Amla Berry: The Next Trend in Superfoods
Amla, also known as Indian Gooseberry, is a sour fruit that has seen use in Ayurveda for thousands of years. It is native to mountainous regions in southeast Asia. It has a particularly prominent place in India, where it is considered sacred. Amla has seen wide use in Ayurveda, a popular form of Indian traditional medicine. Amla is loaded with an array of vitamins and minerals, and a resurgence in the popularity of traditional forms of wellness within the Western world has brought new attention to this powerful supplement.
Ayurveda came into being five thousand years ago in India. Since most early Ayurvedic writings are in Sanskrit, practitioners usually refer to Ayurvedic herbs by their Sanskrit names. Amla’s Sanskrit name is Amalaki, and this is how it is usually referred to in the context of its Ayurvedic uses. It is also called Dhatri which means “The Nurse” in Sanskrit. It has long been used to promote healthy metabolism, digestion, elimination, eyesight, reproduction, as well as supporting liver, heart, and lung function. It is even used to enhance beauty by fortifying the hair, skin, and nails. It is believed to rejuvenate all of the body’s tissues and build ojas, the vital life force, and agni, or “digestive fire.” It is also believed to balance the body’s doshas, or humors, specifically calming Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Its effect on Pitta is said to be especially pronounced. Amla contains five of the six flavors recognized by Ayurveda. Flavor is viewed as an important first step in digestion, telling the body which nutrients to prepare for, so the presence of five of the six means that Amla is excellent for priming digestion. Amla’s involvement in every area of metabolism, from digestion and elimination to aiding liver function, has given it a reputation as a powerful detoxifier. This is especially true when it is used in the infusion known as Triphala, or “three fruits,” which also contains bibhitaki and haritaki. It is also the Emperor, or main herb, in the famous rejuvenation tonic Chyawanprash.
The increasing popularity of traditional medicine within the Western world has brought Amla under increased scrutiny. As a result, scientists are beginning to seriously evaluate the properties of plants like Amla. Amla contains a great deal of Vitamin C, many times more than an equal amount of citrus fruits such as oranges. It also contains other vital nutrients such as Calcium, Phosphorus, Iron, Carotene, and Vitamin B. Vitamin C is a powerful anti-oxidant, and this helps to explain Amla’s cleansing properties. Oxygen, while necessary for life, is highly corrosive and does damage to the body over time by forming free radicals. Free radicals steal electrons from healthy molecules, disrupting their function and turning them into free radicals as well. This chain reaction can cause cellular damage. Vitamin C is specially equipped to stop this chain reaction because it does not need all of its electrons to remain stable; it can donate one to a free radical without becoming a free radical itself. Amla contains Carotene, which is a vital component of healthy eyes, skin, and hair. It is a natural source of iron. The B Vitamins present in Amla help the body turn food into energy and help the nerves conduct electrochemical signals, as well as helping the body process the massive amount of Vitamin C Amla contains. Vitamin B also helps the body absorb Calcium, which is also present in Amla, helping support strong bones. Not only does Amla contain many important nutrients, the nutrients it contains complement each other, doing more together than they could on their own.
While Western medicine has historically been at odds with traditional medicine practices like Ayurveda, every test Amla has been put to confirms what practitioners of Ayurveda have known for millennia: Amla is a powerful tool for maintaining health.