Food for Thought

Did you know too much of amla could be harmful? Read on to know how

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IF you live in India, then you definitely know what the benefits of amla juice and powder are. It’s one of the most important ingredients in Ayurveda, the 3,000 year-old traditional medicine system which originated in this country.

What is amla powder?
There are dozens of different plants called “gooseberry” throughout the world, but this one is botanically different than all the others.

Its common name, amla berrry, comes from the Sanskrit word amalika. It’s in reference to the Indian gooseberry (Phyllanthus emblica). This bitter tasting fruit can be found growing on a hardy tree which reaches heights up to 60 feet. Its lime green berries, which are about the size of a ping-pong ball, are the second most best fruit source of vitamin C in the world. While they can be eaten fresh, the most common way to consume them is in the form of a ground powder.

What are arguably the two most important recipes in Ayurveda make use of it. For triphala powder, amla is 33 per cent of the composition. The original recipe of chyawanprash is over 30 ingredients, but the Indian gooseberry represents the lion’s share at 46 per cent of the total by weight.

How many amla to eat in a day?
Not many. With the raw fruit, it would be just a handful at most. If you want to buy fresh amla in the United States, that’s practically impossible. Though you can buy the freeze-dried powder, which is even better than the traditional (non freeze-dried) powder that has been used for thousands of years. Freeze drying the raw powder does an excellent job at preserving the vitamin C and antioxidant content.

Disadvantages of gooseberries
How much per day of the powder to use is only 1 teaspoon. Perhaps more if you’re accustomed to taking it regularly, but using higher amounts might lead to an unintended consequence… it can act as a diuretic. That is by far the most common adverse reaction and why traditionally, the amount to take daily as a supplement is small. A tablespoon or less per day.

Based on human studies and clinical research, known and potential side effects for amla include the following:

  • Diarrhea or loose stools
  • Increased risk of bleeding
  • Unwanted weight loss
  • Lowering of blood sugar
  • Lowering of blood pressure
  • Pregnancy safety has not been studied

A couple of those would be considered health benefits for most people, but for diabetics on blood sugar medication, the glycemic impact might result in too low of blood sugar. Likewise for those on blood pressure medicine. The diuretic effect may cause unintended weight loss and that would not be a healthy way to lose weight.

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