Amalaki and Digestive Health

indian gooseberry fruit in tree
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The fruit of the amalaki tree has long been used by practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine for its properties in promoting digestive health. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of research to support these long-held beliefs as to how it could benefit a person who was experiencing chronic digestive problems. This overview will provide you with some basic information about this herbal supplement so that you can make an informed decision as to whether or not it is a product that you should be using.

What Is Amalaki?

Amalaki (Êmblika officinalis) is a tree that grows throughout Asia that bears a lemon-sized fruit for several months out of the year. The fruit has a bitter taste and so is not usually eaten on its own, but rather prepared as part of a meal or condensed into supplement form. For the purposes of use as an herbal supplement, the fruit is dried and then ground into a powder. Amalaki has different names depending on where it is grown and thus is also known as:

  • Amla
  • Indian gooseberry

Purported Health Benefits

Ayurvedic medicine maintains that amalaki is helpful for a wide variety of health problems as it has a positive effect on many of the body's systems. Some claim that amalaki can improve healthy functioning of the liver, heart, brain, and lungs. There are also claims that it can offer protection against cancer—as well as give you shiny hair and clear skin. Unfortunately, there is little research to back up these claims. Of greater concern is that there is little research as to the safety of amalaki. Any research to date regarding amalaki's effectiveness has been conducted using animals, not humans.

It may be fair to say that amalaki is high in vitamin C and antioxidants.

When it comes to the effect of amalaki on digestion, the picture is quite muddy. In general, amalaki is thought to facilitate digestion, to regulate elimination, and to ease constipation. However, we could find no relevant research on the subject. More confusing is that some sources purport that amalaki has anti-diarrheal effects. Generally, amalaki's effects on the digestive system are far from proven.

Amalaki and Triphala

Amalaki is one of the three fruits used to make up the Ayurvedic supplement known as triphala. The other two fruits that are used come from the bibhataki and haritaki trees. Triphala is typically prescribed by Ayurvedic practitioners for the relief of abdominal pain, bloating and constipation. There is a little more research on triphala's safety as opposed to amalaki, however, most of the research on triphala's health benefits has been based on animal studies.

A Word From Verywell

Although amalaki has been used for centuries, so much is unknown about its safety, effectiveness, and impact on your digestive symptoms. Don't forget the importance of consulting with your doctor before taking any herbal supplement or any other over-the-counter remedy.

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