Role of Amla, Amalaki in Women’s Health

Article by Dr Manasa S, B.A.M.S

Amalaki: Indian Gooseberry

Amalaki – Indian Gooseberry, Emblica officinalis – is popularly called Amla. I will be using the word ‘Amla’ for Amalaki in this article.

Incorporating Amla, or Indian gooseberry, into a women’s daily diet holds profound importance due to its rich nutritional profile and numerous health benefits, and aiding in the absorption of iron, a vital element for women’s overall well-being.

Amla is renowned for its high vitamin C content, which plays a crucial role in supporting the immune system and promoting collagen formation for healthy skin. Additionally, the antioxidants in Amla contribute to cellular health, helping to combat oxidative stress and reduce inflammation.

Its potential role in promoting hair health, supporting digestion and regulating blood sugar levels further accentuates its significance in the daily dietary regimen of women.

Embracing the daily consumption of Amla is a holistic approach to nourishing, enhancing immunity, and fostering overall health and vitality in women’s lives.

Different ways in which Amla can be used in accordance to woman’s health needs

Role in anaemia

Anaemia is considered as one of the major health concerns in women during their reproductive years. According to statistics of WHO, the prevalence of anaemia is around 56% globally and in India it is around 52%. Among numerous factors, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, infections, worm infestations and improperly treated bleeding disorders of menstrual cycles contribute to the onset of anaemia which leads to iron deficiency. Amla is rich in vitamin C and many antioxidants. The iron absorption gets better in the presence of vitamin C rich foods and supplements. Inclusion of amla helps in the proper absorption of folate rich foods and thus helps in correction of anaemic condition.

As an Anti-aging medicine, Rasayana

Traditionally Amla has been known for its anti-aging properties. It is extensively used in the preparations of Ayurvedic anti-aging medicines like Chyawanprash, Brahma Rasayana etc. Amla, also used alone as a single herb, is a great anti-aging formulation. Acharya Charaka in his Chikitsa Sthana, 1.3/9-14 while explaining Rasayana opines that a person who spends his time in Amalaki Vana – forest of Indian gooseberry wherein only the trees of Amla and nothing else has been grown and consumes freshly plucked Amla will be blessed with longevity, regains youth, energy and knowledge. A woman’s health is under the influence of hormones, exercise, food intake, sleep and very importantly the rest she can afford to. Regular consumption of Amla keeps her general well-being intact as Amla is rich in Vitamin C and other antioxidants.

As a Stress buster

Fruits of amla have antioxidants which have an ability to reduce the oxidative stress and help to avoid damage of brain cells and enhance memory. Women suffer an array of psychological health issues like depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, mood swings throughout their reproductive life because of interplay of female sex hormones. Regular consumption of Amla helps to relieve stress and other related problems.

Not only the internal consumption, but external therapy like Takradhara which has amla as one of the ingredients is known to reduce stress induced health issues. Takradhara is a classical Ayurveda treatment procedure wherein buttermilk is poured as a stream onto the targeted body part. When it is poured over the head, it is termed as takra shirodhara.

As a Skin rejuvenator

Amla contains natural blood purifier molecules and its regular intake can help to provide good skin lustre, texture and glow and also helps to fight against different skin allergies. A teaspoon of Amla mixed with half a strand of saffron, consumed with water and a teaspoon of amla mixed with quarter teaspoon of turmeric with water helps to improve skin qualities, skin and complexion. Amla bath or amla shower is explained elaborately in one of the Ayurveda texts, Yoga Ratnakara. It explains that the person who uses amalaka for bathing purposes will surely avoid premature ageing, wrinkling and premature greying of hairs. Women who wish to keep the skin health intact and to maintain the texture and luster of their skin need to use amla both internally and externally.

For Hair health

Oil prepared out of amla has found a good place in many households for its role as a hair growth promoter. Amla mixed with either coconut oil or gingelly oil is used as a regular ‘scalp massaging oil’. Amla rich oil stimulates follicles of hair for their better nourishment and growth. Amla oil is rich in vitamin C, which directly impacts on new hairs by replacing dead cells on the scalp. This helps in the increase of length and volume of hair. Amla, because of its anti-inflammatory property and antibacterial and antifungal properties, prevents hair from itching and scaling. When taken internally Amla helps to provide nourishment to hair follicles. Amla powder mixed with Bhringaraja – Eclipta alba powder administered in a dose of half teaspoon 2 times a day after food with water is an excellent remedy in prevention and management of premature greying of hairs. Bhringamalaka Taila – herbal oil containing both Bhringaraja and Amalaki is a readily available product and is an Ayurveda practitioner’s favourite ‘hair care prescription’.

As an Aphrodisiac, ‘Boon for women at menopause’

Amla has been used for hundreds of years for youth and longevity. It helps to increase stamina, improve mood and enhance immunity and boost sexual desire. Women who are in their perimenopause or have attained menopause and post-menopausal women experience changes in their sexual desire which is most of the time associated with physical fatigue. These changes are due to changes in the hormonal secretions. Amla taken during these phases of life helps to restore health and stamina because of antioxidative properties of Amla. A mixture of Amla and Shatavari has helped a lot of women population globally. Use of Amalaki has been mentioned in the Vrushya Adhikara (discussion about aphrodisiacs) in Chakradatta. In women it may equally have an ‘aphrodisiac like effect’.

As a Blood purifier and skin tonic

Skin health is always a point of concern and cosmetic value for all, especially women. Use of amla contributes towards good skin health and glow. Amla being rich in vitamin A, Vitamin C and antioxidants acts as a best blood purifier. Administration of Lelitaka [purified sulphur] along with the juice of Amla together with honey is an excellent remedy for all types of skin diseases.

Related Reading – Phyllanthus emblica L. (amla) branch: A safe and effective ingredient against skin aging

For Eye health

Amla is a rich source of vitamin A, which is known to enhance eye health. Vitamin A in amla helps to improve vision, reduce the chances of risk of macular degeneration. Netra Tarpana is an effective therapy for eyes. This treatment procedure nourishes and strengthens the eyes, cures eye diseases. Along with this effective external therapy for eye care and cure of eye diseases, amla should also be used internally. For eye related issues, Triphala Ghrita used for internal consumption and also externally in the form of netra tarpana procedures have shown relief in many health issues related to eyes. Triphala ghrita is a combination of three fruits, Amla / Amalaki (Emblica officinalis), Bibhitaki (Terminalia bellirica) and Haritaki (Terminalia chebula). Triphala ghrita is used in dry eye syndrome for its anti-inflammatory properties. In addition to this Triphala ghrita decreases inflammation and enhances lipid production in dry eye syndrome. These remedies are especially beneficial for today’s ‘computer age women’ who face day to day eye related stress, strain and fatigue and also vision related issues. Generally Triphala Ghrita or Amla in any form can be consumed by any girl or woman as a Rasayana. Amla juice and powder or Amalaki Rasayana – all are good for eye health.

For regulation of Blood sugar

Amla plays an important role in reducing the oxidative stress and improving glucose metabolism in type-2 diabetes mellitus. Research shows that amla supplement is effective in reducing the fasting and postprandial blood sugar levels. It is practically seen that a tablespoon of amla juice mixed with bitter gourd is said to initiate the secretion of insulin from pancreas. All women having diabetes type-2 can consume Amla. On the other hand, the home-maker women who are accustomed to a monotonous ‘sedentary lifestyle’ who have got Type2 Diabetes Mellitus can consider taking Amla along with customized dietetic and exercise plan.

Note – Depending on the severity of diabetes and its symptoms other disease modifying medicines and therapies may also be needed. 

For Heart health

There are many researches which suggest that amla juice might improve the overall heart health in many aspects like reducing the triglycerides, total cholesterol and LDL in people with abnormal blood lipid levels. Those who consume amla regularly have shown to experience reduction in atherogenic index of plasma. The atherogenic index is the measure of risk factors of excessive cholesterol build-up in the arteries. A small study about the regular consumption of amla has found that there is reduction in the cholesterol levels and inflammation, thereby reducing the risks of heart disease. Few studies indicate that amla can reduce blood pressure in individuals experiencing high blood pressure. Studies have shown that women who are nearing menopause or postmenopausal phase are at high risk of suffering from cardiovascular diseases because of hormonal changes and slowing down of metabolism. These women are ideal candidates to consume Amla.

For Gut health

Studies have shown that amla has a significant role to play in improving gut health. Research shows that taking amla by individuals suffering from GERD – gastroesophageal reflux disease has led to reduction in the severity and frequency of heartburn and regurgitation. Several studies show that amla helps and prevents stomach ulcers due to its antioxidant content. Women, especially the home-makers do not follow a fixed schedule of food habits. Their robotic work nature does not give them the liberty to have a ‘food time table’. These women are usually the victims of stomach ailments like hyperacidity, gastritis, GERD etc. Regular consumption of amla by women is definitely going to improve their stomach and gut health.

As a ‘Constipation reliever’

Amla fruit along with Hareetaki, and Bibhitaki traditionally known as Triphala helps to relieve constipation, apart from being a good Rasayana. Women are prone to indigestion and constipation due to ‘erratic food and rest schedules’ due to their busy household chores.

As a ‘Urinary tract support system’

Due its antioxidant property, Amla supports kidney health. Administering amla extract has been shown to provide protection against kidney damage and preserve kidney functions. It also helps to prevent age related kidney and urinary tract damage by reducing oxidative stress. Amla has shown promising results in removing toxicity from the kidneys. Tree turmeric (Daruharidra – Berberis aristata) with the juice of amla mixed with honey is useful in Mutrakrichra – Dysuria caused due to pitta aggravation (Cha.Chi.26/53). Prevalence of chronic kidney diseases in women is increasing with advancing years. Causes may be many. The ‘mutravega dharana’ – avoidance of natural urge of urination due to several reasons is common practice in women which may lead to ‘mutravarodha janya udavarta’ i.e. abnormal movements of vata due to habitual withholding of urination and bad consequences resulting therein as a long term effect which may lead to kidney and urinary functional disorders, incontinence, stone formation, dysuria etc. Use of sanitary pads can cause urinary infections and urinary problems. Kidney and bladder issues are also common in women who do not hydrate themselves in their busy home or office schedules or both. Burning urination is a common complaint in many women. Amla is the best remedy and preventive medicine in all these conditions. It is an elixir for the urinary system in women.

‘As a Liver health promoter’

Amla which is rich in antioxidants and having powerful anti-inflammatory properties is beneficial for liver health. Regular consumption helps in improving metabolism and further preventing fatty liver disease. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is said to be the leading cause of chronic liver disease. In women, alterations in body composition, fat distribution and / or hormonal or metabolic changes that occur following menopause and in the setting of PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) may influence the development of NAFLD – non alcoholic fatty liver disease. Therefore women should have a check on their body weight, metabolic changes during menopause and address their PCOS so as to take care of their liver health. Amla comes in handy as an important medicine to guard the liver health in women. It is good to start Amla right from the pre-menopause stage. Taking the advice of an Ayurveda doctor in this direction is important. Another study shows that it has a positive effect on reducing body weight and belly fat by helping the body to speed up the metabolism of fats. Amla with Aloe vera juice is good for liver health.

Effect on overweight and obesity

There are various reasons for being overweight and obesity. The main culprit behind most cases of increased weight is slow metabolism. Amla taken in a metered dose regularly helps to prevent the unnecessary fat accumulation around the belly and prevents fat formation, helps in easy evacuation of toxins produced in the body by speeding up the metabolism. To reduce overweight or obesity, its powder half a teaspoon twice daily before food is advised along with honey to reduce excessive kapha accumulation in the unwanted areas.

The percentage of women who have severe obesity i.e. 11.5% is higher than the percentage of men who have severe obesity. This shows that women are prone for severe obesity.

Related Reading – Anti-obesity activity of Amla

Effect on Polycystic ovary syndrome – Polycystic ovary syndrome is a female reproductive disorder associated with irregular menstrual cycle, weight gain, insulin sensitivity due to hormonal imbalance and defective food and lifestyle. If this condition is untreated it might lead to diabetes and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Amla helps in flushing out the toxins from the body and thus helps to maintain the hormonal balance, which ultimately improves the general health of women. Since Amla is very much beneficial in conditions closely knit with PCOS i.e. obesity and diabetes and is also a very good antioxidant, it is also a good inclusion for treating PCOS conditions.

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