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.
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).
What practitioners say
Cardiovascular: 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.
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.
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.
- Indian Gooseberry (English)
- Amla (Hindu)
- Emblic mryobalan
- Dhatri (translating to “nurse” like mother)
Pregnancy and breastfeeding: Amalaki is safe to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
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.
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)
- Dried herb
250mg–30g/day or 1–15ml/day of a 1:3 at 25% tincture
Plant parts used
- Fruit (most used)
- Root bark
- 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
- Phyllemblic acid
- Gallic acid
- Hydroxymethyl furfural
- Ellagic acid
- Putranjivan A
- Tannins: Two newly identified hydrolysable tannins called emblicannin A and B, punigluconin and pendunculagin (6, 7).
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.
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.
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
Amla 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.
- Pole, S. (2013). Ayurvedic medicine : the principles of traditional practice. London ; Philadelphia: Singing Dragon, Cop.
- Frawley, D. and Vasant Lad (2016). The Yoga of Herbs : an Ayurvedic guide to herbal medicine. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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].
- Kangotra Shakshi Et Al: Anti-Ageing Effect of Amalaki: A Review. International Ayurvedic Medical Journal. 2017; 5(7):2451-2456
- 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.