AMLA

Arnold R. Oppenheim, MD
Article by
Virginia Beach Dermatologist

Many of you have heard of the topical anesthetic cream EMLA. Let me introduce some of you to the marvelous Hindi product Amla, also known by its Western name of Emblica. Also known as the Indian gooseberry, Amla has shown great potential as a skin care ingredient. It boasts antiaging, hypopigmenting and sunscreen properties. 

Amla is a great source of Vitamin C and also is loaded with tannins and flavanoids giving it a strong antioxidant punch. Amla has been a cornerstone in Ayurvedic medicine for 3000 years, before many of you were born. It has been known to "Promote longevity and induce nourishment." It is increasingly being found in anti-aging formulations and it also acts very well as a sunscreen.

Amla can protect the skin from oxidative stress caused by free radicals and Antioch radicals. While not utilized as much for this purpose, Amla is also one of a number of agents which has the capacity to inhibit tyrosinase, thus causing skin lightening. It is safer than hydroquinone and thus might be used by patients who are reluctant, rightly or wrongly, to use this bleaching agent. 

A study using Swiss Albino mice ( since the study was conducted in Lucerne, I believe they spoke French or at least responded to directions given in French), showed that applying Amla significantly decreased the incidence of tumors when the mice were exposed to the strong carcinogen DMBA, 

Not only that, but Amla has strong antimicrobial activity and helped wound healing in infected rats, according to a separate study. At first the experiment did not work , since the rats, like many of our patients, failed to apply the Triphala ointment as instructed (rats being less meticulous than mice). However, when lab workers applied Triphala ointment there was a pronounced drop in the infection rate and wounds healed quicker. Triphala ointment consists of Amla, and two other Ayurvedic mainstays: Vibitaki and Haritaki ( the latter sounding more like a Japanese appetizer). Of course, the benefits obtained in this study might be due to the other two ingredients in the ointment. Thus other studies are needed. 

Finally, Amla promotes fibroblast proliferation and stimulates collagen synthesis. This may help not only healing but may be part of its anti-aging potential.

While the benefits of this intriguing and ancient compound are just being explored in modern Western medicine, I expects efforts to embrace this outstanding ingredient to bear fruit.