ailments. It is found growing on bushes all over the country. It is a common ingredient found in ancient Ayurveda medicine, coming from some of the world’s longest and oldest recorded texts.
Other various and common names of this tree are aamla in Hindi and Gujarati, awla in Marathi, nellikkai in Tamil and Kannada, usirikai in Telugu and olay in Punjabi. It is popularly known as amalaka or amalaki in Sanskrit. The Indian gooseberry tree is small to medium sized, 8 to 18 m in height, with a crooked trunk and spreading branches. The flowers are greenish-yellow. The fruit is nearly spherical, light greenish yellow, quite smooth and hard on appearance, with 6 vertical stripes. Indian gooseberry or Aamla tastes sour, bitter and astringent and is quite fibrous. It grows on a small tree which is found in wet forests of hill areas throughout the Indian subcontinent. Though all parts of the tree have medicinal value, it is the fruit which is highly potent. The best quality amalaki comes from the slopes of the Himalayan Mountains, where the air is cleaner, the water is clean and natural and the soil is packed full of nutrients.
Coming to its use in culinary purposes in India, it is a common fruit and is soaked in salt water and turmeric to make the sour fruits palatable. Particularly in South India, the fruit is pickled with salt, oil, and spices. Amla is also eaten raw or cooked into various dishes. In Andhra Pradesh tender varieties of Indian gooseberry or amla are used to prepare dal (a lentil preparation) and also amle ka murabbah a sweet dish native to the northern part of India (where in the berries are soaked in sugar syrup for a long time till they are imparted the sweet flavor) is traditionally consumed after meals. Amla is especially used a lot by the rural folk in India and is just eaten raw for it’s highly acidic, refreshing taste and then followed by water that produces a sweet and amazing aftertaste. Commonly observed in many Indian homes this whole fruit is cooked with sugar and saffron and given to the kids every morning as it is rich in many nutrients.
The fruits can be used fresh or dried. Dried amlas are sometimes ground into a powder and are also available stoned and chopped so they are easy to reconstitute. The dried pieces or powder are stored in an airtight container for up to a year. Generally the Indian gooseberry or amla is used in pickles, preserves and jams. In southern India, Amla is used in preparing pickles and chutneys.
Amla is an extraordinarily seasonal fruit which contains all tastes except salty. With sourness as the foremost taste, it is at the same time sweet, astringent, bitter and pungent. It is light, dry and cold in effect and the most concentrated form of Vitamin C in the entire plant kingdom and is approximately 20 times the vitamin C content of an orange. This might sound astounding but it’s true. It is a very potent form of Vitamin C and yet is easily assimilated by the human body. Amla enhances the absorption of food, by strengthening digestion. The rich source of Vitamin C from the fruit acts as a great detoxifying agent for a sluggish liver, and helps to make the skin clear and radiant.
Amla or the Indian gooseberry is a wonder herb and is very refreshing, cooling, diuretic and laxative. It has antibacterial, antiviral, resistance building properties. It’s antibacterial and astringent properties, help to prevent infection and helps in the healing of ulcers, and hyperacidity. It is antispasmodic, and is has a mild stimulant action on the heart and helps in lowering cholesterol. It also promotes healthier hair, and boosts the absorption of calcium, thus creating healthier bones, teeth, nails and hair. Helps to maintain youthful hair color and retards premature graying. In India, amla powder is used to wash hair and also mixed in herbal shampoos. Amla is also used to straighten hair. Amla as it is known in India is also used to treat hair disorders like premature falling and graying. It has been used to treat various diseases through Ayurvedic medicine therapy dating back to many centuries.
In Ayurvedic polyherbal formulations, Indian gooseberry is a common constituent, and most notably is the primary ingredient in an ancient herbal rasayana called Chyawanprash. This formula, which contains 43 herbal ingredients as well as clarified butter, sesame oil, sugar cane juice, and honey, was first mentioned in the Charaka Samhita as a premier rasayana or rejuvenative compound. Amla is worshipped as an auspicious fruit from the ancient time and respected as a symbol of good health. The festival Amala Navami is celebrated at the beginning of winter season of Hindu calender, where Amla tree are socially and religiously propagated among people and cultivated for promotion of good health.
Since about thousands of years ago this berry fruit has being used for many things. These include anti-aging, the treatment of gastric problems, to detoxify the body, boosting the immune system, treating vitamin C deficiencies, an appetite suppressant, lowering acidity, treating indigestion, gas ,constipation, piles, gastric ulcers, high cholesterol, blood sugar, arterial plaque, asthma, allergies, bad coughs, stress, tension, eczema, hair loss, inflammation, increasing saliva, strengthening teeth, maintaining balanced liver, heart, circulation functions and increasing red blood cell production. Indian gooseberry is rich source in Dietary fiber, Vitamin C, Calcium, Phosphorus, Iron, Carotene, Vitamin B, Protein and Carbohydrates. The fresh Amla fruit contains more than 80% water, protein, minerals, carbohydrates and fiber.
There is no doubt that amalaki berries are a great benefit to overall health. It can be used in many forms, including a drink or as a topical application. In fact, it is quite commonly found in many Indian and Asian pharmacies and holistic/herbal medicine outlets, as well Westernized health food stores. Indian gooseberry or amla is excellent herb for diabetes, promotes food absorption, reduces body heat or weight naturally, and restores stomach and intestinal digestive enzymes. It is very helpful in skin diseases. It promotes glow on skin and delays wrinkles or loosening of skin. It also improves general health weakness and makes our body’s immune system strong therefore help to fight diseases. Indian Gooseberry has also been found to be low in Saturated Fats, Cholesterol and Sodium, making it good for health.