Amla powder is made from the amla fruit, which is also known as the Indian gooseberry. The fruit is dried and ground to make amla powder. Despite the Indian gooseberry name and the fact that it resembles the common gooseberry, amla is actually unrelated to it. The fruit comes from a tree native to India and is mentioned extensively in Ayurvedic texts. Sushruta, considered the father of Indian medicine made mention of Amla’s health benefits. Sushruta is believed to have lived between 1500 and 3000 BCE, indicating that the fruit has been used in India for millennia.
Amla is found all over Asia but primarily grows in India and China. While the amla is used in Myanmar and other parts of Asia, its use is far more extensive in India. The deciduous trees that produce the fruit grow best at high elevations and thrive in northern states including Kashmir. In India, amla season lasts from October to April. During this period, products made with it are widely available. For the rest of the year, the dried amla used to make amla powder is widely available.
Amla powder flavor profile
The first thing to note about amla powder is that it is very bitter. The fresh fruit is known for its extreme tartness but the powder is often combined with jaggery, honey, or coconut milk to help neutralize the intense astringency.
Health benefits of amla powder
Amla powder is prized by many for its health benefits, which come from compounds it contains like:
- Fiber: Amla powder contains a moderate amount of dietary fiber. It has roughly the same amount of fiber that you would get from an equivalent amount of raw apples.
- Vitamins: Fresh amlas are known to be very rich in vitamin C, containing upwards of 20 times the amount found in oranges. The dried amla from which amla powder is made is believed to be a good source of the vitamin as well.
- Minerals: Amla powder is said to contain small but significant amounts of important minerals like iron and manganese.
The compounds in amla powder make it useful for treating conditions like:
- High cholesterol: Studies have shown that amla can help to lower high levels of cholesterol. Subjects in one study were given raw amla and saw their cholesterol decrease significantly over a 28 day period.
- Skin, hair, and dental problems: The high level of vitamin C in amla makes it useful for collagen synthesis. Collagen is important for the health of skin, teeth and hair.
- Cancer: A polyphenol compound called pyrogallol is found in amla fruit and is believed to be effective for inhibiting the growth of gastric and lung cancers.
When using amla powder, it is best to add it to something sweet to take away its bitterness. In India, amla powder is sometimes made into tablets so that the fruit can be consumed outside of the harvesting season. Amla powder can be added to smoothies and to sweet preserves as well. In those preparations, it adds a pleasant tartness and the sweetness of the other ingredients will counteract any bitterness.
Some practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine recommend taking a teaspoon of amla powder after meals to aid digestion. Another amla application in Ayurvedic medicine is called triphala. Triphala is a blend of three fruits, including amla. The other ingredients are chebulic myrobalan (also known as haritaki) along with bastard myrobalan, which is sometimes referred to as bibhitaki. All three fruits can be used fresh or dried and ground into powder.