From blueberries to broccoli to garlic to grapes, there are scores of foods that contain a wealth of micronutrients and phytochemicals, all of which enhance human function, structure and physiology.Indian gooseberry is one such food. In the seldom-used language of Sanskrit, Indian gooseberry is known as amalaki and is being marketed as the miracle ingredient in a new juice that features six supporting herbs, including turmeric, ginger, holy basil, jujube, haritaki and schizandra.
It was immediately apparent to me that nobody would be drinking a juice that only contained those seven extracts, and I wondered what else was in it. After surfing the Web, I eventually found out what else it contained: white grape juice concentrate, pear puree concentrate, Concord grape juice concentrate, pomegranate juice concentrate, cranberry juice concentrate, raspberry juice concentrate, lime juice concentrate, natural flavors, and (an unnamed) natural fruit and vegetable juice blend for color. Like the other juices I have reviewed in this series,1-3 the launch of this amalaki-based product has created quite a stir.
Indian Gooseberry Tree
The Indian gooseberry tree is native to the foothill regions of India. It is described as a medium-sized tree that reaches a height of 18 to 60 feet. The fruit is very pale yellow or very light lime-green in color and is oval, with a 1-inch diameter and six furrows running longitudinally. The taste is described as a bitter/sour and the texture as "fibrous." In India, it is often consumed with salt to make it more palatable. Researching this berry was confusing until I realized it has quite a few names, many of which begin with the letter A. In Hindi, is it known as amla. It is also referred to as aonla, aola, aawallaa and aamvala.
Indian gooseberries are a good source of phytochemicals, including flavonoids, tannins, polyphenols, ellagic acid, quercetin, gallic acid and kaempferol. They are best known for their high vitamin C content. How high is anybody's guess. I found reports that a 100-gram serving (3.5 ounces) contains 445 mg, 463 mg, 625 mg, 700 mg, 930 mg, 1,100 mg or 1,700 mg. When the fruit is dehydrated, the vitamin C content is even higher, with tested levels ranging from 2,428 mg to 3,470 mg.
The health claims for Indian gooseberry are similar to other cure-all juices in that it is promoted to cure many problems. They include reduction of blood glucose, blood lipids and blood pressure; enhancement of the immune system, prevention of constipation; and, in a 1988 study, reduction of cholesterol levels in humans.4 Other claims, some of which are rather esoteric, include:
tones heart muscle;
maintains lung function;
balances stomach acid;
conditions the skin;
helps the scalp when added to shampoo;
acts as a natural diuretic;
prevents gray hair;
slows aging; and
has aphrodisiac properties.
Indian gooseberry has been shown to protect white blood cells when it is exposed to a toxic form of chromium in a lab. It can suppress coughing in cats and has reduced oxidative stress, ulcers, cataracts, cholesterol and diabetes in rats. I found a human study that was often mentioned but not referenced. It stated that 3 grams, three times a day helped eliminate gastritis in 17 out of 20 people who took it for a one-week period. Unfortunately, since there was no reference included, I could not find out what form (raw, dried, paste, encapsulated powder) or parameters (controlled, blinded, subject selection, etc.) had been used.
Of course, there is significant research out there on the other six ingredients and the seven juices. However, one should not assume that the studies pertain to the 14 ingredients mixed, bottled, stored and utilized to treat/support/resolve/prevent the long list of disorders, dysfunction and diseases. The truth is there are no studies in the peer-reviewed literature. Only a small percentage of the studies are well-controlled human experiments. Furthermore, none of those studies used this delivery system. For example, ginger pills may relieve arthritis pain in some people, but will a smaller dose soaked in white grape juice for six months have the same effect? What if we add amalaki, lime juice and holy basil to the mix?
So, is Indian gooseberry good for you? You bet. Just like acai, goji, noni, mangosteen, oranges, apples, papaya and cherries. Is it better if it's mixed with 13 other ingredients? We don't know yet, but it is my hope that human studies will be funded soon. Do I expect generous "no strings" donations to independent institutions with neutral investigators who, in turn, can perform trials and publish the results? The cynical/realistic side of me says the odds of that happening are slim to none because even a positive outcome will most likely fall well-short of the hype.
- Andersen GD. "Cure-All Juices, Part 1: Acai and Goji." Dynamic Chiropractic, March 11, 2008.
- Andersen GD. "Cure-All Juices, Part 2: Noni." Dynamic Chiropractic, April 8, 2008.
- Andersen GD. "Cure-All Juices, Part 3: Mangosteen." Dynamic Chiropractic, May 6, 2008.
- Jacob A, et al. Effect of Indian gooseberry (amia) on serum cholesterol levels in men aged 35-55 Years. Eur J Clin Nutr, 1988;42(11):9939-44.
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