--- On Thu, 7/3/08, J.M. Garg <jmg...@gmail.com> wrote:
The tree is small to medium sized, reaching 8 to 18 m in height, with crooked trunk and spreading branches. The branchlets are glabrous or finely pubescent, 10-20 cm long, usually deciduous; the leaves simple, subsessile and closely set along branchlets, light green, resembling pinnate leaves. The flowers are greenish-yellow. The fruit is nearly spherical, light greenish yellow, quite smooth and hard on appearance, with 6 vertical stripes or furrows. Ripening in autumn, the berries are harvested by hand after climbing to upper branches bearing the fruits. The taste of Indian gooseberry is sour, bitter and astringent, and is quite fibrous. In India, it is common to eat gooseberries with salt and water to make the sour fruits palatable.
In folk medicine, dried and fresh fruits of the plant are used. All parts of the plant are used in various Ayurvedic herbal preparations, including the fruit, seed, leaves, root, bark and flowers. According to Ayurveda, amla fruit is sour (amla) and astringent (kashaya) in taste (rasa), with sweet (madhura), bitter (tikta) and pungent (katu) secondary tastes (anurasas). Its qualities (gunas) are light (laghu) and dry (ruksha), the post-digestive effect (vipaka) is sweet (madhura), and its energy (virya) is cooling (shita).
According to Ayurveda, amla is specific to pitta due to its sweet taste and cooling energy. However, amla is thought to balance vata by virtue of its sour taste, and kapha due to its astringent taste and drying action. It may be used as a rasayana (rejuvenative]] to promote longevity, and traditionally to enhance digestion (dipanapachana), treat constipation (anuloma), reduce fever (jvaraghna), purify the blood (raktaprasadana), reduce cough (kasahara), alleviate asthma (svasahara), strengthen the heart (hrdaya), benefit the eyes (chakshushya), stimulate hair growth (romasanjana), enliven the body (jivaniya), and enhance intellect (medhya).
In Ayurvedic polyherbal formulations, Indian gooseberry is a common constituent, and most notably is the primary ingredient in an ancient herbal rasayana called Chyawanprash. This formula, which contains 43 herbal ingredients as well as clarified butter, sesame oil, sugar cane juice, and honey, was first mentioned in the Charaka Samhita as a premier rasayana or rejuvenative compound.