Phyllanthus emblica, also known as emblic, emblic myrobalan,
myrobalan, Indian gooseberry, Malacca tree, or amla
from Sanskrit amalaki is a deciduous tree of the family
Phyllanthaceae. It is known for its edible fruit of the same name.
Plant morphology and harvesting
2 Culture and religion
3 Traditional uses
3.1 Traditional medicine
3.2 Culinary use
3.3 Other uses
4 Chemical constituents
6 See also
8 External links
Plant morphology and harvesting
The tree is small to medium in size, reaching 1–8 m (3 ft
3 in–26 ft 3 in) in height. The branchlets are not
glabrous or finely pubescent, 10–20 cm (3.9–7.9 in)
long, usually deciduous; the leaves are simple, subsessile and closely
set along branchlets, light green, resembling pinnate leaves. The
flowers are greenish-yellow. The fruit is nearly spherical, light
greenish yellow, quite smooth and hard on appearance, with six
vertical stripes or furrows.
Ripening in autumn, the berries are harvested by hand after climbing
to upper branches bearing the fruits. The taste of Indian emblic is
sour, bitter and astringent, and it is quite fibrous. In India, it is
common to eat emblic steeped in salt water and red chilli powder to
make the sour fruits palatable.
Culture and religion
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Fruit with young leaves and flower buds.
The tree is considered sacred by Hindus as a deity, Vishnu, is
believed to dwell in it. The tree is worshipped on
In other Hindu beliefs, amla is said to have originated from the drops
of Amrit which spilled on earth accidentally, because of the fight of
gods and demons after ksheera sagar manthan. This religious belief
makes claims that it almost cures every disease and is also good in
extending the longevity of life.
In the Sanskrit Buddhist tradition, half an amalaka fruit was the
final gift to the Buddhist sangha by the great Indian emperor Ashoka.
This is illustrated in the
Ashokavadana in the following verses:
"A great donor, the lord of men, the eminent Maurya Ashoka, has gone
from being lord of Jambudvipa [the continent] to being lord of half a
myrobalan." (Strong, 1983, p. 99) This deed became so famous
that a stupa was created to mark the place of the event in modern-day
Patna and was known as the
According to Hindu tradition,
Adi Shankara of Kerala composed and
recited the Kanakadhara stotram in praise of
Mahalakshmi to make a
Brahmin lady get wealth, in return for a single amla presented to
him as bhiksha on an auspicious dwadashi day.
According to a Tamil legend, Avvaiyar, a female poet, ethicist and
political activist of the
Sangam period was gifted with one amla by
Athiyaman to give her long life.
Amalaka at the top of the
Lingaraj temple in Bhubaneswar
In Theravada Buddhism, this plant is said to have been used as the
tree for achieving enlightenment, or Bodhi by twenty first Buddha
named Phussa Buddha.
In Indian temple architecture, an Amalaka, is a stone disk, usually
with ridges on the rim, that sits atop a temple's main tower
(Shikhara). The shape of the amalaka is thought to have been inspired
by the fruit of the amla tree.
Emblic seller in Pollachi, India
In traditional Indian medicine, dried and fresh fruits of the plant
are used. All parts of the plant are used in various Ayurvedic/Unani
medicine (Jawarish amla) herbal preparations, including the fruit,
seed, leaves, root, bark and flowers. According to Ayurveda, amla
fruit is sour (amla) and astringent (kashaya) in taste (rasa), with
sweet (madhura), bitter (tikta) and pungent (katu) secondary tastes
(anurasas). Its qualities (gunas) are light (laghu) and dry
(ruksha), the postdigestive effect (vipaka) is sweet (madhura) and its
energy (virya) is cooling (shita).
According to Ayurveda, amla balances all three doshas (fundamental
bodily bio-elements) - pitta, vāta and kapha. While amla is unusual
in that it contains five out of the six tastes recognized by Ayurveda,
it is most important to recognize the effects of the "virya", or
potency, and "vipaka", or post-digestive effect. Considered in this
light, amla is particularly helpful in reducing pitta because of its
cooling energy. It also balances both pitta and vāta by virtue of
its sweet taste. The kapha is balanced primarily due to its drying
action. It may be used as a rasayana (rejuvenative) to promote
longevity, and traditionally to enhance digestion (dipanapachana),
treat constipation (anuloma), reduce fever (jvaraghna), purify the
blood (raktaprasadana), reduce cough (kasahara), alleviate asthma
(svasahara), strengthen the heart (hrdaya), benefit the eyes
(chakshushya), stimulate hair growth (romasanjana), enliven the body
(jivaniya), and enhance intellect (medhya).
In Ayurvedic polyherbal formulations, Indian gooseberry is a common
constituent, and most notably is the primary ingredient in an ancient
herbal rasayana called Chyawanprash. This formula, which contains
43 herbal ingredients as well as clarified butter, sesame oil, sugar
cane juice, and honey, was first mentioned in the
Charaka Samhita as a
premier rejuvenative compound.
Pratapgarh is one of the largest producers and suppliers of Indian
gooseberries. In this region, the fruit is commonly pickled with salt,
oil, and spices. The amla fruit is eaten raw or cooked into various
dishes. In Pratapgarh, tender varieties are used to prepare dal (a
lentil preparation), and amle ka murabbah, a sweet dish made by
soaking the berries in sugar syrup until they are candied. It is
traditionally consumed after meals.
Batak area of Sumatra, Indonesia, the inner bark is used to
impart an astringent, bitter taste to the broth of a traditional fish
soup known as holat.
Popularly used in inks, shampoos and hair oils, the high tannin
content of Indian gooseberry fruit serves as a mordant for fixing dyes
in fabrics. Amla shampoos and hair oil are traditionally believed
to nourish the hair and scalp and prevent premature grey hair.
Although these fruits are reputed to contain high amounts of ascorbic
acid (vitamin C), up to 445 mg per 100 g, the specific
contents are disputed, and the overall bitterness of amla may derive
instead from its high density of ellagitannins, such as emblicanin
A (37%), emblicanin B (33%), punigluconin (12%) and pedunculagin
(14%). It also contains punicafolin and phyllanemblinin A,
phyllanemblin other polyphenols, such as flavonoids, kaempferol,
ellagic acid, and gallic acid.
Bark of the Indian goosebery
Wikimedia Commons has media related to
Triphala, an Ayurvedic mixture containing amla
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Phyllanthus emblica". Germplasm Resources Information
Agricultural Research Service
Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States
Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2008-03-06.
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^ a b c d e Lim, T.K. (2012). "
Phyllanthus emblica". Edible Medicinal
And Non-Medicinal Plants. Springer Netherlands.
^ Strong, J. S. (1983) The Legend of King Ashoka, New York: Princeton
^ Buddha: His Life, His Teachings, His Order: Together with the
History of the Buddhism, Manmatha Nath Dutt, Society for the
resuscitation of Indian literature, 1901, p. 3
^ a b c d e Caldecott T. Amalaki
^ a b National R&D Facility for
Rasayana - Amalaki
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Traditional Medicine 
^ Samhita C. Ed., translation by the Shree Gulabkunverba Society,
Volume 4. Chikitsa Sthana, Jamnagar, India: 1949
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^ Bhattacharya, A.; Chatterjee, A.; Ghosal, S.; Bhattacharya, S. K.
(1999). "Antioxidant activity of active tannoid principles of Emblica
officinalis (amla)". Indian journal of experimental biology. 37 (7):
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^ Habib-ur-Rehman, Yasin KA, Choudhary MA; et al. (Jul 2007). "Studies
on the chemical constituents of
Phyllanthus emblica". Nat. Prod. Res.
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PMID 17763100. CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list
Plant List: kew-153790