Amla, also called Indian gooseberry or Emblica officinali, is the most important medicinal plant in traditional Indian medicine. The fruits have many benefits and are invaluable in folk medicine. And yet this sour, tasty berry, about the size of a plum, is still largely unknown outside of India.
The Amla berry is called sarvadosha hara in Indian, which means ‘remover of all diseases’. This super berry is an important part of Ayurvedic medicine, but is also used in Siddha, Unani, Tibetan, Sri Lankan and Chinese medicine. In various folk medicines the fruits are useful in the treatment of ophthalmic problems, dyspepsia, gastritis, hyperacidity, constipation, colitis, hemorrhoids, hematuria, menorrhagia, anemia, diabetes, cough, asthma, osteoporosis, weakness and fatigue. More and more studies are documenting the useful role of Amla berries in conditions ranging from diabetes to cancer, liver disease, circulatory problems, ulcers, general weakness and anemia.
Most powerful antioxidant
In screening tests, the Amla berry emerges as an incredibly powerful antioxidant. Amla has an ORAC value (the antioxidant capacity) of 261,500 per 100 grams. For comparison: that is 55x more than blueberries. In one study, extracts from a thousand different herbs were screened using advanced electron spin technology. The Amla berry was one of the four chosen for both the superoxide radical rinsing activity and heat resistance. Another study with three fruit extracts analyzed the free radical capture activity of hydroxyl, superoxide, nitric oxide, peroxynitrite, hypochlorous acid and other active, oxidative, harmful molecules. Although individual plants varied in their specific actions on specific molecules, the authors generally noted that all three “fruit extracts showed quite good efficacy in their antioxidant and radical scavenging abilities.” Another study of 30 different Thai medicinal plants traditionally used for diabetes showed that there were five strong antioxidant properties, of which Amla berry had the strongest antioxidant activity and the highest total polyphenol and tannin content.
Protects liver and skin
The extract also excels in protecting the liver against oxidative damage. Oxidative stress is considered to be an underlying mechanism that is responsible for alcohol-induced liver damage. The researchers concluded that the tannoid, flavanoid and nitric oxide-trapping molecules in Amla berries can “provide protection against free-radical oxidative stress in alcohol-induced liver damage.”
Just like the liver, the skin is also protected by Amla, because antioxidants extinguish the harmful effects of free radicals or ultraviolet radiation. When researchers exposed skin cells to ultraviolet light, they discovered that an extract of the berry protected pro-collagen 1 (a precursor to collagen in the skin). In a study from 2011, the Amla extract also protected against harmful radiation caused by ultraviolet B radiation. The researchers concluded that the berry extract has “promising cosmeceutic benefits against sun aging.” Finally, in a wound healing study, the use of Amla extract improved wound healing, and the researchers found higher levels of ascorbic acid, alpha-tocopherol, reduced glutathione superoxide dismutase, catalase and glutathione peroxidase in the wound site.
Want to know more about the Amla berry? Read the extensive article here that quotes no fewer than 28 studies.