Alma fruit is used in Ayurveda medicine as a health-boosting supplement and to treat a variety of ailments, including diabetes. It also goes by the names Indian gooseberry and Amalaki. While the fruit has a long tradition of use, few human studies have been done to confirm its benefits. However, some laboratory and animal studies do look promising, as do a few small human trials, says Dr. Ray Sahelian, author of “Mind Boosters.” Always check with a health care provider before trying a new supplement.
Alma has antioxidant properties, says E.A. Poltanov, lead author for a study published in Phytotherapy Research. The herb contains phenols, flavonoids and tannins as well as ascorbic acid, or vitamin C. Antioxidants such as phenosl and vitamin C can neutralize cell-damaging free radicals, according to University of Maryland Medical Center. Free radicals may contribute to many health problems, like heart disease and cancer, and they also may contribute to your aging process. Free radicals can tamper with cells’ DNA and even cause cell death.
Alma might be a useful tool for lowering cholesterol, says A. Jacob, lead author for a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Jabob studied men ages 35 to 55 who were given alma supplements for 28 days, some of whom had high overall cholesterol levels and some of whom did not. Both groups had decreased overall cholesterol levels at the end of the study. Two weeks after the men quit taking the supplements, the cholesterol levels in the men who initially had high cholesterol rose almost to the original levels, Jacob notes. Alma may be effective for preventing atherosclerosis because it lowers “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, adds H.J. Kim, lead author for a study on rats published in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology.
Alma may help improve your glucose metabolism if you suffer from diabetes, says T.P. Rao, lead author for a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food. Amla also inhibits production of glycosylated end products, Rao notes. This is important, because glucose can get stuck to hemoglobin molecules in your blood, at which time the hemoglobin becomes “glycosylated.” As your blood sugar gets higher, more of your hemoglobin becomes glycosylated. It stays that way—with the glucose attached to the hemoglobin--for two to three months, which is the life of the red blood cell. Due to its antioxidant content, alma also may improve complications that you suffer as a result of being diabetic, Rao says. One concern with diabetes is damage induced by free radicals, so a compound that has both antidiabetic and antioxidant properties is especially beneficial if you suffer from this ailment, says Manisha Modak, lead author for a study published in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition.
- “Phytotherapy Research”; Chemical and antioxidant evaluation of Indian gooseberry; E.A. Poltanov et al.; 2009
- "Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology”; Influence of amla (Emblica officinalis Gaertn.) on hypercholesterolemia and lipid peroxidation in cholesterol-fed rats; H.J. Kim et al.; 2005
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: “European Journal of Clinical Nutrition”; Effect of the Indian gooseberry (amla) on serum cholesterol levels in men aged 35-55 years; A. Jacob et al.; 1988
- “Journal of Medicinal Food”; Amla (Emblica officinalis Gaertn.) extracts reduce oxidative stress in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats; T.P. Rao; 2005
- “Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition”; Indian Herbs and Herbal Drugs Used for the Treatment of Diabetes; Manisha Modak et al.; 2007