Phyllanthus emblica, also known as emblic, emblic myrobalan, myrobalan, Indian gooseberry, Malacca tree, or amla from Sanskrit amalaki is a deciduous tree of the family Phyllanthaceae. It has edible fruit, referred to by the same name.
Plant morphology and harvesting
The tree is small to medium in size, reaching 1–8 m (3 ft 3 in–26 ft 3 in) in height. The branchlets are not glabrous or finely pubescent, 10–20 cm (3.9–7.9 in) long, usually deciduous; the leaves are simple, subsessile and closely set along branchlets, light green, resembling pinnate leaves. The flowers are greenish-yellow. The fruit is nearly spherical, light greenish-yellow, quite smooth and hard on appearance, with six vertical stripes or furrows.
Ripening in autumn, the berries are harvested by hand after climbing to upper branches bearing the fruits. The taste of Indian emblic is sour, bitter and astringent, and it is quite fibrous. In India, it is common to eat emblic steeped in salt water and red chilli powder to make the sour fruits palatable.
Culture and religion
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In other Hindu beliefs, amla is said to have originated from the drops of Amrit which spilled on earth accidentally, because of the fight of gods and demons after ksheera sagar manthan. This religious belief makes claims that it almost cures every disease and is also good in extending the longevity of life.
In the Sanskrit Buddhist tradition, half an amalaka fruit was the final gift to the Buddhist sangha by the great Indian emperor Ashoka. This is illustrated in the Ashokavadana in the following verses:
"A great donor, the lord of men, the eminent Maurya Ashoka, has gone from being lord of Jambudvipa [the continent] to being lord of half a myrobalan" (Strong, 1983, p. 99). This deed became so famous that a stupa was created to mark the place of the event in modern-day Patna and was known as the Amalaka stupa.
According to Hindu tradition, Adi Shankara of Kerala composed and recited the Kanakadhara stotram in praise of Mahalakshmi to help a poor Brahmin lady obtain wealth, in return for a single amla presented to him as bhiksha on an auspicious dwadashi day.
In Indian temple architecture, an amalaka is a stone disk, usually with ridges on the rim, that sits atop a temple's main tower (shikhara). The shape of the amalaka is thought to have been inspired by the fruit of the amla tree.
In traditional Indian medicine, dried and fresh fruits of the plant are used. All parts of the plant are used in various Ayurvedic medicine herbal preparations, including the fruit, seed, leaves, root, bark and flowers. According to Ayurveda, amla fruit is sour (amla) and astringent (kashaya) in taste (rasa), with sweet (madhura), bitter (tikta) and pungent (katu) secondary tastes (anurasas). Its qualities (gunas) are light (laghu) and dry (ruksha), the postdigestive effect (vipaka) is sweet (madhura) and its energy (virya) is cooling (shita).
Pratapgarh is one of the largest producers and suppliers of Indian gooseberries. In this region, the fruit is commonly pickled with salt, oil, and spices. The amla fruit is eaten raw or cooked into various dishes. In Pratapgarh, tender varieties are used to prepare dal (a lentil preparation), and amle ka murabbah, a sweet dish made by soaking the berries in sugar syrup until they are candied. It is traditionally consumed after meals.
These fruits are reputed to contain high amounts of ascorbic acid (vitamin C), and have bitter taste that may derive from a high density of ellagitannins, such as emblicanin A (37%), emblicanin B (33%), punigluconin (12%), and pedunculagin (14%). Amla also contains punicafolin and phyllanemblinin A, phyllanemblin other polyphenols, such as flavonoids, kaempferol, ellagic acid, and gallic acid.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Phyllanthus emblica.|
- "Phyllanthus emblica". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2008-03-06.
- "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". Retrieved 14 July 2014.
- Lim, T.K. (2012). "Phyllanthus emblica". Edible Medicinal And Non-Medicinal Plants. Springer Netherlands. pp. 258–296. doi:10.1007/978-94-007-4053-2_37. ISBN 9789400740525.
- Strong, J. S. (1983) The Legend of King Ashoka, New York: Princeton University Press
- Buddha: His Life, His Teachings, His Order: Together with the History of the Buddhism, Manmatha Nath Dutt, Society for the resuscitation of Indian literature, 1901, p. 3
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- Indian Ministry of Health and Family Planning. The Ayurvedic Formulary of India. Part I. 1st ed. Delhi, 1978.
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- Habib-ur-Rehman, Yasin KA, Choudhary MA; et al. (Jul 2007). "Studies on the chemical constituents of Phyllanthus emblica". Nat. Prod. Res. 21 (9): 775–81. doi:10.1080/14786410601124664. PMID 17763100.