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Emblica

Scientific Name(s): Phyllanthus emblica L.
Common Name(s): Amalakam, Amalaki, Amla, Amlabaum, Amlaj, Amulch, An mole, Anwala churna, Chyavanprash, Emblic myrobalan, Gebrau chilicher, Hyponidd, Indian gooseberry, Kalpaamruthaa, Nelli, Ngop, Shabju, Sriphalam, Toppinelli, Triphala, Yeowkan tse, Ziphiyu-si

Clinical Overview

Use

Emblica exhibits strong antioxidant activity. It is one of the most important plants in the traditional Ayurvedic medical system as well as in other traditional health systems for immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, antiulcer, hepatoprotective, and anticancer actions. However, there is very limited clinical evidence to support the use of emblica for any indication.

Dosing

There are few clinical studies to guide dosages. Diabetes/hyperlipidemia: 1 to 3 g of powdered, dried fruit was consumed daily in 30 mL of water for 21 days in 1 clinical trial. Another trial used amla 300 mg tablets (each containing 50% amla extract and 50% dextrin) 3 times per day. Hypercholesterolemia/hyperlipidemia: 500 mg standardized extract of Phyllanthus embilica twice daily.

Contraindications

Contraindications have not been identified.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Research reveals little or no information regarding adverse reactions with the use of this product.

Toxicology

No major toxicities have been reported.

Botany

Emblica is a small to medium-sized deciduous tree native to tropical southeastern Asia. Its leaves are simple, feather-like, and closely set along the branchlets. Flowers are green-yellow, and the round, greenish-yellow fruits are smooth and hard in appearance. The fruits, which ripen in autumn and are harvested by hand, are commonly used in the Indian diet.1, 2, 3 A common synonym is Emblica officinalis Gaertn.

History

A method of emblica preparation was described in the first century AD in Sanskrit. Records of the medicinal use of emblica also have been found in Arabic, Tibetan, and Egyptian texts, as well as in the Sidha (Indian), Ayurvedic, and Unani systems of medicine. All parts of the plant including the fruit, seed, leaves, root, bark, and flowers are used in both dried and fresh forms. In the Ayurvedic system, the amla fruit is noted for its light and dry qualities, as well as being cooling in energy. In India, the fruit is commonly eaten as a pickle.2, 3

Chemistry

The fruits contain a high concentration of ascorbic acid, which degrades with heating or cooking. In addition, they contain phenols, including ellagic acid, gallic acid, quercetin, kaempferol, corilagin, geraniin, furosin, gallotanins, emblicanins, flavonoids, glycosides, and proanthocyanidins.4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 The roots contain glycosides and tannins.11, 12

Most of the properties assigned to emblica are attributed to its strong antioxidant action.8, 13, 14, 15, 16 The ascorbic acid content of the fruit has been assayed at approximately 1 g per 100 mL of fresh fruit juice and accounts for 45% to 70% of the antioxidant activity.17 The Ayurvedic process of preparing the amla berry results in a 3-fold increase of ascorbic acid and an increase in the concentration of polyphenols. This dried fruit powder is mixed with fresh emblica juice for a few hours, and then dried and powdered again. Repeated up to 21 times, this method of fruit processing is nutritionally beneficial.17 Other compounds having antioxidant properties include the emblicanins, gallic acid, methyl gallate, corilagin, furosin, and geraniin.6, 17, 18

Uses and Pharmacology

Few quality controlled clinical trials are documented despite the widespread use of emblica in traditional health systems.

Anti-inflammatory effects

Animal data

Animal models of acute and chronic inflammation show limited anti-inflammatory effects, with reduced edema and granulomatous tissue at higher dosages.19, 20

Clinical data

In vitro studies using bronchial epithelial cells extracted from a patient with cystic fibrosis demonstrated inhibition of pro-inflammatory cytokine expression.21 Inhibition of collagenase and hyaluronidase by dried emblica fruit extract using donor cartilage from osteoarthritic patients was also demonstrated in vitro.22 Crude extracts have also induced apoptotic cell death of mature osteoclasts without affecting osteoclastogenesis, possibly via modulation of transcription factors.23, 24 A significant decrease was reported in high-sensitivity C-reactive protein levels (P < 0.001) compared with baseline in obese (body mass index [BMI] 25 to 35) adults following 12 weeks supplementation of a standardized P. embilica extract (CAPROS) 500 mg twice daily.94

Antimicrobial effects

In vitro studies

Alcoholic and aqueous extracts of emblica showed positive results against common human pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Activity appears to be stronger against gram-positive bacteria, and only limited efficacy against fungi.25, 26, 27, 28 Activity against herpes simplex viruses 1 and 2 has been attributed to the phenolic content29 while activity against the coxsackie virus was found for phyllaemblicin B extracted from the roots of the plant.30, 31

Animal data

Induced Klebsiella pneumoniae in mice responded in the long term (30 days) to dietary supplementation with powdered fruit. However, colonization was not prevented in the short term (15 days).32

Clinical data

Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of emblica as an antimicrobial agent.

Cancer

Much interest surrounds the potential for emblica use in treating cancer; however, there are no published clinical trials or epidemiological data.

Animal data

In response to heavy metal carcinogens (arsenic, chromium, nickel), rats given emblica extracts showed a reduction in the number of chromosomal aberrations, number of damaged cells, frequency of micronuclei in bone marrow cells, free radical production, and increased cell survival.33, 34, 35, 36 Rodents fed emblica extracts showed an increase in activity of natural killer cells, antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity, and survival in response to tumor cells (lymphoma and mammary carcinoma).37, 38, 39 In 1 of these experiments, there was no effect on tumor development, but a decrease in tumor volume was shown.33 Cytotoxicity to tumor cells has been demonstrated by organic acid gallates and hydrolysable tannins.7 One report has been published in which emblica had no effect in reducing lung cancer parameters in mice.40 Emblica extracts protected irradiated mice from radiation sickness, increased the 30-day survival rate, and decreased total mortality.41, 42, 43

Clinical data

Research reveals no clinical trial data regarding the use of emblica in cancerous conditions. However, in vitro studies using human cancer cell lines including lung, liver, cervical, ovarian, and breast cells have been conducted.44, 45, 46, 47 Various extracts of emblica inhibited hepatocarcinogenesis as measured by parameters such as tumor incidence, enzyme measurements, and other liver injury markers.37, 48, 49, 50, 51

Dermatology

Animal data

Animal experiments have been conducted, as well as in vitro studies using human skin fibroblasts demonstrating increased cell proliferation and collagen production at wound and ultraviolet B light (UBV) photo-aged sites.52, 53, 54

Clinical data

Limited clinical studies have been conducted using emblica extracts in combination with other agents in skin-lightening creams as an alternative to hydroquinone.55

GI effects

Animal data

Alcoholic and aqueous extracts of emblica have shown protective and healing effects in induced gastric ulcers in animal experiments.56, 57, 58 One experiment, however, established a biphasic effect with healing observed at lower doses of ethanolic fruit extracts and ulceration evident on histology with higher doses.59

In vitro studies using rodent jejunum and ileum as well as in live mice show antidiarrheal and spasmolytic effects on castor oil-induced diarrhea, possibly due to muscarinic action and calcium channel blockade.60

Clinical data

Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of emblica in gastric ulcers or diarrhea.

Hepato- and renal-protective effects

Animal data

Alcoholic and aqueous extracts of emblica fruits have shown hepatoprotective properties in experiments in rats. Hepatic insults include antituberculosis drugs, arsenic, ethanol, thiacetamide, carbon tetrachloride, and cyclophosphamide. The experiments demonstrated histological and/or enzymatic protective and restorative effects. A decreased severity of hepatic fibrosis was also demonstrated, and some studies included improved renal and pancreatic indices.61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71

Clinical data

Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of emblica in renal disease; however, in patients with uremia consequent to end-stage renal disease (ESRD), emblica reduced markers of oxidative stress. No effect on hepatic, renal, or diabetic indices was observed.72

Hyperlipidemia

Animal data

A number of animal experiments report improved lipid profiles.73, 74, 75 Flavonoid extracts from the fruits of emblica inhibited synthesis and enhanced degradation of cholesterol via increased hepatic HMG-CoA reductase.10 Fresh emblica fruit juice administered to rabbits resulted in induced aortic plaques regressing to near normal, while serum and tissue lipids decreased76 and ethanol extract of emblica improved the lipid profile, as well as reduced hypertension in induced metabolic syndrome in rats.74

Clinical data

In a human clinical trial, healthy and hypercholesterolemic men (35 to 55 years of age) given emblica supplementation for 28 days experienced a decrease in serum cholesterol levels. The condition was reversible upon discontinuation of the supplement.77 In volunteers with and without type 2 diabetes, 2 to 3 g daily of powdered, dried emblica fruit improved the lipid profile (decreased total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein, and triglycerides; increased high-density lipoprotein) at 21 days. Only among the volunteers with diabetes was there a decrease in total lipids at the 3 g daily dose.78 In obese (BMI 25 to 35) adults not on statin therapy, significant decreases in calculated low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (P = 0.023) and total cholesterol/high-density lipoprotein (P = 0.006) compared with baseline were seen following 12 weeks supplementation of a standardized P. embilica extract (CAPROS) 500 mg twice daily.94

Diabetes

Animal data

In single- and multidose experiments, emblica decreased blood glucose levels in rats with an induced diabetic state.13, 14, 15, 73Triphala (a mixed herbal preparation containing emblica) showed a stronger effect than emblica alone79 and another mixed preparation reduced blood glucose in a manner similar to that of glibenclamide.14 Serum creatinine was reduced, and serum albumin increased within 20 days in rats fed emblica.14 In rats with induced diabetes, neuropathic pain was reduced with supplemental emblica possibly via an antioxidative mechanism.80 In vitro studies also suggest inhibition of alpha-amylase and glucosidase as potential mechanisms.81 However, in another study in rats with diabetes, dried fruits did not prevent hyperglycemia despite delaying cataract progression.82

Clinical data

Decreases in fasting and 2-hour postprandial serum glucose were demonstrated in a clinical study using both healthy and type 2 diabetic volunteers. One to 3 g of powdered, dried fruit was consumed daily in 30 mL of water for 21 days.78 In another study in patients with ESRD and uremia, no effect on diabetic indices was observed.72

Other uses

Analgesic/Antipyretic

Alcohol and aqueous extracts of emblica fruit were tested for analgesic and antipyretic activity in mice. Results were similar to those of aspirin, except for response to heat pain model in which emblica had no activity.83

Antitussive

An alcoholic extract of the fruits showed a dose-dependent effect similar to that of dropropizine in cats, but was less active than codeine.84

Antivenom

An alcoholic extract of emblica roots showed neutralizing capacity against the hemorrhagic action of snake venom in mice.85

Cardiac effects

The emblica fruits showed a protective effect against ischemic reperfusion injury in rats.86 In another study, the emblicanins were demonstrated to prevent oxidative stress.9

CNS

Studies in rats have demonstrated improved memory and reversal of drug-induced amnesia with the Ayurvedic preparation anwala churna.87, 88 Aqueous fruit extract exerted a protective effect on alcohol-induced brain mitochondrial dysfunction in rats.89

Immune

Rats exposed to noise stress for 15 days and given Triphala showed an increased neutrophil function and lowered cortisone release.90 However, in another experiment, an aqueous extract of emblica fruits had no effect on cold stress-induced cortisone release.91

Ophthalmic

Emblica is one component of a mixed herbal eye drop formulation (Ophthacare) that showed activity in mild infections and inflammatory eye conditions in a clinical study; however, the quality of study methodology was limited.92

Platelet aggregation

ADP- and collagen-induced platelet aggregation were significantly down-regulated compared with baseline following 12 weeks of supplementation with 500 mg twice daily of a standardized extract of P. emblica (CAPROS) in obese adults 21 to 70 years of age with a BMI of 25 to 35. The significant effect on collagen-induced platelet aggregation was sustained beyond the 12 weeks of supplementation through the 2 week wash-out period, as well.94

Spermatotoxicity

Sperm count, motility, and viability were increased in mice and in human sperm with ripe emblica fruit extract.93

Dosing

There are few clinical studies to guide dosage.

Diabetes/hyperlipidemia

1 to 3 g of powdered, dried fruit was consumed daily in 30 mL of water for 21 days in 1 clinical trial.78 Another trial used amla 300 mg tablets (each containing 50% amla extract and 50% dextrin) 3 times per day.72

A dose of 3 to 6 g/day of powdered emblica has been extrapolated from a vitamin C 1 g/day dose.36

Another report suggests a content of vitamin C 1,100 to 1,700 mg per 100 g fruit extract.72

Hypercholesterolemia/hyperlipidemia

500 mg standardized extract of Phyllanthus embilica twice daily.94

Pregnancy / Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Research reveals little or no information regarding adverse reactions with the use of this product. Experiments in animals have shown no reported adverse reactions.

Toxicology

No major reported toxicities have been associated with the fruit. In toxicity studies in rats, no toxicity was observed in single- or longer-term–dose administration. Additionally, no detrimental effect was noted on liver or renal function.91 No chromosomal aberrations were found following 7- and 14-day treatment regimens in rats with crude fruit extract.48 In another experiment, no toxicity or mutagenicity were observed in rats even at the highest doses.44

References

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