Although known by various indigenous names with Amla being the common, there are many varieties of gooseberry. Identified scientifically as phyllanthus emblica, Gooseberry is a medium sized tree that grows to a height of 18 meters. It features a crooked trunk with several branches from which several branchlets form. The leaves form along the branchlets, packed closely. The tree produces greenish-yellow flowers that later form into a light greenish-yellow fruit. The amla fruit is spherical in shape with vertical furrow stripes. It is however very smooth and appears hard. The various Gooseberry varieties are to be found in North Africa, Asia, Europe, India and other parts of the world.
Gooseberries (fruits) have been used for many decades by human kind as herbs, used in treating various ailments. The berries ripen in autumn, when they are hand harvested. One has to climb the tree in order to pick the berries. The Indian gooseberries taste sour and bitter, with a lot of fiber. Due to the popularity of amla and its widespread usage, it has been subjected to various medical researches and found to contain various important elements. These include antiviral and antimicrobial properties, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), vitamins B complex, Ellagic and gallic acids, tannins and minerals (calcium, phosphorus, iron and carotene). In addition to these, amla oil is also extracted from the berries.
The berries are not the only beneficial parts that Indians have used for decades. Gooseberry leaves and the bark have been pounded to produce a very bitter liquid.
Health Benefits of Amla
The health benefits of Indian Gooseberry are many and apart from internal body usefulness, the skin and eyes benefit. Apart from health benefits, amla is also beneficial in culinary and other areas.
- Due its high vitamin C content, Gooseberry plays a vital role in digestion, allowing for fast absorption of food. It balances stomach acid, thereby preventing heartburn. It has a positive effect on the lungs, liver and heart. Gooseberry nourishes the brain and increases mental functionality. It has been found to flush out toxic waste from the body while enhancing fertility. Drinking amla juice literally cools the body and strengthens the eyes. Drinking amla juice also affects positively on the skin (because of its antioxidant property).
- Because of its vast rich components, amla has been used for decades on hair for its enriching and pigmentation effect. Gooseberry for hair is very important because it works on hair follicles, strengthening hair roots, thereby preventing hair loss while encouraging new hair growth. In this regard, amla oil plays a vital role.
- Indians have traditionally mixed amla juice with honey to improve eyesight and prevent cataract. The same has been used in treating throat ailments and diarrhea.
Because of its varied medicinal properties, Gooseberry is now used as an ingredient in making varied products including cosmetics. Apart from its medicinal properties, Indians have always applied salt and spices on Gooseberries and eaten them raw. The same can also be cooked to make a tender mush that also promotes good health.