Category: Medicines - plant based
Introduction and description
Phyllanthus emblica, also known as Emblica officinalis, emblic, emblic myrobalan, myrobalan, Indian gooseberry, Malacca tree, or amla from Sanskrit amalika, is a deciduous tree of the family Phyllanthaceae.
It is known for its edible fruit of the same name, also called amlas or amlikas. Although edible, the tree has far more potential as a medicinal plant and is indeed revered in Hindu medicine for its medicinal value.
The tree is small to medium in size, reaching 8–18 m (26–59 ft) in height, with a crooked trunk and spreading branches. The branchlets are glabrous or finely pubescent, 10–20 cm (3.9–7.9 in) long, usually deciduous; the leaves are simple, subsessile and closely set along branchlets, light green, resembling pinnate leaves.
The flowers are greenish-yellow.
The fruit is nearly spherical, light greenish yellow, quite smooth and hard on appearance, with six vertical stripes or furrows. Ripening in autumn, the berries are harvested by hand after climbing to upper branches bearing the fruits.
Cultural and religious significance
The tree is considered sacred by Hindus and worshipped on Amalaka Ekadashi. A whole host of legends and myths have built up around the tree, many to reemphasise its importance as a health giving fruit.
In one Hindu myth, Amla is said to have originated from the drops of Amrit which spilled on earth accidentally, due to the fight of Gods and Demons after ksheera sagar manthan. And hence also this religious belief makes claims that it almost cures every disease and is also good in extending the longevity of life.
In the Sanskrit Buddhist tradition half an amalaka fruit was the final gift to the Buddhist sangha by the great Indian emperor Ashoka. This is illustrated in the Ashokavadana in the following verses:
"A great donor, the lord of men, the eminent Maurya Ashoka, has gone from being lord of Jambudvipa [India] to being lord of half a myrobalan." (Strong, 1983, p. 99) 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, in return for a single amla presented to him as bhiksha on an auspicious dwadashi day. Contemporary poet/philosopher Ravi Teja Yelamanchili wrote a book titled Amalaki. The book is based on Advaita Vedanta of Sri Adi Shankaracharya.
According to a Tamil legend, Avvaiyar (Tamil: ஔவையார்), a female poet, ethicist and political activist of the Sangam period was gifted with one amla by King Athiyaman to give her long life.
In Theravada Buddhism, this plant is said to have been used as the tree for achieving enlightenment, or Bodhi by twenty first Lord Buddha called "Pussa - ඵුස්ස".
In traditional Indian medicine, the dried and fresh fruits of the plant are used. All parts of the plant are used in various Ayurvedic/Unani medicine (Jawarish amla) herbal preparations, including the fruit, seed, leaves, root, bark and flowers. In Chinese traditional therapy, this fruit is called yuganzi (余甘子).
According to Ayurveda, amla fruit is sour (amla) and astringent (kashaya) in taste (rasa), with sweet (madhura), bitter (tikta) and pungent (katu) secondary tastes (anurasas). Its qualities (gunas) are light (laghu) and dry (ruksha), the postdigestive effect (vipaka) is sweet (madhura) and its energy (virya) is cooling (shita).
According to Ayurveda, amla balances all three doshas. While amla is unusual in that it contains five out of the six tastes recognized by Ayurveda, it is most important to recognize the effects of the "virya", or potency, and "vipaka", or post-digestive effect. Considered in this light, amla is particularly helpful in reducing pitta due to its cooling energy. It also balances both Pitta and vata by virtue of its sweet taste. The kapha is balanced primarily due to its drying action. It may be used as a rasayana (rejuvenative) to promote longevity, and traditionally to enhance digestion (dipanapachana), treat constipation (anuloma), reduce fever (jvaraghna), purify the blood (raktaprasadana), reduce cough (kasahara), alleviate asthma (svasahara), strengthen the heart (hrdaya), benefit the eyes (chakshushya), stimulate hair growth (romasanjana), enliven the body (jivaniya), and enhance intellect (medhya).
The observations from Dr Duke and also the recent research papers on Pubmed merely serve to bear much of this out, and one assumes that the only reason not all these properties are mentioned is because the research has not yet caught up with the actual usage and old herbal knowledge. In Ayurvedic polyherbal formulations, Indian gooseberry is a common constituent.
Emblic is also the primary ingredient in a rather delicious sounding and ancient herbal rasayana called Chyawanprash. This formula contains 43 herbal ingredients as well as clarified butter, sesame oil, sugar cane juice, and honey. It was first mentioned in the Charaka Samhita as a ‘premier rejuvenative compound’.
The taste of Indian gooseberry is sour, bitter and astringent, and it is quite fibrous. Thus numerous ways have evolved to make it more palatable and tasty. The amla fruit can be eaten raw or cooked into various dishes. It is made into chutneys and pickles or used in vegetable dishes. It is also candied.
In Andhra Pradesh, for example, tender varieties are used to prepare dal (a lentil preparation), and amle ka murabbah, a sweet dish indigenous to the northern part of India made by soaking the berries in sugar syrup until they are candied. It is traditionally consumed after meals.
The Maharashtra state is one of the largest producers and suppliers of Indian Gooseberries. In this region the fruit is commonly pickled with salt, oil, and spices.
Names for this plant in various languages include: Amlai(आमलाइ) in BORO language Nellikaai (நெல்லிக்காய்) in Tamil
amalika (अमलिक) in Sanskrit
Dhatric (धात्रिक) in Sanskrit, Maithili
āmlā (आमला) in Hindi
āmla (આમળાં) in Gujarati
aavnlaa (amla or awla) in Urdu
āvaḷā (आवळा) (or awla) in Marathi
Bettada nellikaayi ಬೆಟ್ಟದ ನೆಲ್ಲಿಕಾಯಿ (ನೆಲ್ಲಿಕ್ಕಾಯಿ) in Kannada
āvāḷo (आवाळो) in Konkani
Aula (ਔਲਾ) in Punjabi
amloki (আমলকী) in Bengali<brआ amlā (अमला) in Nepali
ambare (अमबरे) in Garo language
amlakhi in Assamese
anlaa (ଅଁଳା) in Oriya
Lozü in Ao languages
Suaklu in Paite
sunhlu in Mizo
nelli (നെല്ലി) in Malayalam
heikru in Manipuri
halïlaj or ihlïlaj (اهليلج هليلج) in Arabic
sohmylleng in Khasi
rasi usiri ( రాశి ఉసిరి కాయ) (or rasi usirikai ) in Telugu
nellikkai (நெல்லிக்காய்/ ನೆಲ್ಲಿ ಕಾಯಿ/ ಗುಡ್ದದ ನೆಲ್ಲಿ) nellikkaai or nellikaayi in Tamil, Kannada and Tulu
nelli (නෙල්ලි) in Sinhala
mak kham bom in Lao
ma kham pom (มะขามป้อม) in Thai
anmole (庵摩勒) in Chinese
Kantout Prei (កន្ទួតព្រៃ) in Khmer
skyu ru ra (སྐྱུ་རུ་ར་) in Tibetan
melaka (ملاك) in Malay, A state in Malaysia, Malacca was named after this tree.
zee phyu thee (ဆီးၿဖဴသီး) in Myanmar. balakka in batak language an Indonesia custom
Also found are the variants in spelling aola, ammalaki, aamvala, aawallaa, dharty, nillika, and nellikya.
- Antibacterial activities of Emblica officinalis and Coriandrum sativum against Gram negative urinary pathogens 019025
- Antitumour effects of Phyllanthus emblica L.: induction of cancer cell apoptosis and inhibition of in vivo tumour promotion and in vitro invasion of human cancer cells 019027
- Beneficial effects of Emblica officinalis in L-arginine-induced acute pancreatitis in rats 019028
- Dr Duke's list of Chemicals and their Biological Activities in: Phyllanthus emblica L. (Euphorbiaceae) -- Emblic, Myrobalan 019029
- Dr Duke's list of Plants containing ARGININE 017958
- Dr Duke's list of Plants containing GLYCINE 017955
- Dr Duke's list of Plants containing HISTIDINE 019061
- Dr Duke's list of Plants containing PROLINE 017956
- Dr Duke's list of Plants containing SELENIUM 020550
- Dr Duke's list of Plants containing SULFUR 021408
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- Efficacy of herbal shampoo base on native plant against head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis De Geer, Pediculidae: Phthiraptera) in vitro and in vivo in Thailand 023797
- Induction of apoptosis of human primary osteoclasts treated with extracts from the medicinal plant Emblica officinalis 019026