Amla Benefits: 12 Reasons To Try Indian Gooseberries
Page Medically Reviewed and Edited by Cyrus Khambatta, PhD
The medicinal power of Indian gooseberries (commonly known as amla), is not a new discovery.
In fact, amla has been widely prescribed in Ayurveda for more than 3,000 years, and is prescribed to assist with everything from anti-aging to anti-cancer to improving eyesight to anti-snake bite to hair tonic and much, much more.
So needless to say, amla isn’t new.
What is relatively new is the extensive research being done around the world showing that this legendary “folk remedy” in Ayurvedic medicine has even more health benefits than the ancients understood.
Today this “mythical” medicine is gaining momentum among scientific communities, who are finding mounting evidence demonstrating amla’s antidiabetic, anticancer, and antioxidant properties.
But the potential uses of amla stretch far beyond those long-established anti-diabetes, anti-cancer, and antioxidant properties. As the authors from the European Journal of Cancer Prevention state, data supports that the benefits of amla may include:
- Anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory
- Wound healing
This article will take a deep-dive into the science behind amla berries to help you understand their true metabolic effects.
We’ll talk about what scientists have discovered (so far) about amla, including the nutrients and compounds that make it such a powerful medicinal plant.
We’ll talk about the tested, evidence-based science of amla berries as a treatment for many different ailments, both chronic and infectious in nature.
We’ll also talk about what scientists still don’t know about this fruit and its medicinal properties. And finally, we’ll talk about how you can start to integrate this superfood into your diet starting today.
Table of Contents
What is Amla?
Amla, which can also be called Indian gooseberry, is a highly nutritious fruit found in India, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan, and other parts of southeast Asia. Also called emblica officinalis, phyllanthus emblica, or amalaki, amla is also an incredibly potent natural medicine, prominently featured in Ayurvedic medicine.
Amla has been used in India for millennia, but only recently gained momentum in the international scientific community. However, even in a comparatively short time frame, scientists have confirmed a number of powerful medicinal uses for amla.
Amla Nutrition Facts
Per 100g portion, powdered amla typically contains:
- 322 calories
- 1.2 g of protein
- 1g fat
- 63.6g of carbohydrates
- 26.8g of fiber
Per 100g, amla also contains 600mg of vitamin C per serving. For reference, that’s about twenty times more vitamin C content per weight than oranges or lemon juice.
Amla may also be the most potent natural antioxidant on the planet, with an ORAC (antioxidant) value of 261,500 per 100g. That’s significantly more than many of the things people commonly regard as “superfoods.” For example, that is:
- 75x as much as goji berries
- 60x as much as pomegranate
- 50x as much as raw blueberries
- 13x as much as black raspberries
- 2.5x as much as acai berries
- 2x as much as turmeric
100g of amla also has 7g of fiber, almost 1/3rd of your recommended daily intake. Based purely on these characteristics, amla is among the most powerful superfoods on the planet.
But amla also has a wide variety of natural, medicinal compounds that help your body in other ways. For just one example, amla has one of the highest naturally-occurring densities of polyphenols, which are both antidiabetic and antimicrobial.
What are the Health Benefits of Amla?
Apart from their nutrition value, amla berries have been linked to a number of significant health benefits, including lower blood glucose, reduced LDL cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and assistance in weight loss.
Amla berries have also been shown to reduce inflammation, fight infections, reduce the spread of cancer, boost your immune system and liver function, combat neurodegenerative disorders, and even support hair growth. We’ll touch on each of these areas below.
Amla and Blood Sugar: What the Research Says
Amla, like many plant-based whole foods, can drastically lower your blood sugar levels and reverse insulin dependence. However, amla is a medicinal plant with even more direct glucose-lowering effects.
When taken by itself, research has shown that small amounts of amla taken daily can lower your blood glucose and lipid profiles as much as leading diabetes medication. After 21 days of amla supplementation with either 1, 2, or 3 grams of amla powder, subjects exhibited significant reductions in total and LDL cholesterol, significantly increased HDL cholesterol, and decreased fasting and postprandial blood glucose.
This wasn’t an isolated study either, as multiple other studies have explored the antidiabetic effects of amla and arrived at a similar conclusion: amla berries contain powerful glucose-lowering properties.
Authors from a recent review state: “Supplements containing emblica officinalis [are] effective in lowering blood glucose levels in diabetic patients” with strong scientific evidence from one or more randomized controlled trials.
In a video, Dr. Michael Greger explains the powerful antidiabetic effects of amla. He documents numerous studies that demonstrate the glucose-lowering effects of amla berries when taken daily in small quantities.
What About Amla and Heart Disease?
Scientific research has shown that amla berries can be helpful in combating heart disease as well. Even a small amount of amla taken daily reduced high cholesterol and blood pressure, and the results are comparable to synthetic medication.
Amla vs. High Cholesterol
A randomized, double blind, placebo controlled, multicenter clinical trial published in 2019 demonstrated that amla taken daily for 12 weeks significantly reduced total cholesterol levels, as well as triglycerides, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and VLDL cholesterol as compared with the placebo group.
Results demonstrating amla’s lipid lowering properties have been widely repeated, reinforcing the fact that amla’s cholesterol lowering properties may be a powerful natural shield against heart disease.
Amla vs. High Blood Pressure
Multiple studies have confirmed that amla berries lower not only LDL cholesterol, but also lower blood pressure. In one study, subjects with high cholesterol were either given a 500 mg capsule of amla per day or a 20 mg pill of Simvastatin (a commonly prescribed statin medication).
Investigators found that both amla and statin treatment did the same thing – they both significantly lowered total cholesterol levels, LDL cholesterol, VLDL cholesterol, and triglycerides, and significantly increased HDL cholesterol.
However, despite similar activity on serum lipids, amla treatment significantly lowered blood pressure in 75% of hypertensive subjects (subjects with high blood pressure), and this effect was more prevalent in amla treated subjects than in those taking Simvastatin.
Scientists are still investigating the exact extent of amla’s potential as a natural alternative to hypertensive medication, but many studies indicate that amla berries are an extremely promising alternative to pharmaceutical drugs commonly used for high blood pressure.
Amla vs. Obesity
Amla also shows significant potential as a treatment for risk factors associated with obesity. One study showed that 3 months of amla supplementation in obese adults resulted in a reduction of cardiovascular risk factors including a reduction in LDL-C, total cholesterol/HDL ratio, hs-CRP, and collagen-induced platelet aggregation.
Another investigation demonstrated that amla helped stimulate weight loss across the board. A total of 30 obese subjects drank a 20 ml of fresh amla juice and 20 ml of water on empty stomach in the morning and evening for 45 days. Subjects lost an average of 6.8 kg and reduced their BMI by 3.73 kg/m2.
These effects are still being studied but show great promise for amla as an effective treatment for weight loss in overweight or obese adults.
Other Health Benefits of Amla
Between its nutritional value and positive effect on blood glucose and cholesterol, amla is already one of the most potent medicinal plants in the world. Even though it may sound hard to believe, there are even more ways that amla berries can positively impact your health.
Amla vs. Free Radicals
As mentioned above, amla ranks among the most antioxidant-rich foods on the planet.
Antioxidants are important to your body because they help neutralize free radicals, harmful pro-oxidative molecules that can damage cellular protein, lipids, and both nuclear and mitochondrial DNA.
Free radicals (also known as reactive oxygen species, or ROS) are formed in your skin when exposed to the sun, in your muscles when you exercise, in your liver when you drink alcohol, and in your tissues when they absorb oxygen from red blood cells.
This cellular damage is collectively referred to as oxidative stress, which increases your risk for the development of many chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
You can’t eliminate the creation of free radicals within your body completely. The problem occurs when extensive free radical damage exceeds your body’s innate ability to effectively neutralize them.
Eating antioxidants from a wide variety of whole foods is the most powerful long-term method of quenching free radicals and protecting you against oxidative stress.
For this exact reason, a small intake of amla berries every day can dramatically increase the antioxidant content of your diet to both reverse existing oxidative stress and prevent future oxidative stress.
Amla vs. Suppressed Immunity
Eating and drinking sufficient quantities of antioxidant-rich whole foods or taking antioxidant-rich supplements is also critically important for your immune health.
When actively fighting an infection, immune cells called macrophages perform a wide variety of functions, which often result in the production of various free radical molecules. These particular free radicals are designed to neutralize harmful foreign substances known as pathogens.
So again, you can’t prevent free radicals from being produced. But you can make sure that your immune system is equipped to handle them.
As you age, your immune response naturally decreases, which in turn increases your susceptibility to viral and bacterial infections. Evidence-based research shows that “antioxidant supplementation essentially reverses several age-associated immune deficiencies…” by increasing the activity of lymphocytes, T-cells, and killer T-cells to actively fight infections.
Eating sufficient quantities of antioxidants from fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains is a critical step in boosting your innate immunity and maintaining optimal immune system function over time.
Amla vs. Inflammation
Numerous studies have also shown that amla has tremendous anti-inflammatory properties. One study showed a significant reduction in systemic inflammation (alongside reduced oxidative stress and reduced blood lipids).
Another investigation specifically isolated a noticeable reduction in C-Reactive Protein (CRP), which is a marker of general inflammation in humans.
And by noticeable, we mean that amla berries cut C-reactive protein in half.
Amla vs. Liver Disease
Liver diseases are a prominent and often neglected health issue, worldwide, with one recent study suggesting that up to 10% of people worldwide are currently affected.
Alongside its antioxidant power and cardiovascular benefits (both of which promote optimal liver health), evidence demonstrates that amla improves liver health, and offers protection against a wide variety of harmful liver agents, including ethanol, paracetamol, carbon tetrachloride, and heavy metals.
These hepatoprotective effects are still being investigated, with current research still in early testing phases, but overall this represents another area where amla has potential.
Amla vs. Neurodegenerative Disorders
Another area of promise for amla is as a treatment for neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s, depression, epilepsy, and stress. The key here is in amla’s comprehensive health benefits.
The authors state: “Amla, and its extracts, exert many positive effects on dyslipidemia, hyperglycemia, inflammation, oxidative stress, apoptosis, and autophagy, that contribute to AD risk.”
In more simple terms, amla improves many biomarkers associated with an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease, and also has the potential to improve mood, memory, and mental sharpness.
This effect is especially pronounced for older individuals, and represents yet another way that this potent berry can benefit your overall health.
Amla vs. Cancer
It almost seems poetic that amla would also be a potential anti-cancer agent.
One study explored the effect of amla on the growth of six human cancer cell lines treated with different concentrations of amla in vitro: lung cancer, liver cancer, cervical cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and colon cancer.
For all cases, the introduction of amla first slowed cancer growth, and then began to kill up to 50% of the cancerous cells. Given that many agents kill cancer cells in a lab environment, the trick is to find an agent that selectively kills cancer cells but only slightly slows the growth of non-cancerous cells.
Even More Health Benefits of Amla
Amla has Antibacterial Properties
Similar to amla’s ability to restrict cancer cell growth mentioned above, emblica officinalis has potent antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. In a test against multiple strands of bacteria, amla was very effective at combating potentially harmful microbes including E.coli and Streptococcus Mutans.
For this reason, amla “can serve as an important platform for the development of inexpensive, safe, and effective medicines,” researchers say.
Amla Promotes Hair Growth
Earlier we mentioned that Ayurvedic medicine prescribes amla for a wide variety of ailments, including to help hair growth. The trick with amla is that research is showing very strong signs that it works.
One study explored how amla helps hair follicles by testing 1% and 5% mixtures of these Indian gooseberries as a hair tonic. The paper found that the 5% treatment significantly improved hair density, hair shaft diameter, and the hair growth rate between 8-16 weeks of treatment in patients with alopecia.
Researchers are still trying to isolate exactly how amla helps promote hair growth, but the effect was clear:
“The natural components of DA-5512 might influence hair-growth-promoting activity and enhance hair health and can therefore be considered an effective option for treating hair loss."
Side Effects of Amla
Currently, there are no major clinical side effects that have been associated with amla. Allergic reactions to the fruit are rare. There are, however, two factors to be aware of if you are considering integrating amla into your diet as a plant medicine:
- Amla lowers your blood pressure and helps reduce inflammation, which may increase the risk for bleeding or bruising in people with bleeding disorders. This can also be a risk factor during surgery. If you’re planning a surgery, talk with your doctor before trying any new medicine or supplement, including amla.
- Since amla lowers your blood glucose when taken consistently, it may increase your risk of hypoglycemia. Fortunately, if this is a problem you can simply stop eating amla, and your blood glucose will likely rebound to normal relatively quickly.
How to Get Amla in Your Diet
Amla comes in many different forms, including:
- Amla fruit
- Amla powder
- Amla tea
- Amla juice
- Amla oil
If you’re going to add amla to your diet, we advocate doing so either through amla fruit or amla powder (ground from the whole amla berry).
We don’t advocate consumption of amla juice or amla oil because amla juice lacks amla’s key fiber, while amla oil is better for external (topical) use.
Does Amla Have Any Drawbacks?
Amla has demonstrated medicinal properties, hyper-potent nutritional content, and minimal side effects. A logical question would then be: Why aren’t more people consuming it? Here are two reasons:
- First, amla on its own tastes terrible to most people. The raw berries are incredibly bitter and sour. Very few people want to eat amla by itself.
- Second, it can be very hard to source fresh, pure, organically produced amla berries or powder, especially outside of southeast Asia.
Both of these obstacles have prevented amla from truly taking off in the same way that other superfoods like kale, blueberries, goji berries, and turmeric already have.
The Amla Green Solution
To provide more people with access to this nutritional powerhouse, and to solve for raw amla’s unfortunate taste, we’ve combined amla with organic oolong green tea and organic hibiscus. The result is flavors you will love in a beverage that’s highly supportive of good health.
With Amla Green, you can get all of the benefits of amla in your diet with none of the nasty aftertaste. We also work with the top amla producers in India to source the purest, highest quality organic berries, ensuring every one is carefully grown and cared for.
Amla Green also comes with a no-risk guarantee on your first shipment. If you don’t love it for any reason, we’ll refund your money -- no questions asked.
Amla Green has strict guidelines for scientific references in our articles, and we rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, governmental organizations, and reputable medical organizations. We do our best to avoid using non evidence-based references in all articles.
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Page Medically Reviewed and Edited by
Cyrus Khambatta, PhD
Cyrus Khambatta, PhD, is a cofounder of Mastering Diabetes and Amla Green is an internationally recognized nutrition and fitness coach who has been living with type 1 diabetes since 2002. Using an evidence-based approach to nutrition and fitness, he first reduced his own insulin usage by more than 40%, and has educated thousands of people with all forms of diabetes how to reverse insulin resistance using food as medicine. Cyrus earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University in 2003, then earned a PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 2012. He is the co-host of the annual Mastering Diabetes Online Summit, a featured speaker at the Plant-Based Nutrition and Healthcare Conference (PBNHC), the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) Conference, Plant Stock, and has been featured on Forks Over Knives, NPR, PBS, KQED, Fast Company, and is the author of the upcoming book Mastering Diabetes.
- Cyrus Khambatta