Amla (phyllanthus emblica) is a medium-sized deciduous tree. It is also named Emblica officinalis. It belongs to the plant family Euphorbiaceae. It is also called Aonla, Aola, Amalaki, Dharty and Indian Gooseberry. The tree is found growing in the plains and sub-mountain on tracts all over the Indian subcontinent from 200 to 1300 m. altitude. Its natural habitat, like other members of its family, extends from Burma in the east to Afghanistan in the west and Sri Lanka in the south. The Amla tree is especially widespread in Uttar Pradesh.
The bark of Amla is gray in color and peals in irregular patches. Its feathery leaves, which smell like lemon, are of linear oblong shape and size 10 to 12 mm length and 3 to 6 mm width. Its flowers are monoecioius having greenish yellow color. They grow in auxiliary clusters and start appearing in the beginning of spring season (March to May).
Amla fruit, depressed globose with six vertical furrows, start developing by the middle of spring and the fruit ripen towards beginning of autumn. The color of the fruit is pale yellow. Dried Amla fruit is used in Ayurvedic and Unani systems of medicine for various ailments like fever, liver disorder, indigestion, anemia, heart complaints and urinary problems. Amla is the richest source of natural vitamin C and gets assimilated in the human system easily and quickly and is a such utilized for treating scrubby, pulmonary tuberculosis, etc. Raw Amla fruit is also used for making pickle and preserves (morabbas). It is also used in making quality inks, ordinary dyes, hair dyes, shampoos and in tanning industry. Amla fruit paste is a major ingredient of Chavyanprash, a popular Ayurvedic tonic.
The wood of Amla tree is small in size and red in color. It is close grained and hard in texture. It warps and splits when exposed to sun and or excessive heat. However, in under-water situation it is fairly durable. It weighs nearly 20 kg per cubic foot and is generally utilized for making small agricultural implements. Amla wood makes excellent charcoal and is also used as firewood.
Amla has been regarded as a sacred tree in India. The tree was worshipped as Mother Earth and is believed to nurture humankind because the fruit are very nourishing. Kartik Mahatma and Vrat Kaumudi order the worship of this tree. The leaves are offered to the Lord of Shri Satyanarayana Vrata, Samba on Shri Shanipradosha Vrata and Shiva and Gowri on Nitya Somvara Vrata. The fruit and flowers are also used in worship. In Himachal Pradesh the tree is worshipped in Kartik as propitious and chaste. Amla tree is commonly planted in compounds of domestic and office buildings, bunds of agricultural holdings, roadside avenues, etc. Now many farmers in Haryana have taken to planting Amla on their farms as a cash crop.
Horticulturists have evolved grafted varieties of Amla for better fruit quality. State forest departments produce seedlings of its ordinary variety for planting on large scale in gaps in forest canopy, wastelands and or otherwise vacant plots. Keeping in view the manifold uses of the Amla plant, it is desirable that people, especially village folk, obtain its seedlings from nearby forest nurseries and plant these in the vacant nooks and corners around their houses and the bunds of their agricultural fields. Ch Devi Lal herbal park has plantations of Amla and other medicinal plants and herbs.