An amla a day

Keeps the doctor away

Published: Monday 15 November 2004

An amla a day

Credit: Surya SenThe amla tree mingles perfectly with Indian culture. According to Hindu mythology, once when Brahma was engrossed in the meditation of Vishnu, tears started rolling down his eyes. When these tears fell on the ground, the amla tree germinated.

The tree is called Emblica myrobalan in scientific parlance. It is a small, leafy tree that grows across India and bears an edible fruit (termed Indian gooseberry by the British people during colonial days). A tree can bear fruits for 65-70 years. The berry is rich in pectin and vitamin c; it is an essential ingredient of the popular herbal tonic Chawanprash.

A single fruit contains more vitamin c than three oranges or 16 bananas. It is valued for its precious oil, which is used for treatment of hair and scalp problems. Amla oil is prepared from dried berries, which have been soaked in coconut oil for several days; this helps extract the oil soluble vitamins from the fruits.

The fruit has unparallel medicinal properties. It improves eyesight and purifies blood. It helps treat bile and cough. It enhances food absorption. The berry is ideal for calming mild to moderate hyperacidity and other digestive problems. It fortifies the liver, lungs and the nervous system.

In India, the area under amla cultivation has been expanding rapidly -- from just about 3,000 hectares in the early 1980s to over 50,000 hectares in 2003. Current trends indicate that the area could increase to one lakh hectares by 2005. The fruit is cultivated most in Uttar Pradesh, followed by Gujarat. The plant can be grown on wasteland.

Mahendra Pandey is a scientist with the Central Pollution Control Board, New Delhi

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