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Amalaki – The Prized Botanical Of Ayurvedic Medicine
Following on from the previous introductory article on the Ayurvedic practice of Eastern medicine, we will now focus on some of the main botanicals that have been used in this scientific practice for centuries to treat and prevent disease. This article highlights Amalaki (aka Amla, emblica officinalis, Indian gooseberry), a fruit that grows in the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India and has perhaps the best documented history of any botanical in Ayurveda.
The 5,000-year-old science of Ayurveda honors many fruits for their health-enhancing abilities, but none are celebrated like Amalaki, a fruit that has its own holiday in India. A small green fruit called Amalaki stands alone as the most important rejuvenating plant or “rasayana” in the pharmacopoeia of Ayurvedic medicine. Called the “Fruit of Immortality” and the “Great Rejuvenator” in the Ayurvedic tradition, Amalaki has been used for thousands of years to promote improved immunity, cellular detoxification and rejuvenation. Additionally, Amalaki is widely believed to contain the most concentrated source of vitamin C in nature. This is just the beginning of the benefits that Amalaki has.
Ayurvedic literature documents that Amalaki has beneficial effects on digestion, skin, hair and cellular rejuvenation, improves metabolism and is anti-inflammatory. Ayurvedic scientific evidence for Amalaki has been substantiated throughout its history and Western science has taken notice. Over the past four decades, numerous studies have been conducted with Amalaki for its cholesterol-improving, cardioprotective agent, increased bone density, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-cancer properties, to name a few. Considerable research now exists on medical websites such as PUBMED.
The ancient tradition behind Amalaki and its growing popularity outside of Eastern medicine leads to many questions, one in particular. What compounds does this fruit contain that make it worthy of bridging the gap in philosophy and practice between Eastern and Western medicine?
The Amalaki fruit is home to a unique combination of ingredients that explains its use to promote health in various organ systems. Polyphenols (ellagic acid, gallic acid and emblicanin A & B), bioflavanoids (Rutin, Quercetin) and ascorbagens are the main components in Amalaki, the use of which we are only beginning to understand in the West. together, they are powerful free radical scavengers that help the body reduce damage caused by oxidative stress, thereby promoting effective detoxification and cellular vitality. It is this unique spectrum of antioxidants that leads to the rejuvenating and youth-promoting properties of Amalaki. In addition, Amalaki is rich in amino acids and trace elements, and the natural ascorbates in the fruit make vitamin C more bioavailable than any synthetic form of the vitamin.
As a society, we are beginning to understand the important role nutrition plays in our overall health and longevity. A shining example is the latest statistics on childhood obesity. Now more than ever, people are drawn to natural sources of health food, looking for alternatives that have scientific and clinical validity. I believe that as attention to Ayurvedic medicine grows in the West, so does the evidence for Amalaki and other medicinal plants in this science. The pharmaceutical predominance of allopathic medicine probably contributes to the growing interest in holistic treatments and Eastern medicine.
If you are looking for natural healing alternatives, Ayurveda provides a good starting point and Amalaki, although difficult to obtain in the West, is becoming more available and worth exploring.
The next installment in this series will look at another Ayurvedic botanical that has caught the attention of the National Institutes of Health in the United States and prompted studies that are currently underway.
To live healthy,
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