Indian Gooseberry: Superfood With Super Results in Studies

Close up of a bunch of golf ball sized green Indian gooseberries

The Indian gooseberry (Phyllanthus emblica) is a small fruit tree with yellow-green flowers that blossom into golf ball sized yellow-green fruit.

Cultivated throughout India and nearby countries, the Indian gooseberry (also known as amla) has a reputation around the world for being a superfood because the berries of Indian gooseberries are loaded with vitamin C. In fact, a 100-gram serving of fresh amla berries contains as much vitamin C as 20 oranges.

Used as a medicinal plant for at least 1,000 years by Ayurvedic healers, Indian gooseberry was believed to improve overall health by incorporating it into a general diet.

Bunches of green Indian gooseberry fruit hanging from tree

Today, the whole plant (including the fruit, leaves and seeds) is utilized in traditional Indian medicine. The Indian gooseberry also has several culinary uses, particularly in India.

Due to its sour taste, Indian gooseberry is often an ingredient in the preparation of variations of pickles along with other ingredients, the most common ones being the spicy pickle and Amla Murabba, a dish of candied Indian Gooseberry.

Health claims related to Indian gooseberry are considerable. Perhaps it’s most commonly used in the Western world to promote heart health, especially in combating high cholesterol. The belief is that Indian gooseberry works by reducing total cholesterol levels, including the fatty acids called triglycerides, without affecting levels of the “good cholesterol” also known as high-density lipoprotein (HDL).

Along with reducing high cholesterol, many believe Indian gooseberry can lower high blood pressure levels by acting as a vasodilator (widening the blood vessels).

The alleged anti-inflammatory and anti-platelet effects (preventing the formation of blood clots) of Indian gooseberry also plays into heart health.

Besides heart health, Indian gooseberry may also boost brain health. It’s believed that the phytonutrients and antioxidants in Indian gooseberry can benefit memory by fighting against free radicals that can attack and damage brain cells.

Indian gooseberry’s high concentration of vitamin C also helps your body produce norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter believed to improve brain function in people with dementia. 

But the health claims don’t stop there. Other potential major benefits come in the area of digestion. The fiber in Indian gooseberry may help regulate bowel movements and even relieve symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome.

It’s also possible that people who suffer from frequent heartburn may benefit from taking Indian gooseberry. Believers claim that Indian gooseberry also helps with diarrhea and nausea.

Close up of dozens of ripe, green Indian gooseberries

One particularly interesting health claim regards anti-aging. This is all about Indian gooseberry’s plethora of vitamin C content. As an antioxidant, vitamin C may help prevent cellular damage which in turn potentially helps slow the body’s aging process.

Additionally, Indian gooseberry may help to keep skin young looking by preventing collagen breakdown. Collagen is a protein that forms the firm but flexible protein matrix in skin and soft tissues.

In Thailand, Indian gooseberry extract is used to help with hair loss – another sign of aging.

Indian gooseberry may also benefit vision and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by improving the mitochondrial health of eye cells.

And if that wasn’t enough, people take Indian gooseberry to lose weight. Again the key is the high concentration of vitamin C which powers our immune system to fight off toxins and inflammation while boosting metabolism.

Indian gooseberry also contains beneficial hypolipidemic properties that fight off symptoms associated with fatty liver and cholesterol, which helps prevent obesity and promote better body weight management.

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Indian gooseberry is usually found as a supplement, tea or powder. Health food stores and online merchants via Amazon sell packets of dried Indian gooseberry that can be chewed or ground in a spice grinder to yield the powder.

Glass of Indian gooseberry tea
Indian Gooseberry tea

You can mix the powder with water and honey to make a hair and face mask. The powder or water-softened dried Indian gooseberry can also be added to juices or smoothies.

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As with all medicinal plants, it’s advisable to speak to your healthcare provider before using. Indian gooseberry is no exception. You could have issues if you’re taking a blood thinner or medications to manage diabetes. Due to its anti-platelet properties, Indian gooseberry can thin your blood and prevent normal blood clotting.

It’s also recommended to avoid Indian gooseberry before any surgery because of the bleeding risk.

You should also avoid Indian gooseberry if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to conceive.

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Various studies have proven that Indian gooseberry influences several cardiovascular risk-factors. An abstract on 19 of these studies concludes that Indian gooseberry has shown antiatherogenic, anticoagulant, hypolipidemic, antihypertensive, antioxidant, antiplatelet, and vasodilatory effects as well as lipid deposition inhibitory properties.

Some high-quality clinical studies report the vasodilatory and myocardial antioxidant properties as well as anti-platelet aggregation effects of this plant.

That’s a check mark for heart health. For brain health, Indian gooseberry may also have health benefits. According to the National Library of Medicine (NIH), many animal-based studies and some clinical trials, have shown that Indian gooseberry and its extracts exert positive effects on dyslipidemia, hyperglycemia, inflammation, oxidative stress, apoptosis and autophagy, that contribute to Alzheimer’s disease risk. Collectively, this evidence suggests that Indian gooseberry may be of value as part of an effective disease-delaying treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

Pickled Indian gooseberries in jars for preservation
Pickled gooseberries

Science has also shown that digestion may improve with taking Indian gooseberry. For example, a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial demonstrated that Amla could reduce frequencies of heartburn and regurgitation and improve heartburn and regurgitation severity in patients with GERD.

Often related to improved digestion is weight loss. Studies report that Indian gooseberry can help with weight loss by keeping your digestive system on track throughout the day while accelerating your metabolism.

A good metabolism is able to burn more calories effectively.

Bowl of brown slices of candied Indian gooseberries
Candied gooseberries

Empirical evidence is somewhat sketchy supporting claims that Indian gooseberry is an anti-aging element. However there are studies that show Indian gooseberry significantly improved live cell numbers and mitochondrial membrane potential – both factors in the aging process.

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Many of the health claims attributed to Indian gooseberry have been supported by considerable scientific research. Claims regarding heart health are especially strong.

While the Indian gooseberry has been a key superfood in traditional Indian cooking and Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, its usage as a medicinal plant in the West has been slow to unfurl.

However, that is finally changing. The humble Indian gooseberry is growing in popularity outside India. Ayurveda claims that Amla helps balance the three Doshas in the body and can help eliminate viral and bacterial elements, which are the underlying cause of most ailments.

For some around the world, Indian gooseberry has been especially sought after during the COVID-19 pandemic as an effective immunity elixir.