Amla Berry: A "Divine" Ayurvedic Supplement (Interview)
In this special newsletter an ayurveda expert from The Council of Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians discusses the many benefits of Amla Berry, found in MAPI's Premium Amla Berry tablets, one of the very few single-ingredient formulations in Maharishi Ayurveda.
What Amla Berry tablets, as found in MAPI's Premium Amla Berry, do:
- Strengthen immunity
- Enhance food absorption
- Balance hyperacidity
- Fortify the liver
- Nourish the brain and mental functioning
- Support the heart
- Strengthen the lungs
- Regulate elimination
- Enhance fertility
- Help the urinary system
- Support skin health and appearance
- Promote healthier hair
- Act as a body coolant
- Flush out toxins
- Increase vitality
- Strengthen the eyes
- Improve muscle tone
- Act as an antioxidant
- Provide an excellent source of Vitamin C
Q: First of all, could you tell us what the relationship is between Amla Berry, as found in MAPI's Premium Amla Berry tablets, and Amalaki, Indian Gooseberry and Amla? All these names can get confusing!
A: Yes, that's true. The Amalaki plant, as it is called in Sanskrit, is called Indian Gooseberry in English, Amla in Hindi and Emblica Officinalis Gaertn., Phyllanthus Emblica or Terminalia Emblica in Latin. The fruit of this plant — a small berry — is the only ingredient in Premium Amla Berry tablets. Amalaki fruit is also a major ingredient in Amrit Nectar and Amrit Ambrosia.
Q: What are some of the special qualities of Amalaki fruit?
A: Amalaki is worshipped in several Vedic festivals. In sacred texts such as the Puranas, it is referred to as divaushadhi, which means it is a divine plant, divine ayurvedic medicine. One of the properties that makes it divine is that it contains five of the six tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, astringent and pungent. The only taste missing is salty. This gives it a holistic, balancing effect on the doshas (mind-body operating principles). Very few fruits have this quality. Vata is pacified by the heavy quality (guna) of Amalaki. Initially, when you taste Amalaki it is sour, which also pacifies Vata. But its Vipaka, or post-digestive taste, is sweet, and the virya, or potency is cool, and both of these characteristics pacify Pitta. Kapha is pacified because the Amalaki's other predominant quality (guna) is dry, and it also contains the astringent, pungent and bitter tastes. So that is the beauty of this fruit: it is tridoshic, which means that it is pacifying to all three doshas. It is good for all seasons, all weather conditions, and all body types. This is what makes it a divine plant.
Q: Amalaki is also a Rasayana. Can you explain what that means?
A: Yes. Amalaki is indeed a very great Rasayana, revered in the ayurvedic tradition. Rasayanas are the cream of ayurvedic herbal substances, and have remarkable longevity-enhancing and rejuvenative qualities. One of the most important ayurvedic texts, the Charaka Samhita, defines a Rasayana as "that which promotes strength and immunity against diseases." There are two types of Rasayanas: those that are preventive and promote longevity, memory and intelligence; and those that are curative and treat disease. The Charaka Samhita says, "Rasayana therapy has for its object the prolongation of human life, and the refreshment and invigoration of the memory and the vital organs. It deals with formulas that enable one to retain youthful vigor up to a good old age, and which generally serve to make the human nervous system invulnerable to disease and decay. Rasayanas also create ojas in the body.
Q: Can you explain what ojas is and why it is important for us to take Rasayanas to produce more ojas?
A: Rasayanas enhance ojas in the body. Ojas is the most refined product of digestion and metabolism. Ojas is equated with immunity and strength. The more ojas your digestion produces, the greater your immunity to disease. Ojas supports bliss, intelligence and higher states of consciousness. The Sushruta Samhita says, "By bala (strength) or ojas, the muscle tissue becomes full, all movements become free and perfectly coordinated, voice and complexion become clear, and externally and internally the activity of the organs of action and the sense organs become intelligent and evolutionary.
Rasayanas convert easily into ojas, and thus infuse qualities of ojas into the body. The skin becomes lustrous, the eyes sparkling, the temperament stable and blissful, the mind intelligent and calm, and the body free of disease. Ojas also supports the experience of more evolved states of consciousness. So you can see that a Rasayana such as Amalaki enlivens many divine qualities by increasing ojas.
Q: What are some other benefits of Rasayanas?
A: Rasayanas such as Amalaki have many actions. The ayurvedic texts mention that they promote longevity, memory, intelligence, youthfulness, stable progeny, strength and immunity of the body, strength of the sense organs, the quality of purity (Sattva), a clear voice and sweet and successful speech, respectability (due to a pure nature, good health, and prosperity), and invincibility.
Almost all Rasayanas pacify all three doshas. Some are agni (solar intelligence) predominant and some are soma (lunar energy) predominant. Because the vipaka (aftertaste) of Amalaki is sweet, it is more predominantly supportive of lunar energy. Thus, even though it is good for both men and women, it is especially so for women, because it has more soma (lunar) quality and that supports the soma-predominant quality of women. Of all the Rasayanas, Amalaki is revered as one of the most potent and nourishing. The Charaka Samhita says, "Amalaki is the best among rejuvenative herbs."
Q: Can you tell us something about this amazing plant — what it looks like and how it grows?
A: Certainly. The Amalaki is actually a moderate-size deciduous tree with gray bark and reddish wood that grows in the tropical subcontinent of India. All parts of the plant are used in various ayurvedic herbal preparations, including the fruit, seed, leaves, root, bark and flowers.
However, the herbal preparation Amla Berry and the Rasayana Amrit Nectar use the ripe fruit only, so when I talk about Amalaki, I am really referring to the fully-ripened fruit.
The fruit is smooth on the outside, about one-half to one inch in diameter, and has many seeds. At Maharishi Ayurveda Products International, we use the smaller, forest variety that grows in the wild on the Indian subcontinent. There is a larger, hybrid variety now available that produces a bigger fruit, but we don't use that because it is not the traditional fruit mentioned in ayurvedic texts.
The flowering season is from February to May, and the fruit-bearing season is from October to April. The fruit is green when immature, turns yellowish-green as it grows and is yellowish-pink and firm to the touch when ripe. The fruit is very sour when you bite into it. But after a few minutes, after it mixes with saliva or if you take a sip of water, it becomes sweet. This is what is meant by the vipaka, or aftertaste.
The forest variety has bigger seeds and smaller fruit than the hybrid variety, which means that you must collect many more fruits to make the Rasayana.
Q: What are some of the benefits of taking Amla Berry tablets, as found in MAPI's Premium Amla Berry?
A: There are many benefits mentioned in ayurvedic texts and experienced by people in India for thousands of years, and now by people in the West as well. Let me list some of them:
- Excellent source of Vitamin C. Amla Berry is rich in Vitamin C, containing about 720 to 921 mg of Vitamin C for every hundred grams of edible material. It is the most concentrated form of Vitamin C found in the plant kingdom, and because the whole fruit is used rather than an active ingredient, it is easily assimilated by the human body. The Vitamin C in the Amalaki fruit is bonded with tannins that protect it from being destroyed by heat or light.
- Enhances food absorption. The regular use of Amla Berry tablets, as found in MAPI's Premium Amla Berry, can strengthen digestion, absorption and assimilation of food. People taking it notice that they enjoy the taste of food better. It enhances all thirteen digestive fires (agnis). But it works more slowly and gently than ginger or other digestion-enhancing herbs, so it can be taken by people with a lot of Pitta without fear of creating excess stomach acid. In addition, it improves assimilation of iron for healthy blood.
- Balances stomach acids. Because it improves digestion but does not heat the body, Amla Berry is ideal for calming mild-to-moderate hyperacidity and other Pitta-related digestive problems. It should always be taken with food in this case.
- Fortifies the liver. Amla Berry helps purify the Rasa Dhatu (nutrient fluid) and Rakta Dhatu (blood), supporting the functions of the liver. It also stimulates the liver, helping it in eliminating toxins from the body. Research shows that it helps lower cholesterol.
- Nourishes the brain and mental functioning. Amla Berry is good for the brain. It is medhya (nurturing and enhancing coordination among dhi (acquisition), dhriti (retention), and smriti (recall), sharpening the intellect and mental functioning. It supports the nervous system and strengthens the senses.
- Supports the heart. It is Hridya, which means it nurtures the heart, blood and circulation. It supports the cardiovascular system. On the other hand, it sometimes acts as a cardiac stimulant. For this reason, if you have a heart condition, you should check with a medical doctor before using Amla Berry tablets, as found in MAPI's Premium Amla Berry.
- Strengthens the lungs. The Amla Berry tablets, as found in MAPI's Premium Amla Berry, help pacify Kapha dosha as well. Therefore, Amla Berry is a wonderful tonic for strengthening and nourishing the lungs (which are a major seat of Kapha dosha in the body), and the entire respiratory tract. It also pacifies Shleshaka Kapha, which among other things governs moisture balance in the lungs.
- Regulates elimination. Amla Berry tablets, as found in MAPI's Premium Amla Berry, also pacify Apana Vata, thus helping with the downward flow of energy in the body. They keep the function of elimination regular and ease constipation.
- Enhances fertility. By balancing Apana Vata and by nurturing all the dhatus (body tissues), Amla Berry also keeps menstruation regular and healthy. Amla Berry supports the reproductive systems of both men and women and can help overcome difficulty in conceiving. It is a vrishya herb, which means that it enhances all the seven tissues (dhatus), including the reproductive tissue. This herb nurtures the ovaries and sperm, and it has a property called garbhasthapana, which means it enhances fertility and the possibility of conception. It is especially nurturing for women, strengthening the uterus and supporting reproductive health.
- Helps the urinary system. Because it enhances all the thirteen agnis (digestive fires) and supports Apana Vata, Amla Berry is especially supportive to the urinary system and can be helpful if you experience a mild burning sensation while urinating. It supports natural diuretic action, but does not force water from the body like diuretic pills. In other words, it helps eliminate waste from the body but does not overstimulate the urinary system.
- Good for the skin. Because Amla Berry strengthens digestion, helps the liver detoxify and is rich in Vitamin C and other minerals, it is very good for the complexion. Amla Berry moisturizes the skin, cleanses the tissues of toxins, and supports immunity of the skin against bacterial infection. It helps enhance glow and luster.
- Promotes healthier hair. Amla Berry boosts absorption of calcium, thus creating healthier bones, teeth, nails and hair. It also helps maintain youthful hair color and retards premature graying, and supports the strength of the hair follicles, so there is less thinning with age.
- Acts as a body coolant. Although Amla Berry is good for all doshas and seasons, it is especially effective in the hot season to cool Pitta dosha. It is an especially good Rasayana for people with Pitta and Vata body types.
- Flushes out toxins. Individuals who have been eating "junk" food for a while tend to have accumulated deposits of preservatives and additives in the liver. Amla Berry helps support the liver in flushing out chemicals and additives from the physiology.
- Increases vitality. Because it has five tastes and supports all the doshas and many body functions, and cleanses the blood and the microchannels of the body, Amla Berry increases energy and removes fatigue. It supports regeneration of cells — the process by which tired, old cells are replaced by vital, new ones.
- Strengthens the eyes. Amla Berry is called chakshushya, which means "strengthening the eyes" (Chakshu means "eye" and ayushya means "Rasayana" so it is literally a "Rasayana for the eyes"). It supports the health of the eye by enhancing both Ranjaka Pitta (the subdosha of Pitta that governs liver function and the blood plasma) and Alochaka Pitta (the subdosha of Pitta that governs the eyes and vision). The tridoshic nature of Amalaki also makes it a good tonic for the eyes.
- Improves muscle tone. Amla Berry enhances protein synthesis, which is why it is good for strengthening muscles and building lean muscle mass. Its unique ayurvedic action offers athletes and bodybuilders a natural way to tone muscles and build lean mass.
- Acts as an antioxidant. Amla Berry, as found in MAPI's Premium Amla Berry tablets and other Rasayanas that contain Amalaki such as the Amrit Nectar and Ambrosia, are effective broad-spectrum antioxidants and free radical scavengers, helping to reduce disease and slow the aging process.
- Enhances immunity. All of the benefits already mentioned make Amla Berry a strong immunity booster.
"Amalaki is the best among rejuvenative herbs. Charaka Samhita, Sutrasthana 25:40. Amalaki is useful in relieving cough and skin diseases. Charaka Samhita, Sutrasthana 4:11-13, 16. Amalaki is the best among the sour fruits. Sushruta Samhita, Sutrasthana, 46:334.
Q: That's an impressive list. It is remarkable that all of these results come from one small fruit. Do the traditional ayurvedic methods of harvesting the fruit help to enhance its divine nature?
A: This is a very good question, because at Maharishi Ayurveda Products, we are careful to follow the traditional methods for harvesting and processing the fruit as described in the ayurvedic texts. It is only by using these methods that the refined qualities of the Amla plant can be preserved and even enhanced. Because it is a divine plant, the Amla is more delicate than many other plants grown in the wild. It must be handled very carefully to maintain its efficacy, its purity and its divine qualities.
So first of all, the plants must be grown in a pure environment. About half of our plants grow naturally in the wild in pristine areas, and others (still of the wild variety) are planted in protected areas far from the air and water pollution of cities, and in places where the soil and water have not been damaged by agricultural chemicals or waste material containing heavy metals.
Secondly, the caretakers must be of a sattvic (pure and uplifting) nature themselves. Our plants are tended by people who practice Transcendental Meditation® each day, and who handle the plants with love. They are trained to follow ayurvedic methods of growing and harvesting the fruits, and take their role seriously in tending these divine plants. Just as food prepared in a loving, pleasant environment is nurturing, herbs gently cared for or taken from their natural habitat are nurturing in their action.
The ayurvedic texts, for instance, specify that the fruits should be hand-picked at the exact peak of ripeness. Our fruits are picked only when they meet these requirements. Then, once harvested, the entire batch is inspected to make sure that it meets the traditional requirements for optimum ripeness.
Finally, the batch is given a sophisticated laboratory test involving thin-layer chromatography and fingerprinting to judge the level of ripeness as prescribed in the ayurvedic texts. High-tech scans check for heavy metals or biological or chemical residues. Only when the fruit meets these stringent standards is the batch ready for processing.
Q: Can you explain how the Amla fruit is processed to make the Premium Amla Berry tablets? We understand that processing is extremely important in preserving the efficacy of the herb and its innate intelligence in the finished formulations.
A: At Maharishi Ayurveda Products, we use the traditional method as described in the ayurvedic texts. The process involves drying and crushing the Amalaki into powder, then dipping it in fresh Amalaki juice, then again drying the mixture. This dried mixture is again ground into a powder and mixed with fresh juices of the fruit. This procedure is repeated 21 times. The purpose of this meticulous processing is to enhance the nourishing and rejuvenative qualities of the Amalaki fruit. The fruit alone is nourishing and can be eaten raw, cooked in a chutney, or dried into a powder, but its Rasayana qualities become enhanced several times over when it is processed according to the traditional ayurvedic methods.
It is the processing method that makes the Rasayana many times more powerful than the simple fruit or fruit powder. The traditional ayurvedic processing enhances its potency and increases the natural intelligence of the fruit. We do this without destroying or disturbing any of its delicate qualities.
To start with, we make certain that the processing area is extremely sanitary and pure. It's a very sophisticated process, especially when you are handling large batches of these very delicate fruits in a tropical climate such as India, where the chances of bacterial contamination is greater. That is why we place great importance on keeping the processing area absolutely sterile. It requires a dedicated team of sattvic, hygiene-conscious workers. Because of these challenges, the high level of purity of Maharishi Ayurveda's Amla products is truly unique.
To ensure the purity of the Amalaki, we test the ingredients three times: before we prepare the formula (as mentioned earlier), after manufacturing, and again at an independent laboratory in the United States. Secondly, we don't dry the fruit at a high temperature, which would destroy the vitamins and minerals as well as the divine intelligence of the Amalaki fruit. Instead we use a specially-designed drying system that dries the fruit slowly at room temperature (below 90° F).
Q: You mentioned earlier that scientific research supports the benefits mentioned in traditional texts. Can you tell us about some of the research on Amalaki?
A: There are hundreds of studies that have been conducted on Amalaki, so I'll mention just a few. Studies have found that it functions as an antioxidant and that it helps the liver as a cholesterol-lowering agent. Amalaki is such a powerful Rasayana on its own, and is also contained in the most powerful Rasayana, Maharishi Ayurveda's Amrit Kalash. Both alone, and as part of Amrit, it has been found to have chemotoxicity-preventive qualities. And actually even Charaka Samhita mentions that Amalaki is useful in treating abdominal tumors of the Pitta variety (Charaka Samhita, Chikitsasthana 5:22).
Q: In the past you have stated that all Maharishi Ayurveda herbal supplements contain more than one herb, in order to create a balanced, synergistic effect and to avoid harmful side effects that could be created if only one herb is used. Yet Amla Berry tablets, as found in MAPI's Premium Amla Berry, contain just one ingredient: Amalaki. After hearing your description of the balanced qualities of this amazing fruit, we tend to understand why it could stand alone. Could you explain further?
A: Yes, it is true that ayurvedic herbal formulas are complex combinations of just the right herbs to complement each other and create a powerful synergy in which the whole effect is more than what the individual herbs could create alone.
However, the Amla fruit is not an herb but a fruit, and nature has designed it to be whole and healthy to be eaten alone. But I think you have touched on the deeper answer: the Amalaki fruit, when processed properly, is such a holistic, balanced and powerful Rasayana that it can create only good effects for all three doshas. Because it has five of the six tastes and is suitable for all body types, because it has so many benefits for the entire body, and because it is good for all seasons, it really is a self-sufficient Rasayana all on its own. It is truly one of the most remarkable plants in our plant kingdom.
Amalaki is also a major ingredient of Maharishi Amrit Kalash Nectar, which, when taken in combination with Maharishi Amrit Kalash Ambrosia tablets, is the most powerful Rasayana of all. So the Indian Gooseberry becomes an even more effective Rasayana when combined with other Rasayanas in Amrit Kalash. Because it contains Amalaki as its main ingredient, Maharishi Amrit Kalash gives many of the same benefits as Amalaki (such as improvement in mental function, digestion, emotional balance, functioning of the heart, respiratory system, physical strength, and the development of higher states of consciousness).
Scientific research on Maharishi Amrit Kalash Nectar also supports the efficacy of many of the traditional uses of Amalaki.
Q: Can you take Amla Berry tablets, as found in MAPI's Premium Amla Berry, even if you are already taking Amalaki every day as part of Maharishi Amrit Kalash?
A: Yes, that should be fine. You can enjoy the benefit of Amalaki in Maharishi Amrit Kalash, but if you'd like to enjoy even greater benefits of Amalaki, then you can take the Amla Berry tablets, as found in MAPI's Premium Amla Berry, in addition. The remarkable thing about the Amla Berry tablets, as found in MAPI's Premium Amla Berry, is that they are for everyone. They help bring balance to the brain and mind, the digestion, the liver, elimination, the respiratory system, the reproductive system, the circulatory system, the muscular system, the immune system, and the eyes and other senses. Amla Berry, as found in MAPI's Premium Amla Berry tablets, has a balancing, restorative and and rejuvenating quality that truly brings out the divine nature in everyone.
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.