The Health Benefits of Amla Oil

This Ayurvedic remedy is believed to treat hair loss and dandruff

Amlas in and around a basket

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Amla oil is a natural oil used for hair health that contains extracts from the Indian gooseberry (Phyllanthus emblica). It is said to stimulate hair growth and prevent hair loss and premature graying. When used as a hair treatment, amla oil is applied to the scalp or facial hair.

Long used in Ayurveda, the Indian gooseberry is prized for its sour taste and used in numerous multi-herbal formulations, including the centuries-old dietary supplement Chyawanprash. The word amla translates to "sour" in Sanskrit.

Although the Indian gooseberry is native to India, it is today grown throughout Asia and parts of the Middle East. Amla oil is traditionally made by immersing dried amla fruit in a base oil for several, after which the oil is filtered and purified.

Indian gooseberry should not be confused with traditional gooseberries found in the produce aisle of many higher-end grocery stores. By contrast, Indian gooseberry is rarely sold fresh in the United States.

Although the Indian gooseberry is edible, amla oil manufactured from the fruit is intended for external use only.

Health Benefits

In Ayurvedic healing, the Indian gooseberry is said to possess kashaya (astringent) properties beneficial to hair. It is high in vitamin C and natural antioxidants known as flavonoids and polyphenols.

When used for hair treatments, amla oil is thought to strengthen and condition follicles down to the roots. Ayurvedic practitioners also believe that amla oil can promote hair growth, reduce dandruff, and prevent the graying of hair.

Even beyond the effects of the fruit extract, the application of oil to dry, flaky skin can have a therapeutic effect by acting as an emollient moisturizer.

Even though amla oil has a long history in Indian cultures, there is little scientific evidence to support its use. Of the available research, there is some evidence, albeit slight, of its benefit in treating male pattern baldness.

Male Pattern Hair Loss

Male pattern hair loss, also known as androgenic alopecia, is characterized by a receding hairline and the gradual disappearance of hair from the crown and frontal scalp. It can affect both men and women and can occur with diseases like polycystic ovaries syndrome (PCOS).

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that, of the 17 plants commonly used for hair treatments, amla extract was the second most potent inhibitor of 5-alpha-reductase. This is the same enzyme target for inhibition by the oral drug finasteride, used to treat male pattern hair loss and enlarged prostate. Whether the plant applied topically offers anywhere the same effect has yet to be proven.

Another study conducted by Yeungnam University in Korea evaluated a naturopathic hair product called DA-5512 which contains six plant extracts, including Phyllanthus emblica. According to the scientists, when applied daily to mice for 16 weeks, there was significant hair growth comparable to that seen in mice treated with minoxidil (a topical drug used to treat male pattern baldness).

Despite the promising findings, the conclusions were limited by the lack of a study control (specifically, a subset of mice provided a placebo).

Possible Side Effects

While presumed to be safe, amla oil has not been thoroughly researched and may pose health risks to some.

People allergic to gooseberries may experience contact dermatitis if amla oil is applied to the skin. To avoid a reaction, spot test the oil on a patch of skin and wait 24 hours to see if a rash or redness develops. If it does, you should avoid using the oil altogether.

Skin reactions may also occur as a result of the base oil rather than the fruit extract. Mineral oil, for example, is known to cause skin irritation. Cheaper heat-pressed oils (like coconut, jojoba, or argan oil) can also be irritating since the heat quickly oxidizes the oil and increases its acidity.

According to a review in the Journal of Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery, amla oil use has been associated with an uncommon skin condition known as lichen planus pigmentosus.

Lichen planus pigmentosus is an immune reaction that causes the swelling and irritation of the skin, hair, and nails. It usually appears on the skin as purplish, itchy bumps that gradually develops over the course of weeks.

It is unknown whether amla oil can interact with oral or topical medications. Taken orally, Indian gooseberry is known to interact with blood thinners and diabetes medications. It is presumed that the topical application of amla oil poses a lesser risk.

Selection, Preparation, and Storage

Amla oil can easily be sourced online and is found in many natural foods stores and shops specializing in Ayurvedic products. Dried or powdered Indian gooseberry is also available and can be used to make your own amla oil at home.

Amla oil is sometimes incorporated into commercial shampoos and hot oil treatments. Amla extract can also be found in a variety of hair powders.

When buying amla oil, choose quality over quantity. The best products will have Phyllanthus emblica printed on the product label as well as the country of origin.

Opt for brands made with organic, cold-pressed plant oil. Those marked "100% pure" can better ensure there are no added dyes, fragrances, or preservatives.

Amla oil typically has a long shelf life and may be stored at room temperature for up three years, depending on the base oil and production technique. Discard of any oil that suddenly smells bad or changes color or consistency. Never use an amla oil product past its expiration date.

It is important to keep in mind that Ayurvedic remedies are largely unregulated in the United States. In some cases, an imported product may be contaminated or contain other products than those listed on the label. While consumers face such risks when purchasing any natural supplement, these risks may be especially high with Ayurvedic products.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, around one in four of the Ayurvedic supplements tested had high levels of lead and almost half had high levels of mercury.

Common Questions


How do you use amla oil?

Amla oil is often used in place of a conditioner after shampooing. It is gently massaged into the scalp so that it lightly coats the hair. People with an oily scalp should apply it to the hair shafts only. After 15 minutes or so, thoroughly rinse the hair with warm water. If amla oil gets into the eyes, rinse thoroughly with cool water.

Amla oil can also be left on the scalp overnight for deep conditioning. If used in this way, wear a shower cap and cover your pillows with towels to prevent staining. Amla oil can have a strong, musky odor, so you may want to use it sparingly if applied overnight.

Some people will make their own hair product by mixing amla powder with warm water to create a paste-like cream. When applied to dry, clean hair, the mixture is thought to increase the hair's softness and thickness.

Using the oil in the shower or bath can make the floor very slippery. Caution should be used to prevent slips and falls.

Can you make amla oil?

You can make amla oil with a neutral carrier oil and dried amla powder. Most practitioners recommend using organic, cold-pressed coconut oil since it alkaline and has a pleasant, mild coconut scent.

To make amla oil:

  1. Combine 1 tablespoon of amla powder with 5 tablespoons of coconut oil in a stainless steel pan.
  2. Place the pan on the lowest heat setting, stirring occasionally. Do not allow the oil to boil or even simmer.
  3. After around 5 minutes or so, the oil will begin to emit a musky aroma, and you will start to see tiny bubbles forming in the oil itself.
  4. At the moment, remove the oil from the heat, cover the pot, and allow to steep for 24 hours.
  5. Strain the oil with a fine tea strainer, and pour into a sterilized glass jar.
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Article Sources

  1. Narayana DB, Durg S, Manohar PR, et al. Chyawanprash: A review of therapeutic benefits as in authoritative texts and documented clinical literature. J Ethnopharmacol. 2017 Feb 2;197:52-60. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2016.07.078.

Additional Reading

  • Kumar N, Rungseevijitprapa W, Narkkhong NA, Suttajit M, Chaiyasut C. 5α-reductase inhibition and hair growth promotion of some Thai plants traditionally used for hair treatmentJ Ethnopharmacol. 2012 Feb 15;139(3):765-71. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2011.12.010.

  • National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Ayurvedic Medicine: In Depth. Bethesda, Maryland; updated January 2019.

  • Yang G, Tan C. Lichen Planus Pigmentosus-like Reaction to Guasha. J Cutan Med Surg. 2016 Nov;20(6):586-88. doi:10.1177/1203475416659857.

  • Yu JY, Gupta B, Park HG, et al. Preclinical and Clinical Studies Demonstrate That the Proprietary Herbal Extract DA-5512 Effectively Stimulates Hair Growth and Promotes Hair Health. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017;2017:4395638. doi:10.1155/2017/4395638.