Amla literally means "sour"; it is the Hindi word for a fruit tree (Emblica officinalis or Phyllanthus emblica) that grows throughout India and bears sour-tasting gooseberry-like fruits.1 Amla is also known by the Sanskrit name "Amalaki." Other Sanskrit nicknames for amla—names meaning "mother," "nurse," and "immortality"—are a testament to the healing capacity of its fruits.1, 2 Amla has been used in Ayurveda and other Asian medicinal practices for thousands of years.3 Because Sanskrit is the first language of Ayurveda, Banyan tends to offer herbs according to their Sanskrit names and therefore offers Amla as Amalaki.
Amla is one of the three fruits that are contained in Triphala and it is the main ingredient in the nutritive jam Chyavanprash. Amla contains a very high concentration of vitamin C, one of the highest known in the plant kingdom—twenty times that of an orange.1 More importantly, the vitamin C contained in the amla fruit is stabilized by the presence of tannins, which help amla to maintain its vitamin content even through processing.1
Benefits of Amla
- Supports healthy metabolism, digestion and elimination*
- Promotes anti-inflammatory properties that cool, tone, and nourish tissues and organs*
- Nourishes the heart and respiratory system*
- Assists natural internal cleansing and maintains regularity*
- Natural antioxidant*
- Promotes healthy eyes, hair, nails, and skin*
- Balances agni (digestive fire)*
- Builds ojas to support a healthy immune response and youthfulness*
Amla pacifies vata, pitta, and kapha, though it is especially calming to pitta.2 In addition, amla rejuvenates all of the tissues in the body and builds ojas, the essence of immunity and youthfulness.1 In general, amla is a powerful ally for many systems of the body. It is known to promote energy, reproductive health, and healthy cholesterol levels.1 Amla is also a tonic for the heart, the arterial system, the respiratory system, the sense organs, and the mind.1, 2
Amla for Detoxification and Healthy Elimination
Amla very directly promotes detoxification with its rich antioxidant content.1 On a systemic level, detoxification begins with healthy agni (digestive fire), not only in the GI tract, but also in all of the tissues, and amla helps to balance agni throughout the body.1 Moreover, the elimination of toxins relies on healthy circulation, digestion, and elimination, and amla supports all three of these functions.1 Amla also has a particular affinity for the blood, the liver, and the spleen, and is therefore able to support the elimination of natural toxins while nourishing and protecting the body’s natural defense systems.1 Proper elimination is critically important to the detoxification process and amla fosters bowel health and regularity as well.1 A small dose of amla is binding and astringent in its effect while a larger dose very gently encourages elimination.1 Ultimately, amla supports virtually every stage of the detoxification process—from the innate intelligence of agni to the proper elimination of wastes and natural toxins.
Amla for Digestion
From an Ayurvedic perspective, digestion begins with the experience of taste and amla contains five of the six tastes, lacking only the salty taste. Further, amla sharpens the sense of taste itself1 and so it is both stimulating and tonifying to the first stage of digestion. Amla also improves appetite and kindles agni (the digestive fire), which are both at the core of healthy digestion. Despite the fact that its predominant taste is sour, amla stokes the digestive fire without aggravating pitta.1 And, amla cleanses and protects the liver, which plays a critical role in transforming food into physiologically useful nourishment.1 Because pitta and agni are so intimately connected, the health of the digestive fire suffers when pitta is aggravated. Amla is particularly suited to clearing excess pitta from the digestive tract; its bitter taste and cooling energy help to flush excess heat out through the bowel.1 Amla can be especially supportive to digestion during the summer months when heat tends to accumulate in the body, particularly for those with pitta-predominant constitutions.1
Amla for Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
Amla’s ability to stimulate microcirculation and to build ojas are thought to help promote healthy blood sugar levels, particularly in conjunction with pitta imbalances.1 Amla also has an affinity for the urinary tract and balanced excretion of urine and balanced blood sugar levels go hand in hand.2 On a large scale, Amla’s support of the entire digestive process supports the body’s ability to process food in a wholesome and efficient manner.
Amla for Rejuvenation
Amla is a highly revered rasayana (rejuvenative) for the entire system. Specifically, it promotes youthfulness, bolsters immunity, tonifies all the body’s tissues and promotes overall health and well-being.1 It is a brain tonic, it promotes memory, and its sattvic nature fosters subtle awareness, balanced emotions, and clarity of mind.2, 1
Amla in Triphala
Triphala literally means ‘three fruits’ and includes equal portions (by weight) of amla, bibhitaki, and haritaki.1 Triphala is the most widely used formula in Ayurveda. Like amla, triphala contains five of the six tastes—all but salty—and is primarily used to maintain a healthy digestive tract.1 Triphala is deeply nourishing and cleansing to all tissues and is a very effective detoxifier.1 Triphala also benefits the lungs, skin, and eyes, and it can be used as part of a weight loss program that includes proper diet and exercise.1 Triphala is typically taken as a hot infusion at night or as a cold infusion upon rising.1 If there are clear signs of excess heat and inflammation in the digestive tract, amla taken alone may prove more supportive than triphala.
Amla in Chyavanprash
Chyavanprash is a delicious nutritive jam, primarily aimed at bolstering the immune system.1 Chyavanprash is made with a base of fresh amla fruits and also includes a number of other herbs, ghee, sesame oil, sugar, and/or honey. It is particularly supportive of the respiratory tract as it nourishes the mucous membranes and helps keep the respiratory passages clean and clear.1 Chyavanprash also strengthens vata, nourishes the reproductive tissues, aides in the elimination of ama (toxins), and builds ojas.1 Chyavanprash can be taken on a long-term basis as part of a program designed to support overall strengthening, or recovery from an illness or stress.1 For others, it is more appropriately used seasonally, as a tonic in the winter months.1 Taking chyavanprash in milk (or almond milk if dairy is not appropriate) helps to carry its tonifying and rejuvenating qualities deep into the tissues.1
How to Use Amla
Because taste plays such an important role in the digestive process and signals the body to initiate its own supportive mechanisms, Ayurveda traditionally recommends tasting herbs. Amla can be taken internally in four forms: a powder, a tablet, a liquid extract, or in a jam such as chyavanprash. Banyan Botanicals makes amla available in all four of these forms:
- Amla Powder
Amla powder offers the full experience of tasting the herb and also provides the most economical option for purchasing amla. Like triphala, amla powder can be taken as a hot or cold infusion in water, at night or upon rising. In some instances, taking amla in milk, ghee or another carrier substance may help to direct the herb to a specific tissue or organ, or guide it toward a particular kind of systemic support. An ayurvedic practitioner can advise you on the appropriate anupan (carrier) for your herbs. You can also refer to the Ayurveda’s Carrier Substances guide to better understand which anupan is most appropriate for you. A typical dose of amla powder is ¼–½ teaspoon, once or twice daily, or as directed by your healthcare practitioner.
- Amla Tablets
Banyan’s 100% USDA organic tablets provide a more convenient way to take amla, especially for those who are frequently traveling or on the go. The tablets also provide a nice alternative for those who find the taste a deterrent to taking the herb. Banyan provides herbs in a tablet form (rather than a capsule) because tablets allow you to get a sample of the taste, allowing the digestive process to receive appropriate signals about what you are about to ingest and inviting the body to initiate other healing mechanisms. A typical dose is one to two tablets, once or twice daily, or as directed by your healthcare practitioner.
- Amla liquid extract
- Amla liquid extract provides an alternative method of taking amla. It's convenient, easy to assimilate, and has a long shelf life. This extract is made from the same certified organic amla used in making the herbal tablets and is extracted using non-GMO, gluten-free grain alcohol. A typical dose is a dropper full (about 30 drops) taken in 1–2 ounces of water or juice, one to three times daily, or as directed by your healthcare practitioner.
- Amla in a Nutritive Jam—Chyavanprash
As a rejuvenative, chyavanprash is typically taken in the morning and evening.1 Chyavanprash is a tasty jam, and as such offers the full experience of tasting the herbal ingredients. The usual dose of chyavanprash is 1–3 teaspoons, once or twice daily, or as directed by your healthcare practitioner.1
Modern Research on Amla
There has been significant scientific research evaluating the benefits of amla both on its own, and as an ingredient in chyavanprash and triphala. Among other things, studies have looked at amla’s ability to foster appropriate glucose levels, cholesterol levels, and its immunomodulatory and antioxidant effects. Below are a few links that summarize some of these findings:
- Effect of Chyawanprash and Vitamin C on Glucose Tolerance and Lipoprotein Profile. PubMed Abstract. Jan 2001.4
- Effect of the Indian Gooseberry (Amla) on Serum Cholesterol Levels in Men Aged 35-55 Years. PubMed Abstract. Nov 1988.5
- Immunomodulatory effects of agents of plant origin. PubMed Abstract. Sep 2003.6
- Cytotoxic Response of Breast Cancer Cell Lines, MCF 7 and T 47 D to Triphala and its Modification by Antioxidants. PubMed Abstract. Jul 2006.7
A night dose of amla before sleep can weaken the teeth in the same way that over-exposure to citrus fruits might, eroding tooth enamel; taken in this manner, amla may also irritate the throat.2 Being an edible fruit, there are no other known issues with amla, even at higher doses.2
Amla should be avoided in cases of high ama (toxicity) or when kapha is especially aggravated.1 It is also ill advised when individuals of a pitta-predominant constitution have diarrhea.1 There is some evidence to suggest caution among individuals with an iron deficiency because amla can form chelates with iron and thus reduce the amount of usable iron in the blood.3 Traditionally however, amla has been used to balance and build the blood.1
You can find amla in a number of Banyan products:
When purchasing amla and products containing amla, there are a number of questions to consider that will help you to evaluate the quality of the herbs, the values upheld by the company that produced them, and the price of the product in relation to its quality.
1 Pole, Sebastian. Ayurvedic Medicine: The Principles of Traditional Practice. Churchill Livingston Elsevier, 2006. 52, 126-127, 296, 303-304, 326.
2 Gogte, Vaidya V. M. Ayurvedic Pharmacology & Therapeutic Uses of Medicinal Plants. Reprint. Chaukhambha Publications, 2009. 310.
3 “Amalaki (Phyllanthus emblica).” Natural Standard: Professional Monograph. Online. 26 Feb. 2012. http://naturalstandard.com/databases/herbssupplements/amalaki.asp
4 Manjunatha, S., et al. “Effect of Chyawanprash and Vitamin C on Glucose Tolerance and Lipoprotein Profile.” Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology. 45.1 (2001): 71-79. Online. PubMed. 26 Feb. 2012. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11211574?dopt=Abstract
5 Jacob, A., et al. “Effect of the Indian Gooseberry (Amla) on Serum Cholesterol Levels in Men Aged 35-55 Years.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 42.11 (1988): 939-944. Online. PubMed. 26 Feb. 2012. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3250870?dopt=Abstract
6 Ganju, L., et al. “Immunomodulatory Effects of Agents of Plant Origin.” Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy. 57.7 (2003): 296-300. Online. PubMed. 26 Feb. 2012. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14499177?dopt=Abstract
7 Sandhya, T. and K.P. Mishra. “Cytotoxic Response of Breast Cancer Cell Lines, MCF 7 and T 47 D to Triphala and Its Modification by Antioxidants.” Cancer Letters. 238.2 (2006): 304-313. Online. PubMed. 26 Feb. 2012. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16135398?dopt=Abstract