“Words of the elders and matured gooseberry are bitter first but sweet later” has been a popular proverb in Kerala, till he beginning of old age home culture. But it is a socio-medical truth. Emblica officinalis is its botanical binomial nomenclature, known in Sanskrit as Amala or Dhatriphla and Nelli in Malayalam. It is ‘Amla or Amla = pure’ and ‘Dhatriphala = fruit of the earth’. When all fruits are from the plants that grow on the earth, why gooseberry has this special reference? It is a specific gift from the mother nature to the entire humanity. Charaka in his ayurvedic treatise has specifically justified this view and mentioned the fruit as a great rasayana that helps protect people from disease and keeps away the manifestations of premature ageing.
The empirical concept of ayurveda is that any disease is the manifestation of an imbalance among the three Doshas – Vayu, Pitta and Kapha (air, bile and phlegm). Amla maintains the balance among the three, thereby minimising, if not nullifying, the daily ware and tear; hence its value as a rejuvenator.
Though all parts of the gooseberry tree have medicinal value, it is the fruit which constitutes the main drug. amala fruit is acrid, cooling, refrigerant, diuretic, laxative, antipyretic, aphrodisiac alteranttonic. It is the richest natural source of Vitamin C, the ‘Defense Vitamin’. Vitamin C plays a vital role in stabilisation of the human immune system. Calcium, iron, protein, garlic and tannic acids, sugar, phosphorus, carbohydrates etc are the other major ingredients in the fruit which are essential components of nutritive value .The juice fresh amala fruit reduces burning sensation, over thirst, dyspepsia and other complaints of the digestive system.
The powder of the dried amla fruit is an effective cure for hyperacidity, ulcers and blood impurities. It is also used both internally and externally as a decoction and paste. Some of the common uses of amala fruit are as under:
Taking fresh amala juice in betwen meals will reduce weakness of body, heart and mind.
Amala is a powerful food for the brain. Massaging the head with amla oil induces sound sleep. Certain types of mental disorders can be treated effectively with amla.
Good hair oils can be prepared using amla, which is known to prevent premature greying. The fruit, cut into pieces, is dried preferably in shade. These pieces are boiled in coconut oil. This darkish oil prevents greying. The water in which dried amla pieces are soaked overnight is also nourishing to hair.
Drinking & washing eyes daily in the morning with amla water (amla soaked in water) removes constipation and improves eyesight.
Casual nasal bleeding due to heavy heat and damage to mucous membrane can be controlled by using 3 to 4 drops of amla juice as nasal drops.
Eating amla or drinking its juice regularly reduces blood sugar, lowers cholesterol and works as a very powerful anti-inflammatory agent.
A wonderful antioxidant and a natural source of Vitamin C, amala helps scavenge free radicals; hence a pwerful guard against cancerous growths.
Amla helps maintain the liver functions, enhance haemoglobin production ( as it contains iron which is the core element of haemoglobin), and improve red blood cell count.
Amla cleanses the mouth, strengthens the teeth
Its decoction is used in hyperacidity and with honey as an anthelmintic.
There are various classic ayurvedic preparations, such as Chyawanprash in which amla is used as a chief ingredient. It is said that the great ancient sage Chyawana rejuvenated himself in his late 70s and regained his virility by the use of amla. It helps improve intelligence and memory power. Triphala and Brahmrasayana are other classic medicine in which amla is being used since time immemorial.
The fruit can be eaten raw or as pickle or marmalade. It can be preserved for a long period when it is dried and turned into powder and used in different nutritive or medicinal preparations.
SOME OF THE IMPORTANT & SPECIFIC THERAPEUTIC USES
Respiratory disorders: Tuberculosis of the lungs, asthma and bronchitis can be prevented to a good extent and cured, if the treatment begins in the beginning days of these diseases.
Diabetes: A tablespoonful of its juice, mixed with a cup of fresh bitter gourd juice, taken daily for two months will stimulate the islets of Langerhans (the isolated group of cells in pancreas that the secrete the hormone insulin). It thus reduces the blood sugar in diabetes. Diet restrictions should be strictly observed while taking this medicine. It will also prevent eye complications in diabetes. Equal quantity of amla powder, jamun powder and bitter-¬gourd powder also make a very useful food remedy for diabetics. A teaspoonful of this mixture once or twice a day would be effective in checking the progress of the disease.
Heart disease: Indian gooseberry is considered an effective remedy for heart disease. It tones up the functions of all the organs of the body and builds up health by destroying the heterogeneous elements and renewing the body energy. Being a total vitalizing agent, the fruit reduces the routine stress on the heart muscles.
Eye disorders: Eye disorders, which manifest as secondary clinical conditions of high blood pressure & diabetes can be taken care of if such patients use specific preparations of gooseberry under the supervision of a trained ayurvedic physician. The juice mixed with honey, is useful in preserving eyesight. It is beneficial in the treatment of conjunctivitis and glaucoma & is known to reduce intraocular tension.
Rheumatism: One teaspoonful of powder of the dry fruit mixed with two teaspoonfuls of jaggery taken twice daily for a month cures rheumatism if the treatment is taken from the early days of affliction.
Scurvy: As an extremely rich source of vitamin C. Indian gooseberry is one of the best remedies for scurvy. Powder of dry gooseberry mixed with equal quantity of sugar should be taken in doses of one teaspoonful three times daily with milk.
Diarrhea: A drink made from amla mixed with lemon juice and misri is considered highly beneficial in controlling acute bacillary dysentery. One tablespoonful of the paste of leaves mixed with honey or buttermilk also makes an effective medicine in the treatment of diarrhea and dysentery.
AMRITA (Tinospora cordifolia) – THE POTENT ELIXIR OF LIFE
In Sanskrit, ‘Amrita’ means heavenly elixir, which keeps one eternally young. Ayurvedic masters specifically mentioned its therapeutic effects as imparting youthfulness, vitality and longevity to human beings. It is a well-known and favourite medicinal plant of healers of traditional medicine. Hence, it is called ‘Bhishak priya’.
Amrita in Ayurveda
Ayurveda considers ‘Amrita’ as a panacea and highlights its preventive, promotive, corrective and curative properties. It is interesting to note that more than 25 Sankrit synonyms are ascribed to this plant by ancient ayurvedic masters to identify the plant in terms of its therapeutic properties, its physical character, its ability to survive adverse climatic conditions etc
MEANING OF THE TERM
Elixir of life
Stem- officinal part
Originated from ambrosia
Ability to survive adverse climatic condition
Propagation through stem cutting
With longitudinal ridges
Acts as a saviour from diseases
Spirally curved nature of the young shoot
Cross section of the stem appears like shape of wheel
Dispelling all diseases
Like the navel cord in appearance
Acts as a rejuvenator
The favourite of Physicians
Eaten by calf
Leaves with nectar or honey
Protects and sustains life
Immuno-enhancer, Memory-enhancer, Anti-oxidant
Produced by Devas
Names in other languages
The stem of Tinospora is widely used for preparing a number of remedies in traditional medicine. Amrita is acrid, bitter, thermogenic, restorative, aphrodisiac and pacifies all the three doshas i.e. vata, pitta and kapha. Due to its ‘snigdha’ properties (able to provide soothing effect), and ‘ushnaveerya’ potency (hot dominated therapeutic action). Tinospora pacifies vata dosha and because of its bitter and astringent taste, it pacifies both kapha and pitta doshas.
It is a choice drug for treating a number of ailments like diabetes, fever, skin diseases, arthritis, anaemia, jaundice, vomiting, piles, respiratory disorders and neurological diseases etc. It acts as a digestive, carminative, memory enhancer, immuno- modulator, a preventive and curative remedy for eye disorders, especially due to diabetes, galacto- purifier and cardio- tonic. The stem is bitter, astringent, sweet, anodyne, antispasmodic, anti- inflammatory, appetiser and expectorant.
Tinospora provides a soothing effect to the body and checks thirst, vomiting and also a good blood purifier. It is to be taken along with clarified butter to pacify vata dosha, along with jaggery or honey for kapha dosha, with candy for pitta dosha and with castor oil to cure arthritis. The root is prescribed as an antidote to snakebite and scorpion sting.
The three classical treatises known as ‘Charakasamhita’, ‘Susrutasamhita’ and ‘Ashtangahridaya’ specifically mentions the therapeutic value of Tinospora used either alone or in combination for treating various specific disorders. For example:
The juice of Tinospora stem along with honey is taken orally on empty stomach to cure jaundice.
The juice of Tinospora stem along with clarified butter and gingelly oil, prepared in the form of medicated oil is an effective remedy for arthritis.
The juice of Tinospora stem or powder of the stem along with buttermilk is prescribed for piles.
Cold infusion of the stem bark is taken orally against fever due to vata dosha.
The juice of Tinospora stem along with a little honey prescribed orally to control diabetes.
Bhavamishra (1600 AD) described Tinospora as one of the important medicinal plants prescribed for a number of ailments.
Tinospora juice stem along with the powder of Piper longum and a little honey is prescribed for chronic fever.
The pounded mass of the leaves of Tinospora along with buttermilk is specifically mentioned to cure jaundice.
Root of Tinospora in the form of a paste is prescribed for enlargement of spleen.
Tinospora juice along with gingelly oil is a good remedy for filariasis.
According to Vangasena, Tinospora juice with powder of piper longum cures acute chest pain.
Tinospora cordifolia is a large glabrous deciduous climbing shrub. Tinospora cordifolia is distributed throughout India. It is a common medicinal plant of the deciduous and dry forests districts, growing over hedges and trees. T cordifolia grows well in almost any type of soil and under varying climatic conditions.
There is plenty of data available on the chemical constituents, therapeutic values, pharmacology, clinical trials and toxicity studies of Tinospora cordifolia.
The stem of T.cordifolia contains glycosides, alkaloid constituents including berberine, essential oils and a mixture of fatty acids. A starch obtained from the stem is used as a tonic in case of debility – causing diseases.
The leaves are rich in protein, calcium and phosphorus. A number of diterpene, lactones, phenyl propanoids and ecdysoids were isolated from T.cordifolia, besides a polysaccharide showing mitogenic effects. Steroids, sesqiterpenoids, phenolics, and aliphatic compounds are the other phytochemical constituents of T.cordifolia.
The alcoholic extract of the leaves induced fasting blood sugar indicating indirect action of the blood on carbohydrate metabolism. The aqueous extract of T. cordifolia shows anti- stress effects. T. cordifolia is reported to regenerate beta- cells in the islets of pancreas. It also shows remarkable hepatoprotective effects. Polysaccharides from T.cordifolia showed remarkable immuno enhancing effects. T.cordifolia increased apoptotic index in a dose- dependant manner. It showed chemo- protective effects when administered along with anti cancer drugs in breast cancer patient. It acts by enhancing the neuro- endocrine immune systems. Its therapeutic importance in diminishing the oxidative stress and lipid peroxidation and stimulating enzymes like GSN, GST and macrophage function is significant. T. cordifilia is administered to patients with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. It prevents murine alloxin diabetic cataract and shows significant anti bacterial activity.
T.cordifolia plays an important role in relieving the symptoms of patients with infective hepatitis including altered liver functions. It showed remarkable anti- endotoxic effects. T.cordifolia has been shown to increase the number and function of neutrophils and monocyte – macrophages. It could attenuate lymphopenic effects of steroids and hasten regeneration of thymocytes. T.cordifolia produced dose –dependent increase in bone marrow proliferation. In patients with lethargy, T.cordifolia helps to increase haemoglobin levels and serum proteins suggesting anabolic activity.
Primary health care
Triphala (Termanalia chebula, Termanalia bellerica and Emblica officinalis) and Tinospora cordifolia, taken together orally, in the form of a decoction (30ml twice daily) for one month, is prescribed for those suffering from arthritis and also recommended for diabetic patents to prevent eye disorders.
The juice obtained from the fresh stem of Tinospora cordifolia (10 to 15 ml twice daily) cures jaundice.
Stem bark of Tinospora cordifolia and Emblica officinalis prepared in the form of a decoction, taken orally cures fever with shivering.
The juice obtained from the fresh stem of Tinospora cordifolia, Emblica officinalis, along with Curcuma longa powder (15 to 20 ml), and taken orally on an empty stomach controls diabetes.
The juice of Tinospora cordifolia stem along with piper longum (10 to 15 ml) taken twice daily control filariasi