Herb-Amla

Amla (Indian gooseberry)
(Emblica officinalis)

Part Used: Fruit

Habitat:
The species is native to India and also grows in tropical and subtropical regions. Tibetan: Skyu-ru-ra including Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Srilanka, South East Asia, China and Malaysia.

Introduction:

According to believe in ancient Indian mythology, it is the first tree to be created in the universe. It belongs to family Euphorbiaceae. It is also named as Amla, Phyllanthus Emblica or Indian gooseberry.

Bot. Res. Intl., 2 (4): 218-228, 2009


Amla is a prestigious herb, mentioned in charak samhita as a rasayan. Rasayan is known to prevent aging and promotes longevity. According to ayurvedic doctors regular usage of Amla will make you live more than 100 years like a youth. Amla is supposed to rejuvenate all the organ systems of the body, provide strength and wellness. It keeps us away from all the diseases by boosting our immune system. It is believed by ayurvedic practitioners that if an individual regularly takes amla he can live up to an age of 100 without suffering from any type of ailments.

Amla is a gift of nature to mankind. It is an indispensable part of the ayurvedic and unani system with amazing remedial qualities. In Sanskrit, it is called Amalaki or Dhartiphala. Amla is perhaps the single most often mentioned herb in "Charak Samhita", the Ayurvedic medicine literature (500 BC). Amla is a wonder herb and one of the precious gifs of nature to humans. Amla is known as "Divya" and "Amrut" or Amrit Phala in Sanskrit, which literally means fruit of heaven or nectar fruit. The Sanskrit name, Amlaki, translates as the Sustainer or The Fruit where the Goddess of Prosperity Resides. In Hindu religious mythology the tree is worshipped as the Earth Mother as its fruit is considered to be so nourishing as to be the nurse of mankind.

Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Science 02 (01); 2011: 176-183

History –
Amalaki is one of the highest natural sources of Vitamin C (3,000 mg per fruit). Amla fruit paste is main ingredient of Chyawanprash, a popular Ayurvedic tonic. Amla is known as amritphale in Sanskrit, which literally means the fruit of heaven or nectar fruit. It is so called because it is rich in many desirable properties. It was described in a 7th century Ayurvedic medical text. According to several scholars, the sage Chyawan is reputed to have restored his vitality with this fruit. Researches of modern times have proved that Regular use of Amla enhances production of Red Blood Cells, strengthens teeth, hair and nails.
Kumar et al. ISSN 2278- 4136, Vol. 1 No. 1 2012, Online Available at www.phytojournal.com

In the Sanskrit Buddhist tradition half an amalaka fruit was the final gift to the Buddhist sangha by the great Indian emperor Asoka. This is illustrated in the Asokavadana 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." This deed became so famous that a stupa was created to mark the place of the event in modern day Patna and was known as the Amalaka stupa. According to Hindu tradition, Adi Shankara composed and recited the Kanakadhara stotram in praise of Mahalakshmi to make a poor Brahmin lady get wealth, in return for a single aaonla presented to him as bhiksha on an auspicious dwadashi day. According to a Tamil legend, Avvaiyar (Tamil: ஔைவயா_), a female poet, ethicist and political activist of the Sangam period was gifted with one aaonla by King Athiyaman to give her long life. The tree is considered sacred by Hindus as the Vishnu is believed to dwell here. The tree is worshipped on Amalaka Ekadashi.

Raaz K Maheshwari et al Int. J. Med. Pharm. Res., 2013,Vol.1(2)

Mechanism of Action:
The antioxidant potential of the active constituents of amla is responsible for its medicinal action.
Alteration in basic homeostatic balance of the body is the origin of disease. Imbalance between pro-oxidant and anti-oxidant homeostasis place a major role in majority of ailments. Pro-oxidant condition dominates either due to increased generation of free radicals and/or their poor quenching/scavenging by the anti-oxidants (which protects the body against the deleterious effects of free radicals).

Amla is one of the richest sources of vitamin-C and low molecular weight hydrolysable tannins which makes Amla a good antioxidant. The tannins of amla like emblicanin-A (37%), emblicanin-B (33%), punigluconin and pedunculagin are reported to provide protection against oxygen radical included haemolysis of rat peripheral blood erythrocytes. The mechanism behind antioxidant activity is due to the recycling of sugar moiety and conversion of the polyphenol into medium and high molecular weight tannins. The powerful antioxidant Ellagic acid, present in Amla, can inhibit mutations in genes and repairs the chromosomal abnormalities.

Amla inhibits the growth and spread of various cancers like breast, uterus, pancreas, stomach and liver cancers. It can prevent and/or reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. More than 18 compounds were identified in amla fruit which can exert anti-proliferative activity on gastric and uterine cancer cells. The main mechanism behind its activity is by enhancing Natural Killer (NK) cell activity in various tumor cells. Emblicanin A & B of amla fruit are reported to possess strong antioxidant and anti-cancer properties.

Medicinal Uses:

Amla has many health benefits which include:

It rejuvenates skin, improves vision, shiny hairs, respiratory disorders, diabetes and its complications, heart disorders, eye disorders (conjunctivitis, glaucoma etc). It has antioxidant effect and possesses hepatoprotective, nephroprotective, gastroprotective, dermoprotective, cerebroprotective or antiaging, hypolipidemic, cardioprotective, immunostimulant, antimicrobial, anticancer and many other beneficial effects.
Raaz K Maheshwari et al Int. J. Med. Pharm. Res., 2013,Vol.1(2)

Pharmacological Action:

Hepatoprotective Effect – Amla fruits are used for hepatoprotection in Ayurveda. Studies on amla suggest its antioxidant activity to protect liver from toxic substances. It decreases the increased levels of serum and liver lipid peroxides (LPO), glutamate-pyruvate transaminase (GPT) and alkaline phosphatase (ALP).

Anti-inflammatory Activity - Inflammation is part of the host defense system and is triggered by a variety of noxious stimuli. It involves a complex interplay between cell-cell, cell-mediator, and tissue interactions. Amla fruit has anti-inflammatory effect and it helps to reduce inflammatory markers and maintains the antioxidant status of the organ.

J Complement Integr Med. 2014 Feb 7;11(1):9-18. doi: 10.1515/jcim-2013-0023.

Inflammation or tissue damage leads to induction of iNOS (inducible nitric oxide synthase); consequently large amounts of NO are generated at the site of inflammation. NO reacts with superoxide anion to form peroxynitrite, an oxidizing molecule capable of eliciting lipid peroxidation. In lipid peroxidation there is oxidative deterioration of polyunsaturated lipids to form radical intermediates that causes cellular damage.

The infiltrating inflammatory cells also generate reactive oxygen species (ROS) and free radicals. The most common ROS include the superoxide anion, hydroxyl radical, singlet oxygen, and hydrogen peroxide. The enzyme superoxide dismutase catalyzes the dismutation of superoxide into oxygen and hydrogen peroxide. The activity of SOD reduces during severe inflammation as well as in the presence of oxidative stress. The large quantities of hydrogen peroxide generated are then taken care of by catalase and glutathione peroxidase to water. Excessive production of lipid hydroperoxide may also lead to reduced activity of glutathione peroxidase in inflammatory conditions. Besides the enzymatic antioxidants, the level of glutathione, a nonenzymatic reducing agent that traps free radicals and prevents oxidative damage, is also diminished in inflammatory conditions.

The active constituent of Emblica officinalis has been reported to inhibit NF-𝜅B activation, a key transcription factor involved in chronic inflammatory response and ageing. The inhibition of NF-𝜅B leads to reduction in the iNOS and COX-2 enzyme levels.

Prevents Oxidative Damage & Apoptosis – Amla enhances cyto-protection and reduces apoptosis and DNA fragmentation in cells exposed to toxicants. It inhibits and alleviates the unwanted changes in the levels of lipid peroxidation and reduced glutathione, and in superoxide dismutase and catalase activities; suggesting a protective effect.

Toxicol Int. 2014 Jan-Apr; 21(1): 8–17.

Cardioprotective – The hypolipidemic and antioxidant properties of amla fruits are responsible for its cardioprotective action. This helps to maintain the antioxidant system and prevents oxidative damage to the heart which arises due to Ischemic-repurfusion injury (IRI).

(Tissue damage caused after the blood supply returned to the tissue after a period of ischemia or lack of oxygen.)

 

Anti-diabetic Activity – The anti-diabetic activity of amla fruits help to reduce blood glucose levels and its antioxidant activity helps to prevent long-term damage.

2011 Sep;62(6):609-16. doi: 10.3109/09637486.2011.560565. Epub 2011 Apr 18.

 

Clinical Studies:

Emblica officinalis has been studied over normal and diabetic human volunteers. It decreases blood glucose levels, total lipids, LDL concentration in the blood and increases HDL concentration. This study was published in the International journal of Food, Science & Nutrition in 2011.

 2011 Sep;62(6):609-16. doi: 10.3109/09637486.2011.560565. Epub 2011 Apr 18.

Conclusion:

Amla is so popular because of its nutritional and medicinal benefits. It is famous since ancient times to relieve different ailments and rejuvenates all the organs of the body. Amla fruit has the potential to give long life to the person who uses it regularly in any form. TRIPHALA is one of the known ancient formulations, which contains amla.  The efficacy and health benefits of triphala are well known. It has all the health benefits of three fruits amla, haritaki & bibhitaki.