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Subheshaja (सुभेषज) – Amla

“Whoa, Aunty, is that an amla plant you’re carrying?” asked Preethi in surprise.

“Yes, Preethi, it’s for the Tulsi pooja on Friday. Your mother also must be performing the pooja, right?” replied Dr. Radha.

“Yes, but we got a small branch only, not so many amla fruits as you have here!”

“Ah! I chose a bigger branch because I want to use the amla fruits for a longer time. Do you know how good amla is for health, Preethi?”

“Well, I remember studying about it in school. We learned that it is the richest source of Vitamin C, and so, it improves our immunity, and keeps cold and cough away.”

“Perfect! Vitamin C of course is a strong antioxidant; but amla contains other ingredients too such as ellagic acid, gallic acid and gallotannin, which are equally potent antioxidants. You remember we talked before about antioxidants?”

“Yes, Aunty, I remember you saying that they prevent the damaging effects of free-radical induced reactions in the body. You also said this confers antioxidant containing herbs with protective effects against diseases such as diabetes, heart diseases, cancer and arthritis.”

“Right, Preethi! Let me tell you little more in detail about how the amla berries help against some serious diseases. For example, both animal and human studies have found that regular intake of amla helps to reduce blood glucose levels. Studies have also found that amla reduces diabetes-related neuropathy, kidney damage and heart disease. Some researchers studied the mechanism by which amla is effective in diabetes and they found that it helps to change the architecture of the beta cells of the pancreas.”

“I remember studying that the beta cells of the pancreas secrete insulin and when they don’t perform this function correctly, it leads to diabetes. Is that true, Aunty?”

“Oh yes. And research shows that amla changes this – by regenerating the beta cell architecture, this tiny berry helps to restore the function of the cells, and stimulates them to produce insulin, resulting in lower blood glucose levels in diabetics.” (1)

“Wow! That’s really superb!”

“Amla has also shown promising results against obesity. Scientists administered amla extracts for 42 days to rats who were fed on a high fat diet. Another group of rats was fed only the high fat diet. Guess what the results showed?”

“The rats on the amla diet lost weight?”

“Umm…well, the amla diet rats didn’t gain as much weight as the rats that were on only the high fat diet. This indicates that amla has anti-obesity potential. Further, these rats also showed lower levels of lipids and an increase in the HDL-cholesterol which is the ‘good’ cholesterol we talked about some days ago.” (2)

“Is this effect there is humans also, Aunty?”

“Some researchers have performed a clinical trial with 98 patients with dyslipidemia, which is the condition where a person has an abnormal level of lipids in blood. People with this condition are at a high risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease. The results of the trial have shown that in 12 weeks, the amla extract brought about a significant reduction in the levels of total cholesterol and triglycerides. This indicates that it can be used to reduce lipid levels in persons with dyslipidemia.” (3)

“Aunty, my mother makes chutney with raw amla and says we have to eat it first when we are breaking the fast after Ekadashi. Is there some science behind this practice?”

“Well, Ayurveda has always considered amla to be good for digestive health and also used it to treat indigestion, colic and hyperacidity. Modern medicine is only now discovering the truth of this. When you fast, the stomach remains empty, and is prone to damage by the acid and pepsin that are secreted. So, the next day, when you break the fast, eating something that can counteract this is the sensible thing to do. Research shows that amla has a significant anti-ulcer activity. Do you know what an ulcer is, Preethi?”

“Err…is it something like a cut or opening of the skin?”

“Sort of – ulcers are sores that may develop on the lining of the stomach. They occur due to damage of the area by the acid and pepsin enzyme in the stomach. Amla, probably due to its rich content of antioxidants, has shown significant protection against the development of ulcers.” (4)

“Ah! Now I understand the connection. Really, Aunty, the amla berry looks so small and delicate, but packs a huge punch! No wonder you got an entire plant with so many berries for your pooja!”

References

  1. D’souza JJ, D’souza PP, Fazal F, Kumar A, Bhat HP, Baliga MS. Anti-diabetic effects of the Indian indigenous fruit Emblica officinalis Gaertn: active constituents and modes of action. Food Funct. 2014 Apr;5(4):635-44. Available online at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24577384/ 
  2. Nazish I, Ansari SH. Emblica officinalis – Anti-obesity activity. J Complement Integr Med. 2017 Dec 5;15(2). Available online at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29206643/ 
  3. Upadya H, Prabhu S, Prasad A, Subramanian D, Gupta S, Goel A. A randomized, double blind, placebo controlled, multicenter clinical trial to assess the efficacy and safety of Emblica officinalis extract in patients with dyslipidemia. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2019 Jan 22;19(1):27. Available online at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30670010/ 
  4. Hema NG. An evaluation of emblica officinalis (Indian gooseberry) for its antiulcer activity. National Journal of Basic Medical Sciences. 2013; 4(1): 65-70. Available online at: https://www.njbms.in/uploads/19/1557_pdf.pdf 
Anusuya Kashi

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