A voice for
herbal medicine

We share traditional, scientific and practical insights written by experienced herbalists and health experts from the world of herbal medicine and natural health

Regarded as the sacred tree in India, the sour fruit of Amalaki is rich in Vitamin C.


Phyllanthus emblica Euphorbiaceae

A highly esteemed Ayurvedic herb with powerfully protective and adaptogenic properties. Used for cardiovascular and cellular health and offering functional support to the immune system and and in metabolic disorders.

Sustainability Status

Sustainability status

Not currently on risk lists but complete data may be missing on the status of the species. Read more about our sustainability guide.

Key benefits
  • Antioxidant
  • Nutritive
  • Adaptogenic
  • Hepatoprotective
  • Cardiovascular tonic
  • Digestive tonic
  • Metabolic amphoteric
  • Hair tonic
  • How does it feel?

    Amalaki has a dynamic taste, one that indulges nearly all the primary taste sesnes, that is all but salty. Initially sour, then bitter and astringent on first taste, building in more pungent and sweet tones as its chemistry awakens the taste buds. Energetically Amalaki is cooling, light and dry. It is extremely rich in antioxidants and Vitamin C, stimulating digestive activity whilst giving a direct energy boost.

  • What can I use it for?

    Amalaki is particularly effective for reducing inflammation in the digestive tract, assisting the bowels and also strengthening the heart. Amalaki berries are incredibly powerful antioxidants with high levels of naturally occurring Vitamin C which make this herb very protective for the heart and blood vessels but also the immune system.

    The stabilising and protective nature of this particular herb indicates its use to help prevent and treat any damage associated with connective tissue disorders and also autoimmune based conditions.

    Amalaki is one of the major ingredients in two of the most famous Ayurvedic preparations; Triphala and Chywanaprash. Chywanaprash is a traditional Ayurvedic elixir tonic paste that is a superb rejuvenate for the immune system, in particular the lungs, all three Ayurvedic doshas and the reproductive system.

    Triphala is a traditional tonic for the whole digestive system, nourishing and strengthening it from the core.

    Amalaki is specifically indicated for digestive sensitivities, especially where there are signs of excess inflammation and bleeding within the digestive tract and intestines specifically. In small dosages, Amalaki can sometimes constipate, where a larger dose will act as a laxative. Amalaki is a very effective liver cleanser, partly due to its sour components literally ‘squeezing’ the liver.

    Amalaki has an affinity for the blood and helps nourish and protect the heart. It protects the heart and blood vessels by reducing elevated cholesterol and healing arterial damage via its antioxidant cell regenerative effects. The high concentration of antioxidants also make Amalaki an excellent tonic for general debility and weakness in the heart and blood vessels.

    Amalaki is renowned in Ayurveda as a rejuvenative tonic, or ‘rasayana’ and an adaptogen which has the ability to restore vigour and vitality. Its name in Sanskrit means ‘the sustainer’, and it is traditionally used to provide nourishment to all of the body’s tissues.

    The naturally high Vitamin C content of this fruit has made it a primary herb for supporting the functioning of the immune system, through its ability to stimulate wound healing and repair mechanisms.

  • Into the heart of amalaki

    Amalaki is also known as Dhatri, this translates – the nurse – like mother in Sanskrit, this is due to its healing and nurturing properties as a herb that gently restores all tissue types. Described as the ultimate carer and healer. In quality, Amalaki is light and dry in terms of quality and energetically cooling. A potent tissue restorative, predominantly that of the blood and muscles.

    Amalaki promotes energy and also acts as an aphrodisiac, increasing reproductive fluids and sexual potency. Also a tonic of the mind that gives a direct sense of wellbeing. With its dynamic taste sense this herb awakens all the senses, Amalaki deeply engages our sensory system, a mechanism that directly activates the psycho-emotional axis and raises the quality of consciousness.

    In Ayurveda, Amalaki is said to increase ‘Ojas’ this is a term used to describe the action of enhancing digestion, such that which maintains fundamental immune function and strength in the body.

    One of Ayurveda’s finest Adaptogens -a herb that increases resilience to the effects of long term stress exposure. Both protective, nutritive and restorative. Amalaki supports all of the physical systems most effected by prolonged high levels of stress hormones.

    The Ayurvedic understanding of constitutional health status as a reference is made to the doshas. The doshas are the traditional Ayurvedic understanding of bodily ‘humour’ (or elemental energies) that can represent both balance (or imbalance) of health.

    All three doshas are present in all of us in unique levels but can be out of balance, an Ayurvedic practitioner will use a number of diagnostic and investigative methods to gain an understanding of these doshas and will use specific herbs to restore their balance. The three doshas are as follows:

    • Vata (air and ether – creativity and connection – nervous system)
    • Pitta (fire and water – digestion and metabolism)
    • Kapha (water and earth – structure, substance and stability – all body tissues).

    Amalaki is said to balance all three doshas. In Ayurveda, herbs that have a predominantly sour flavour are said to aggravate pitta (conditions where pitta is in excess), however Amalaki is a rare exception to this rule, due to its energetically cooling properties.

  • Traditional uses

    Amalaki is a highly esteemed herbal medicine well documented by the ancient Ayurveda scholars. It has long been used in Indian folk medicine to treat liver diseases, stomach ulcers, inflammatory diseases, metabolic disorders, geriatric complaints, skin disorders and hair loss.

    This fruit has been widely used in Ayurveda both alone or in combination with other plants. Traditionally it is used to treat common cold and fever. It has numerous indications for acute conditions of the digestive system as a laxative, liver tonic and stomachic, also as an anti-pyretic; to prevent ulcer and dyspepsia (3).

    All parts of this plant are known to have medicinal uses according to traditional understanding of this plant. Due to the astringency of the root bark of amalaki, it is indicated in ulcerative colitis and gastric ulcers. The tannin rich root bark is also useful in gastric conditions, jaundice, diarrhoea and myalgia. The flowers are cooling and digestive, whereas the leaves are referred to in traditional Ayurveda as being indicated for use in conjunctivitis, dyspepsia, diarrhoea and dysentery. Finally, the seeds are traditionally known to be used in asthma and bronchitis (3).

  • Traditional actions

  • Traditional energetic actions

    Herbal energetics are the descriptions Herbalists have given to plants, mushrooms, lichens, foods, and some minerals based on the direct experience of how they taste, feel, and work in the body. All traditional health systems use these principles to explain how the environment we live in and absorb, impacts our health. Find out more about traditional energetic actions in our article “An introduction to herbal energetics“.

  • What practitioners say

    amalaki treeCardiovascular: Amalaki has an affinity for the cardiovascular system, helping to nourish and protect the blood and the heart. It protects the heart and blood vessels by reducing elevated cholesterol and healing arterial damage via its antioxidant cell regenerative effects. The high concentration of antioxidants also make amalaki an excellent tonic for general debility and weakness in the heart and blood vessels.

    Digestive: The dynamic flavour profile for Amalaki is one that indulges all of the primary taste senses, that is all but salty. As a herb that initially delivers sour qualities followed by bitter, amla stimulates the digestive fluids whilst increasing appetite. 

    Owning to the bitter qualities of this herb, there are numerous indications for acute conditions of the digestive system as a laxative, liver tonic and stomachic, also as an anti-pyretic; to prevent ulcers and dyspepsia. 

    Immune system: A potent immune tonic, due to high levels of Vitamin C, amalaki is used for both acute and ongoing immune support. It is a great herb of choice where cell protection may be required for example in recovery from a severe viral infection or to support cell recovery during radiotherapy or chemotherapy treatments. Considered to be one of Ayurveda’s best cytoprotective herbs (1, 6, 8).

    Respiratory: Amalaki being rich in Vitamin C and antioxidant compounds is an excellent tonic and protector of the lungs. A herbalist may use this herb both in short term and long term respiratory conditions. Amalaki can be worked with to support acute respiratory infections both during and after the illness, and to support lung health after smoking cessation.

    Musculoskeletal: The stabilising and protective nature of this particular herb indicates its use to help prevent and treat any damage associated with connective tissue disorders and also autoimmune based conditions.

    Skin: The naturally high Vitamin C content of this fruit has made it a primary herb for enhancing the bodies wound healing and repair mechanisms, making it a useful herb of choice in conditions of the skin as it supports immune function.

    Metabolism: Due to its digestive and microcirculatory stimulating properties amalaki may be a supportive option for those with diabetic disorders (1). This herb would be an excellent choice where nutritional deficiency or convalescence from ongoing illness has led to an overall state of depletion, raising vitality, by supporting the assimilation of nutrients and improving cellular function. 

    The high amount of vitamin C content of amalaki reduces blood sugar levels, whilst also stimulating the islets of Langerhans (cells within the pancreas that are responsible for the production and release of hormones that regulate blood sugar) i.e. the isolated group of cells which secrete hormone insulin (6, 8).

    Stages of life: Amalaki possesses several properties that are deemed important for maintaining health in later life. It is a herb that works on the adrenal- stress hormone mechanism as it is adaptogenic (and so increases resilience to prolonged stress hormone exposure), whilst also prolonging cellular life and regeneration.

    Amalaki is said to be one of Ayurveda’s most rejuvenating herbs. Due to its high quantities of antioxidants such as vitamin C and bioflavonoids amalaki produces anti-ageing effects by reducing free radicals that enhance cell ageing. Overall Amalaki is an excellent herb to use in all stages of life, as its rich phytochemistry gives it protective properties (7,10). 

    Other: Amalaki is one of the major ingredients in two of the most famous Ayurvedic preparations; triphala and chywanaprash. Chywanaprash is a traditional Ayurvedic elixir tonic paste that is a superb rejuvenative for the immune system, in particular the lungs, all three Ayurvedic doshas and the reproductive system.

  • Research

    One of the primary constituents found in this fruit is naturally occurring ascorbic acid, more commonly known as Vitamin C. Vitamin C is an important co-factor in numerous enzymatic processes in the body including blood vessel formation, wound healing mechanisms, iron absorption and energy transfer. 

    It is also a crucial component in protecting cellular membranes and, of course, the immune system. It is packed with protective bioflavonoids such as gallic acid, ellagic acid and rutin. The combination of these compounds makes amalaki a very effective anti-inflammatory that also has the ability to stabilise connective tissue, blood vessels, bones, hair and the eyes.

    Immune system: An in vitro study to assess the ability of Amalaki to reduce chromium (VI) induced oxidative damage in murine macrophages using fruit extracts of Amalaki demonstrated a positive cytoprotective action against oxidative injury. This is as a result of the plants ability to inhibit free radical production and maintain higher antioxidant levels in the cells, even during increased levels of oxidative stress (11).

    Skin health: In a study set out to investigate the efficacy of amalaki to inhibit UVB-induced photo-aging in human skin fibroblasts, mitochondrial activity of human skin fibroblasts was measured. The results of this study suggest that amalaki effectively inhibits UVB-induced photo-aging in human skin fibroblasts. This is via its powerful ability to increase free radical scavenging activity (4).

    Dentistry: An extract used irrigant of E. emblica (hydroalcoholic) effectively improved periodontal parameters associated with periodontal healing in the treatment of chronic periodontitis. The study used amalaka extract as an adjunct to conventional mechanical therapy. The results of this study suggest that amalaki may provide an alternative to chlorhexidine in nonsurgical periodontal therapy. Future longitudinal multicentered studies using a variety of different concentrations of E. officinalis subgingival irrigations are required to validate these results. (5).

    Urinary: By employing an agar well diffusion technique (where an agar plate surface is inoculated by spreading a volume of the microbial inoculum over the entire agar surface), an aqueous infusion and decoction of amalaki exhibited potent antibacterial activity against Escherichia coli (270), Klebsiella pneumoniae (51), K. ozaenae (3), Proteus mirabilis (5), Pseudomonas aeruginosa (10), Salmonella typhi (1), S. paratyphi A (2), S. paratyphi B (1) and Serratia marcescens (2) but did not show any antibacterial activity against gram-negative urinary pathogens (9).

  • Did you know?

    The Vitamin C content in Amalaki is one of the highest in the vegetable kingdom (20 times that of an orange!) and it is heat stable due to the fruit containing high levels of tannins. Amalaki is also believed to raise the quality of consciousness and the overall wellbeing of the body.

Additional information

  • Botanical description

    Amalaki is a fruit that can be likened to a gooseberry in looks and size. It grows from small to medium sized trees that can reach up to 18metres in height and grow throughout India. Interestingly. The fruit can be harvested in December which can be retained on the tree up to March without any significant loss in quality or yield. The picking of fruit is generally in January to March. 

    Leaves are 10 -13 mm long, 3 mm wide, closely set in pinnate fashion which makes the branches. Its flowers are a greenish-yellow in colour and the Amalaki fruits are almost completely spherical in shape and a pale green colour. The fruits fleshy, spherical, light greenish yellow, relatively smooth and hard on appearance, with 6 vertical stripes or furrows, each containing usually around two seeds.

  • Common names

    • Indian Gooseberry (English)
    • Amla (Hindu)
    • Emblic mryobalan
    • Dhatri (translating to “nurse”  like mother)
  • Safety

    Pregnancy and breastfeeding: Amalaki is safe to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

  • Interactions

    Medications that affect blood clotting: Amalaki may slow blood clotting, consult a Medical Herbalist or healthcare provider before taking Amalaki if you are using blood thinning medications.

    Diabetes medications: Amalaki might reduce blood sugar levels. Taking Indian gooseberry along with diabetes medications might cause blood sugar to drop too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely.

  • Contraindications

    Not to be used in cases of diarrhoea and dysentery in high doses.

    Ayurvedic: Caution should be followed in high kappa and in ‘Ama’ (in Sanskrit, ama means toxin or undigested metabolic waste)

  • Preparation

    • Tincture
    • Dried herb
    • Powder
    • Capsule
    • Chywanaprash
  • Dosage

    250mg–30g/day or 1–15ml/day of a 1:3 at 25% tincture

  • Plant parts used

    • Fruit (most used)
    • Flower
    • Leaf
    • Root bark
    • Seed
  • Constituents

    • Protein 0.5%
    • Fat 0.1%
    • Carbohydrates 14.1%
    • Mineral matter 0.7%
    • Fiber 3.4%
    • Calcium 0.05%
    • Potassium 0.02%
    • Iron 1.2 mg/100g
    • Nicotinic acid 0.2 mg/g
    • Phyllemblin
    • Phyllemblic acid
    • Gallic acid
    • Emblicol
    • Quercetin
    • Hydroxymethyl furfural
    • Ellagic acid
    • Pectin
    • Putranjivan A
    • Tannins: Two newly identified hydrolysable tannins called emblicannin A and B, punigluconin and pendunculagin (6, 7).
  • Habitat

    Amalaki is a very common plant in India that grows predominantly in the savanna and forests. It can be easily found growing in the semi-arid regions and plains of northern India. It is native to India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Southern China and Malaysia.

  • Sustainability

    The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020 has assessed the population of this plant in its natural habitat. Although this plant is currently classed as being of ‘least concern’ in terms of endangered status, likely due to habitat loss, the IUCN also state that it is decreasing in population in its native habitats.

  • Quality control

    Herbal Medicines are often extremely safe to take, however it is important to buy herbal medicines from a reputed supplier. Sometimes herbs bought from unreputable sources are contaminated, adulterated or substituted with incorrect plant matter.

    Some important markers for quality to look for would be to look for certified organic labelling, ensuring that the correct scientific/botanical name is used and that suppliers can provide information about the source of ingredients used in the product.

    A supplier should be able to tell you where the herbs have come from. There is more space for contamination and adulteration when the supply chain is unknown. 

  • How to grow

    amalaki fruit and leavesAmla grows best in light and medium-heavy soils, except in purely sandy soil. This hardy tree is well adapted to dry regions and may even be grown in moderate alkaline soils. 

    It is easy to propagate amla plant from a well-grafted tree. Be sure to plant your grafted tree at around 10 inches deep.

    To grow from seed, place amla seeds into a container of water for unto 12 hours, discarding any floating seeds. 

    Fill seedling pots with a potting soil containing equal portions of sand, compost, and garden loam.

    Plant one amla seed in each pot, placing each seed at a depth three times its diameter in the potting soil. Moisten the potting soil, then cover the pots with clear plastic (a yoghurt pot lid, for example).

    Ensure the soil stays damp. Germination should occur at between two weeks to one month. Continue to grow the seedlings in pots for eight to 10 months, until they reach 10 to 12 inches in height. 

    Choose a planting location with deep, rich, well-drained loam and full sun exposure. Although amla does best in deep, rich soil, it grows in almost any ground that isn’t extremely alkaline or soggy. 

  • References

    1. Pole, S. (2013). Ayurvedic medicine : the principles of traditional practice. London ; Philadelphia: Singing Dragon, Cop.
    2. Frawley, D. and Vasant Lad (2016). The Yoga of Herbs : an Ayurvedic guide to herbal medicine. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
    3. M. B., K. and Mallika, K.J. (2013). AMALAKI (INDIAN GOOSEBERRY): AN ANCIENT FOOD SUPPLEMENT. International Journal of Research in Ayurveda and Pharmacy, 4(1), pp.11–14. doi:10.7897/2277-4343.04113.
    4. M. D. Adil, P. Kaiser et al (2010). Effect of Emblica officinalis (fruit) against UVB-induced photo-aging in human skin fibroblasts. Journal of Ethnopharmacoloogy. Issue 132. Volume 1.
    5. Tewari, S., Grover, S., Sharma, R.K., Singh, G. and Sharma, A. (2018). Emblica officinalis Irrigation as an Adjunct to Scaling and Root Planing: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial. Journal of Dentistry Indonesia, [online] 25(1). doi:10.14693/jdi.v25i1.1152.
    6. Pravin, M., Bhat, Umale, H., Bhat, H., Umale, M. and Lahankar (2019). Amalaki: A review on functional and pharmacological properties. ~ 4378 ~ Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry, [online] 8(3), pp.4378–4382. Available at: https://www.phytojournal.com/archives/2019/vol8issue3/PartBM/8-3-417-268.pdf.
    7. Ghosal, S. Active constituents of Emblica officinalis Part 1-The chemistry and antioxidative effects of two new hydrolysable tannins Emblicannin A and B, Indian J. Chem. 1996, 941-8.
    8. Kumar Sampath KP. Recent trends in potential traditional Indian herbs Emblica officinalis and its medicinal importance. Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry. 2012; 1(1):18-28.
    9. Saeed, S. and Tariq, P. (2007). Antibacterial activities of Emblica officinalis and Coriandrum sativum against Gram negative urinary pathogens. Pakistan Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, [online] 20(1), pp.32–35. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17337425/ [Accessed 17 Jun. 2022].
    10. Kangotra Shakshi Et Al: Anti-Ageing Effect of Amalaki: A Review. International Ayurvedic Medical Journal. 2017; 5(7):2451-2456
    11. Sai Ram, M., Neetu, D., Deepti, P., Vandana, M., Ilavazhagan, G., Kumar, D. and Selvamurthy, W. (2003). Cytoprotective activity of Amla (Emblica officinalis) against chromium (VI) induced oxidative injury in murine macrophages. Phytotherapy research: PTR, [online] 17(4), pp.430–433. doi:10.1002/ptr.1157.
An ‘aromatic’ remedy, high in volatile essential oils, was most often associated with calming and sometimes ‘warming’ the digestion. Most kitchen spices and herbs have this quality: they were used both as flavouring and to ease the digestion of sometimes challenging pre-industrial foods. Many aromatics are classed as ‘carminatives’ and are used to reduce colic, bloating and agitated digestion. They also often feature in respiratory remedies for colds, chest and other airway infections. They are also classic calming inhalants and massage oils, and are the basis of aromatherapy for their mental benefits.
Astringent taste
The puckering taste you get with many plants (the most familiar is black tea after being stewed too long, or some red wines) is produced by complex polyphenols such as tannins. Tannins are used in concentrated form (eg from oak bark) to make leather from animal skins. The process of ‘tanning’ involves the coagulation of relatively fluid proteins in living tissues into tight clotted fibres (similar to the process of boiling an egg). Tannins in effect turn exposed surfaces on the body into leather. In the case of the lining of mouth and upper digestive tract this is only temporary as new mucosa are replenished, but in the meantime can calm inflamed or irritated surfaces. In the case of open wounds tannins can be a life-saver – when strong (as in the bark of broadleaved trees) they can seal a damaged surface. One group of tannins, the reddish-brown ‘condensed tannins’ are procyanidins, which can reduce inflammation and oxidative damage.
Bitters are a very complex group of phytochemicals that stimulate the bitter receptors in the mouth. They were some of the most valuable remedies in ancient medicine. They were experienced as stimulating appetite and switching on a wide range of key digestive functions, including increasing bile clearance from the liver (as bile is a key factor in bowel health this can be translated into improving bowel functions and the microbiome). Many of these reputations are being supported by new research on the role of bitter receptors in the mouth and elsewhere round the body. Bitters were also seen as ‘cooling’ reducing the intensity of some fevers and inflammatory diseases.
Blue-purple colouring
Any fruits with a blue-purple colouring contain high levels of the polyphenols known as anthocyanins. These work 1) on the walls of small blood vessels, helping to maintain capillary structure to reduce a key stage in inflammation, and improving the microcirculation to the tissues; 2) to improve retinal function and vision; 3) to support connective tissue repair around the body.
Traditional ‘cold’ or cooling’ remedies often contain bitter phytonutrients such a iridoids (gentian), sesiquterpenes (chamomile), anthraquinones (rhubarb root), mucilages (marshmallow), some alkaloids and flavonoids. They tend to influence the digestive system, liver and kidneys. Cooling herbs do just that; they diffuse, drain and clear heat from areas of inflammation, redness and irritation. Sweet, bitter and astringent herbs tend to be cooling.
Traditional ‘hot’ or ‘heating’ remedies, often containing spice ingredients like capsaicin, the gingerols (ginger), piperine (black or long pepper), curcumin (turmeric) or the sulfurous isothiocyanates from mustard, horseradich or wasabi, generate warmth when taken. In modern times this might translate as thermogenic and circulatory stimulant effects. There is evidence of improved tissue blood flow with such remedies: this would lead to a reduction in build-up of metabolites and tissue damage. Heating remedies were used to counter the impact of cold, reducing any symptoms made worse in the cold. .
Mucilages are complex carbohydrate based plant constituents with a slimy or ‘unctuous’ feel especially when chewed or macerated in water. Their effect is due simply to their physical coating exposed surfaces. From prehistory they were most often used as wound remedies for their soothing and healing effects on damaged tissues. Nowadays they are used more for these effects on the digestive lining, from the throat to the stomach, where they can relieve irritation and inflammation such as pharyngitis and gastritis. Some of the prominent mucilaginous remedies like slippery elm, aloe vera and the seaweeds can be used as physical buffers to reduce the harm and pain caused by reflux of excess stomach acid. Mucilages are also widely used to reduce dry coughing. Here the effect seems to be by reflex through embryonic nerve connections: reduced signals from the upper digestive wall appear to translate as reduced activity of airway muscles and increased activity of airway mucus cells. Some seed mucilages, such as in psyllium seed, flaxseed (linseed) or guar bean survive digestion to provide bulking laxative effects in the bowel. These can also reduce rate of absorption of sugar and cholesterol. .
New-mown hay aroma
The familiar country odour of haymaking, of drying grass and other plants, is largely produced by coumarins (originally isolated from tonka beans – in French coumarou) and widely used in perfumery. They are chemically categorised as benzopyrone lactones and are important phytochemicals, with strong antioxidant activity in the laboratory and likely effects in modulating inflammation. They were most often associated with the calming effect linked to their use in stuffing mattresses and pillows and plants, high In coumarins were commonly used for these properties.
Resins are most familiar as tacky discharges from pine trees (and as the substance in amber, and rosin for violin bows). They were most valued however as the basis of ancient commodities like frankincense and myrrh (two of the three gifts of the Three Wise Men to the baby Jesus) and getting access to their source was one benefit to Solomon for marrying the Queen of Sheba (now Ethiopia). Resins were the original antiseptic remedies, ground and applied as powders or pastes to wounds or inflamed tissues, and were also used for mummification. With alcohol distillation it was found that they could be dissolved in 90% alcohol and in this form they remain a most powerful mouthwash and gargle, for infected sore throats and gum disease. They never attracted much early research interest because they permanently coat expensive glassware! For use in the mouth, gums and throat hey are best combined with concentrated licorice extracts to keep the resins in suspension and add extra soothing properties. It appears that they work both as local antiseptics and by stimulating white blood cell activity under the mucosal surface. They feel extremely effective!
The salty flavour is immediately distinctive. A grain dropped onto the tongue is instantly moistening and a sprinkle on food enkindles digestion. This easily recognisable flavour has its receptors right at the front of the tongue. The salty flavor creates moisture and heat, a sinking and heavy effect which is very grounding for the nervous system and encourages stability. People who are solid and reliable become known as ‘the salt of the earth'.
The sharp taste of some fruits, and almost all unripe fruits, as well as vinegar and fermented foods, is produced by weak acids (the taste is generated by H+ ions from acids stimulating the sour taste buds). Sour taste buds are hard-wired to generate immediate reflex responses elsewhere in the body. Anyone who likes the refreshing taste of lemon or other citrus in the morning will know that one reflex effect is increased saliva production. Other effects are subjective rather than confirmed by research but there is a consistent view that they include increased digestive activity and contraction of the gallbladder.
In the days when most people never tasted sugar, ‘sweetness’ was associated with the taste of basic foods: that of cooked vegetables, cereals and meat. In other words sweet was the quality of nourishment, and ‘tonic’ remedies. Describing a remedy as sweet generally led to that remedy being used in convalescence or recovery from illness. Interestingly, the plant constituents most often found in classic tonics like licorice, ginseng are plant steroids including saponins, which also have a sweet taste.

Sign up to our Newsletter

Sign up to our newsletter to receive the very latest in herbal insights.

Sign up to our newsletter