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Amalaki: The Amazine Indian Gooseberry Emblica officinalis/Phyllanthus emblica

by Anne McIntyre(more info)

listed in ayurveda, originally published in issue 122 - April 2006

Amalaki or Indian gooseberry is an Ayurvedic herb that I have been pleased to get to know over the last few years. The fruit is one of the richest natural sources of vitamin C, containing approximately 20 times the vitamin C content of an orange. Its antioxidant effects explain its traditional use as one of the best rejuvenative tonics (rasayana) in Ayurvedic medicine particularly for Pitta Dosha. It is an ingredient in several important medicinal preparations including Triphala (three fruits), the well known bowel tonic and Chayawanprash, a general tonic given in India to people of all ages taken to improve mental and physical well being, for debility and during convalescence.

The main constituents of Amalaki include ascorbic acid, fatty acids, bioflavonoids, polyphenols, cytokinins, B vitamins, calcium, potassium, iron, tannins, and pectin. Its list of actions is really quite impressive. Not only is it a rejuvenative and antioxidant, but it is also hepato protective, lowers cholesterol, an excellent anti inflammatory, laxative, diuretic, and hypoglycaemic remedy. From an Ayurvedic perspective the healing properties of Amalaki extend to all tissues (dhatus) and it has the ability to increase Ojas, meaning that it enhances energy, immunity, fertility and joie de vivre. It helps to balance all three doshas particularly Pitta and Vata.

Amalaki is in fact an excellent herb for the immune system. It has been shown to slow development and growth of cancer cells[1] probably through its ability to enhance natural cell mediated cytotoxicity.[2], [3] It has antimicrobial properties and is used as an antiviral for colds and flu. Constituents of Amalaki have been found to be active against a range of organisms including Staph. aureus, E. coli, C. albicans, Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Staph. Typhosa.[4]

With its cooling effects, Amalaki is used for a variety of inflammatory conditions of the GI tract, ulcers, acidity, nausea, vomiting, gastritis, colitis, hepatitis and haemorrhoids. The leaf infusion with fenugreek seeds is given in India for chronic diarrhoea and acute bacillary dysentery is treated there with a syrup of Amalaki and lemon juice. As an ingredient of Triphala, Amalaki is used as a bowel tonic to clear toxins from the bowel, for chronic constipation and IBS. Its antioxidant properties help protect the liver. Amalaki has been used traditionally for diabetes as it has a reputed hypoglycaemic effect.

Amalaki has an affinity with the circulatory system. Studies have shown that Amalaki can produce a decrease in serum LDH[5] cholesterol levels and reduce fat deposits in the arteries, thus protecting the heart and arteries. In a clinical study, normal and hypercholesterolaemic men were given raw Amalaki fruit for 28 days and both groups demonstrated a decrease in total serum cholesterol levels.[6] Other studies have indicated that Amalaki may reduce the risk of blood clots by reducing stickiness of platelets.[7]

With its cooling properties, the fruit is commonly used in the treatment of inflammatory problems anywhere in the body. In the respiratory system, Amalaki has an antibiotic activity against a wide range of bacteria, used traditionally in treatment of lung infections.[5] It is also used to help treat asthma. Amalaki is also a good brain tonic as it improves memory and calms disturbed Sadhaka Pitta, which can give rise to irritability, short temperedness, and depression. It is used to treat urinary tract infections with success.

When used externally, Amalaki is a popular ingredient of hair oils and soaps used to prevent hair loss and nourish the hair. It is also used as a remedy for inflammatory eye problems such as conjunctivitis. The exudation from incisions made into the fruit is used as a collyrium in inflammatory eye conditions. The antioxidant properties of the fruit make it a potentially useful skin care ingredient against oxidative damage.8 Amalaki also has antifungal activities in vitro.[9]

Amalaki can be given in infusion, 20-30 ml twice daily. It can be also given as a powder: 2-5 gm twice daily. Chyawanprash is a delicious herbal jam made principally from Amalaki. 8-12 gm can be given twice daily. Because Chyawanprash is a rasayana it is recommended that one goes through a period of detoxification before taking it. Amalaki forms 1/3 of Triphala which is generally taken as a powder to cleanse toxins from the system, 1/2tsp in hot water at night.


1. Lambertini E, Piva R, Khan MT, Lampronti I, Bianchi N, Borgatti M, Gambari R. Effects of extracts from Bangladeshi medicinal plants on in vitro proliferation of human breast cancer cell lines and expression of estrogen receptor alpha gene. Int J Oncol. 24(2): 419-23. Feb 2004.
2. Williamson E. Major herbs of Ayurveda. Churchill Livingstone, London. 2002.
3. Sai Ram M, Neetu D, Deepti P, Vandana M, Ilavazhagan G, Kumar D, Selvamurthy W. Cytoprotective Activity of Amla (Emblica officinalis) against chromium (VI) induced oxidative injury in murine macrophages. Phytother Res. 17(4): 430-3. Apr 2003.
4. Khanna P, Nag TH. isolation, identification and screening of phyllembliss from Emblica officinalis Gaertin. Tissue culture. Indian Journal of Pharmacy. 35(1): 23). 1973.
5. Chopra D & Simon D. The Chopra Centre Herbal Handbook. Rider, London. 2000.
6. Jacob A. Pondey M, Kapoor S. Saroja R. Effect of the Indian Gooseberry (Amla) on serum cholesterol levels in men aged 35-55 years. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 42 (11): 939. 1988.
7. Sharma H. Feng Y, Panganamala RV. Maharishi Amrit Kalash (MAK – 5) prevents human platelet aggregation. Chica and Terpia Cardiovasolare. 8: 227-230. 1989.
8. Chaudhuri RK. Emblica cascading antioxidant: a novel natural skin care ingredient. Skin Pharmacol Appl Skin Physiol. 15(5): 374-80. Sep-Oct 2002.
9. Dutta BK, Rahman I, Das TK. Antifungal activity of Indian plant extracts. Mycoses. 41(11-12): 535-6. Dec 1998.


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About Anne McIntyre

Anne McIntyre FNIMH MAPA is a fellow of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists and a member of the Ayurvedic Practitioners' Association. She has been practising as a herbalist for 30 years and has also trained in remedial massage, aromatherapy, counselling, homoeopathy and Ayurvedic medicine. She is the author of several books on herbal medicine, including The Complete Woman's Herbal (Gaia), The Complete Floral Healer (Gaia), The Herbal Treatment of Children (Elsevier), The Top 100 Remedies (Duncan Baird), The Complete Herbal Tutor (Gaia) and Healing Drinks (Gaia). Anne's latest book Dispensing with Tradition: A practitioner's Guide to using Indian and Western Herbs the Ayurvedic Way has recently been published. She teaches regularly in the UK and USA and spends as much time as she can in her herb garden which she opens to the public by appointment. She practises at Artemis House, Great Rissington, Gloucestershire, (Tel: 01451 810096) and in London and Wales once a month. She may be contacted on Tel: 01451 810096

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