Amla (Phyllanthus emblica), also known as Indian gooseberry, is native to Southeast Asia and is found throughout India. The edible fruit is light greenish yellow, smooth and firm. It is sour and astringent in taste, with sweet, bitter and pungent secondary tastes.
The amla tree is considered to be the sacred dwelling of the god Vishnu. In other Hindu myths, amla is said to have originated from drops of amrit which spilled onto the earth following a battle between gods and demons. In the Sanskrit Buddhist tradition, half of the amla fruit was the final gift to the Buddhist sangha by the Indian emperor Ashoka.
All parts of the plant are used in Ayurvedic medicine, including the fruit, seed, leaves, root, bark and flowers. Amla balances all three doshas. Pitta is reduced by its cooling energy, while kapha is balanced by its drying action. Both pitta and vata are balanced by its sweetness. As a rasayana, or rejuvenative, it promotes longevity by enhancing digestion, purifying the blood, strengthening the heart, stimulating hair growth, enlivening the body, and enhancing intellect.
Today, this sacred fruit is also prized for its high levels of antioxidants and tannins, which eliminate free-radical induced damage of the skin. The high levels of vitamin C allow it to be used as a natural skin brightener, while the anti-collagenase effect contributes to its anti-aging activity.
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