Amla, also known as Indian gooseberry, is a type of fruit found on the Indian subcontinent. The amla fruit itself is yellowish-green and used in dishes such as murabbah, a sweet delicacy served with the fruit soaked in a sugary syrup.
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In addition to being a delicious treat, amla fruit can be used to make dry amla, or gooseberry powder, which has been used primarily in traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine.
In modern medicine, amla has some purported benefits that include lowering cholesterol, improving lung function and easing GERD symptoms.
What Is Amla Powder?
Amla powder, also known as gooseberry powder, is sold as a supplement that can be taken as a tablet or added to food and drinks like yogurt, milk and smoothies. It contains beneficial compounds found in amla fruit, such as antioxidant-rich polyphenols, anti-inflammatory triterpenoids and essential oils. All parts of the plant, including the leaves and the fruit, can be used to make amla powder.
A 2010 review in the Journal of Basic Clinical Physiology Pharmacology explains that amla is an important herbal drug in the Unani and Ayurvedic systems of medicine and has been used for both medicinal purposes and as a tonic. For instance, the amla fruit in particular has been used in traditional medicine to treat diarrhea, jaundice and inflammation.
According to the review, amla contains helpful ingredients, such as:
A September 2021 review in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology lists an impressive array of ways to use amla powder, including as treatment for:
- Respiratory symptoms, such as cough and the common cold
- Skin diseases (including leprosy)
- Anemia and hepatopathy
- GI conditions, including colic, flatulence, ulcers, diarrhea and dysentery
- Menstrual bleeding
- Cardiac disorders
And last, but not least: premature greying of hair. We know what you're thinking: That's quite a range, right? To go from a common cold to leprosy to gray hair is a lot.
But while amla berry powder may be useful for a lot of different conditions, the review noted it showed the most promise in working against conditions such as diabetes, cancer, hepatitis B and malaria. There were still a lot of missing pieces in the studies they looked at, though, so more research will be needed in the future.
Overall, however, as a March 2020 study in Contemporary Clinical Trials Communications notes, it's been shown that amla powder has hypoglycemic, anti-inflammatory, anti-hyperglycemic, anti-hyperlipidemic and antioxidant properties in both animal and human studies.
Here are more details on the studies that have been done on the benefits of amla powder.
1. Can Help Lower Cholesterol
A notable March 2020 randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled, multi-center clinical trial (read: the best kind of trial) in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that amla powder significantly reduced harmful cholesterol levels.
The study took place over 12 weeks and at the end of the trial, total cholesterol, triglycerides, low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol and very low-density lipoprotein cholesterol were all lower among the participants who took amla powder.
The researchers also concluded that the powder had potential to lower blood sugar levels in people with prediabetes or diabetes. However, they added that the blood sugar-regulating properties of the powder needs further research.
Can It Help With Weight Loss or Reduce Blood Sugar?
Amla powder is currently undergoing a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial in 28 people with metabolic syndrome, a group of chronic health problems linked to diabetes, obesity, stroke, fatty liver disease, sleep apnea, PCOS and heart problems.
The participants in the trial will receive either the placebo or the treatment of 500 milligrams of amla powder and the following will be studied: their waist circumference, blood pressure, levels of fasting glucose, triglycerides, cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein levels, insulin secretion and insulin sensitivity.
2. Works as an Antioxidant
According to a January 2009 article in Phytotherapy Research, amla powder has antioxidant properties, although different preparations seem to produce varying antioxidant levels.
Antioxidants help keep our cells healthy, and they play a role in protecting us against oxidative stress and systemic inflammation, both of which are linked to an increased risk of health issues like heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes.
3. Supports Heart Health
Because of its role as an antioxidant, amla powder can help improve heart and blood vessel function, according to a March 2020 study in Contemporary Clinical Trials Communications.
The study also found that the ingredients in amla powder are helpful for overall cardiovascular health because they improve blood fluidity and protect against blood clots.
4. May Improve Lung Function
The powerful antioxidant properties of amla came into play in another study that looked at how gooseberry powder could help improve breathing in long-term smokers.
The December 2014 study in the Journal of Herbal Medicine found that taking 250 milligrams of Indian gooseberry twice a day improved every symptom they looked at, including shortness of breath, irritability, fatigue, sleep problems, heartburn, cough and palpitations.
5. Effective for Treating Lice
An interesting June 2014 study in Parasitology Research found that anti-lice shampoo that contains amla is an effective lice treatment. It's not the most effective type of lice treatment shampoo out there (that award goes to Z. limonella shampoo), but it was still better than many commercial lice shampoos.
6. Eases GERD Symptoms
A 2018 double-arm, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial in the Journal of Integrative Medicine that involved 68 people with non-erosive gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) found that their symptoms improved with amla.
Specifically, the study found that those who took amla tablets had "significant reduction" in how often they had GERD and the severity of their symptoms. The study participants received two 500-milligram amla tablets twice a day, after meals, for four weeks.
Does Amla Powder Have Benefits for Hair and Skin?
Amla fruit oil is used as an ingredient in some skin creams and hair products, and in addition to its known antioxidant properties, it also shows promise in preventing collagen loss, supporting aging skin, and preventing hair loss. However, there's no research to support that eating amla powder is good for the skin or hair.
In the March 2020 BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine study as well as the current clinical trial, the amla powder dosage is 500 milligrams taken twice a day. So, for instance, you would take one dose in the morning and one at night. You could take it as a tablet or capsule, or you could drink it by mixing the powder into water.
If you're considering taking a supplement, talk to your doctor first to make sure it's safe for you. And for safety and effectiveness, look for options that have been tested by a third party, says Christy B. Williamson, CNS, a doctor of clinical nutrition with the Nutritional Genomics Institute (NGI).
"One indicator is if it displays a Certificate of Analysis (COA) awarded by an independent third-party company, such as NSF, USP, Banned Substances Control Group (BSCG) or Consumer Lab," she adds.
She suggests the following supplements:
Side Effects and Risks
Currently, there aren't any major known side effects or risks to taking amla powder, but as with any supplement or medication, you should always consult your doctor before taking it.
"Amla is generally well tolerated," says Williamson. However, she notes that amla may:
- Increase the risk of bleeding disorders
- Worsen certain liver diseases
- Interact with specific medications, including blood thinners, anticoagulants, anti-diabetes and hepatoxic drugs
The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center also warns that amla may increase anti-platelet activity, so if you're already taking a medication to prevent blood clots, be sure to talk to your doctor before taking amla powder in any form.
Some people worry that amla powder is bad for the kidneys, but no such side effects have been reported.
Finally, if you use amla powder and notice any side effects, you should stop using it immediately and see a doctor.
Is This an Emergency?
- "Phytotherapy Research"; Chemical and antioxidant evaluation of Indian Gooseberry (Emblica officinalis Gaertn., syn. phyllanthus emblica L.) Supplements;Eugeny A. Poltanov et al.; September 2009
- BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine: “A randomized, double blind, placebo controlled, multicenter clinical trial to assess the efficacy and safety of Emblica officinalis extract in patients with dyslipidemia.
- The Journal of Basic Clinical Physiology Pharmacology: “Therapeutic potential of Phyllanthus emblica (amla): the ayurvedic wonder”
- Journal Ethnopharmacology: “Traditional uses, bioactive composition, pharmacology, and toxicology of Phyllanthus emblica fruits: A comprehensive review”
- Parasitology Research: “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”
- Contemporary Clinical Trials Communications: “Clinical evaluation of Emblica Officinalis Gatertn (Amla) in healthy human subjects: Health benefits and safety results from a randomized, double-blind, crossover placebo-controlled study”
- Journal of Herbal Medicine: "Pilot study evaluating the use of Emblica officinalis standardized fruit extract in cardio-respiratory improvement and antioxidant status of volunteers with smoking history"
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: "Emblica officinalis"
- Journal of Integrative Medicine:"Efficacy and safety of Amla (Phyllanthus emblica L.) in non-erosive reflux disease: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial"
- Journal of Food and Science Technology: "Development of a functional food (pan bread) using amla fruit powder"