Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Watch your health - Indian goose berry (Amla), an extremely nutritious divine fruit

Indian gooseberry (Amla, Amlaki, Nellikka, Phyllanthus Emblica) is a miracle health food that is gaining attention globally. 

This fruit has been postulated as having :
  • anti-cancerous
  • cholesterol lowering
  • blood sugar lowering
  • anti aging
  • anti-inflammatory ( so may be effective in Rheumatoid arthritis )
  • hair nourishing 
  • liver function normalizing
properties. Besides, it may retard or delay the progress of Osteoporosis. 

These pale green, spherical fruits having smooth surfaces are about 2 cm in diameter and tastes sour/bitter. Inside there is a hard seed about a centimeter diameter. The tree grows about 15 meters tall and has small leaves.   

The fruits are available almost everywhere in India. The common uses of this fruit in households in India is to crush it to prepare 'Amla juice' or to 'make pickles'. In some parts of India curry like dishes are prepared with it. I have seen in the middle east and in some parts of India, Amla being kept in honey to be enjoyed later because it is bitter to consume fresh! Amla is in great demand in manufacturing Ayurvedic medicines, the traditional system of medicine here. 'Chyavanaprasham' is a popular health tonic in Indian homes.

It has high concentrations of Vitamin C. The antioxidant action is said to be due to the presence of Ellagitannins, which also has anti-cancer, antiviral, antimicrobial, and antiparasitic activities, as well as the ability to regulate blood glucose, in addition to other substances that also has antioxidant properties.

There are many legends prevailing about the divine nature of this fruit. One says it has fallen to Earth from the spillage of Amruth, the nectar of immortality, during the 'Kheera Sagara madhana' or 'churning of the milk ocean' described in the Holy Mahabharatha, Indian epic when a fight occurred between the 'devas' and 'asuras'.

Some are of the opinion that these divine fruits were given by Lakshmi Devi, the Goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity to Sri Adi Sankaracharya, a great scholar, and sage when he prayed to alleviate the poverty of a poor brahmin woman. This fruit is a must when we prepare Vishukkani, during the time of Vishu, a festival during the new year according to the traditional calendar about which I have blogged before.

Amla is thus considered a God-given universal remedy in India and I have not heard any instances where it cannot be consumed. However, always consult your doctor before following any type of health tip. Only your doctor can decide what is good for you.

The first picture shows Amla and it's juice. With the advent of mixie/mixer/smoothie maker, it is easy to crush and smoothen it into juice. If you have the patience to remove the hard seed, well and good :) or just go on with whole fruits washed well and strain the juice once it is done. The residue may be used as 'chammanthy', mixed with a little chilly powder and salt, it is a good side dish with dosa or iddali. You may add a pinch of salt/sugar/honey to mask the bitter/sour taste of Amla juice. I prefer it plain :) All of the above are my culinary experiments, user discretion advised :)

The next picture shows Nellikka (Amla) pickle. It is called 'Nellikka', in the Malayalam language, our mother tongue. Fruits are washed thoroughly, lightly steamed and seeds removed. Some prefer to preserve the spherical shape and would like to remove the seed while enjoying the 'achar' (pickles) during meals. Different oils are used for sauteing like the gingelly or sesame. Spices like asafoetida, fenugreek, turmeric, ginger etc. are used along with chilly powder, salt and there are many recipes prevalent in India for this delicacy. It can also be done plain without oil / little salt but the shelf life will be short and you must compromise upon the taste factor but it is a definitely healthier option particularly for people with high cholesterol. Be careful if you have high blood pressure because pickles, in general, have a high concentration of common salt. 'Achar' is a common accompaniment eating rice or rice porridge in Kerala. 
  • Health is wealth! Food is medicine! God has blessed mankind with many good things but the most important He has given is health. It is our primary responsibility to safeguard this healthy state of complete physical, mental and social well being!
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Optimistic Existentialist said...

I bet my sweetie would be really intrigued by this. She loves fruits and she would be intrigued by all the medicinal benefits!

Rajiv Sankarapillai said...

:) Amla has lot of medicinal benefits. Research will substantiate much more therapeutic uses in future, let us hope :)
Show her this post. Don't know whether Amlas are available there.
Thank you :)

Joy said...

I hope I can buy it here, they dont import that kind of fruit yet.

Rajiv Sankarapillai said...

Well, Amla is slowly gaining popularity all over the world even though it has been considered divine and highly medicinal in India since time immemorial !
Awesome Amla !
Hopefully it will be available there too. Literature is available aplenty praising it's health benefits.
God bless !
Thanks Joy :)

Elefantest89 said...

I didn't know it is also anti cancerous, that's Good!

Rajiv Sankarapillai said...

Yes, it is.
This could be due to the compounds in it that I have mentioned in the post. It is also rich in vitamin c.
An amazing fruit !
Thank you.

Blackswan said...

Very informative post, Rajiv! Will try to spot these gooseberries in the supermarket the next time I'm there :)

Rajiv Sankarapillai said...

Hi Shirley :)
Thanks a lot.
Hope it is available there. May be you could find them; it should be available in Indian supermarkets.
Have a wonderful weekend :)

♥ Łucja-Maria ♥ said...

Rajiv, Your posts are very interesting.
You amaze me. You as a man interested in food?
You are fantastic.

Beate said...

Thank you so much for your amazing comment on my blog! Have you ever been to Germany? Keith is right, I do love this post. I have never heard of that fruit but it absolutely sounds like something I want to try! I don't think I've ever seen it here though. What a great fruit! If I get to India, I will definitely try it! Yes, Germany is very supportive of holistic health and natural medicines. I'm very interested in either and rather avoid any chemical drug.
Have a wonderful weekend! :)

Rajiv Sankarapillai said...

Hi Beate, thanks so much for your visit to my blogs and this beautiful comment.
I do not know if fresh Amla fruit is available
there. Naturalists having special interest in Asian foods may be of help. I gather a lot of such people are there. Amla powder may be available online but as you know very well fresh is always the best :)
I have not been to Germany yet. Actually wanted to go there and infact planned a trip even sometime ago but it did not happen unfortunately. Always fascinated by the country, lifestyle, extremely good people like you :) God willing, will visit one day !
While in the middle east I visit German pavilions religiously especially Bavarian, during exhibitions and fairs like Dubai Shopping festival and Global village. Will post asap more about it asap. Published already a video just the other day a cultural event in Dubai Global village. Watch it on youtube !
I am very much into holistic health. Are you also practicing it ?
Thanks again Beate. Btw, is my German that I wrote on your blog ok? :)
Alles gute !
Hi to Keith :), lucky man :)

Rajiv Sankarapillai said...

Hi Lucy, thank you.
I consider food as medicine. We are what we eat !
I have special interest in holistic health. So healthy food is important for me. After all Health is wealth, right?
Have a beautiful weekend !

Beate said...

Oh thank you so much for that huge compliment!
I agree - the fresh plant is always the best. If I come across it, I'll try it out!
Yes, I practice holistic health. That is usually my first approach with any illness. Of course I do visit doctors, but I'm lucky to have found some that practice the holistic view as well.
Your German is great! :)
I'm the lucky one :) Keith is so amazing.
Have a wonderful rest of the week!

Rajiv Sankarapillai said...

Awesome comment :)
I watch german tv here a lot. Always fascinated by your peoples' love of nature and fondness of natural medicine.
Keith was right , you like holistic health approach es. Germany I think has a complete health system having advanced facilities in modern medicine too. I have heard lot of people going to Germany for advanced medical care from the middle eastern countries and they feel better and satisfied. Great country; great people :) Keith and you may look forward to a beautiful life in Germany :)
Best wishes, again :)