Phyllanthus emblica is a tree indigenous to tropical regions of Southeast Asia. The tree produces a fruit commonly known as Indian Gooseberry or Amla. The Phyllanthus emblica fruit (also known as Emblica officinalis) or extract from these fruits has been used in traditional medicine for generations to treat symptoms ranging from constipation to the treatment of tumors .
Most commonly, the gooseberry was employed as a gentle laxative. However, the potential of Phyllanthus emblica extract to be utilised as an anti-tumor agent has been scrutinized using modern medical techniques over the past two decades. To date, there is substantial evidence that these extracts contain small molecules with both tumor-preventative and antitumor activity.
Traditionally, this ingredient was thought to have cooling, astringent and drying properties, and was used to stimulate hair growth by nourishing the hair and scalp and even preventing prematurely graying hair. The high tannin content of Phyllanthus Emblica was also used as a dye in inks, shampoos and hair oils.
More recent studies have found demonstrated, through in vitro tests, that Phyllanthus Emblica may have antiviral and antimicrobial properties. It is thought to contain very high amounts of Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant known to reduce wrinkles, suppress pigmentation, and help skin retain its natural moisture. However, studies have shown that the “overall antioxidant strength of amla may derive instead from its high density of tannins and other polyphenols. The fruit also contains flavonoids, kaempferol, ellagic acid and gallic acid” (Wikipedia). An article published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that Phyllanthus Emblica was an extract that ultimately did possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Taken prophylactically, Emblica officinalis extract reduced the genotoxic effects of heavy metals and the carcinogen benzopyrene in murine models [9, 10]. In a murine model of skin carcinogenesis, continuous administration of Emblica officinalis extract at 100 mg/kg reduced tumor incidence by ~60% . Similarly, two independent studies showed the polyphenol or aqueous fractions of Emblica officinalis administered at 60–250 mg/kg prevented N-nitrosodiethylamine induced hepatocellular carcinoma by ~80–100% [12, 13]. However, such dramatic results were not reported when Emblica officinalis extract was examined for chemoprevention of liver tumors induced by initiation with diethylnitrosamine followed by promotion with 2-acetylaminofluorene . This difference indicates Emblica officinalis has the capacity to prevent the onset of some, but not all tumor, depending on the initiator. This becomes fairly obvious when one considers carcinogenic compounds have differing modes of action; thus a single extract could not be expected to be universally chemopreventive. Hopefully, future studies will expand on these studies to examine the ability of Emblica officinalis to prevent tumors initiated by a wider variety of carcinogens at diverse tissue sites.
How are these extracts chemopreventive? There are four possibilities. First, Phyllanthus emblica has potent free radical scavenging activities that might prevent reactive oxygen species induced DNA damage and oncogenesis [15, 16]. However, in the animal models described above, it is unclear to what extent reactive oxygen species contribute to the underlying pathology, implying that there may be alternative mechanisms of action. Second, the extract has properties allowing it to reduce the levels of cytochrome enzymes in liver cells . Cytochromes, such as Cyp 450, convert xenobiotics to potentially carcinogenic substances in an effort to clear them from the body.
However, this concept is controversial as Amla extract was not found to decrease Cyp 450 levels in at least two other studies [18, 19]. Third, Phyllanthus emblica extracts have anti-inflammatory activities that might prevent inflammation related tumors . Finally, as we will describe below, Phyllanthus emblica harbors potent antitumor activity [21, 22]. Even exposure to low levels of extract from these berries may be enough to impair tumor progression at early stages. It should be noted that there is concern regarding potential hepatotoxicity after long term Amla ingestion . This matter may need to be resolved in the future by clinical and epidemiological studies before Phyllanthus emblica extract can be safely recommended for long term consumption for the prevention of tumors.
Phyllanthus emblica extract that have reproducibly been shown to have antitumor properties. Primarily, we will focus on the hydrolyzable tannin content of these extracts because of their high content within the Amla fruit  and importantly due to their known antioxidant, tumors-preventative, and cytotoxic activity in vivo [34, 35]. However, the flavonoid quercetin perhaps serves as the best paradigm for the future drug development from molecules within Amla extract having antitumor properties (described below), as this molecule has gone to clinical trial and novel analogues are being pursued. While there are other constituents of Amla extract such as vitamin C that have antioxidant activity, the only molecules having bona fide antitumor activity to date fall within the tannin or flavonoid categories.
The major constituents of Phyllanthus emblica that have been identified by HPLC and formally characterized as having antitumor activity are described below (and in Table 1). Overall, it seems reasonable that many of the antitumor properties of this fruit are derived from the tannin content. However, a notable exception to this concept is the flavonoid quercetin, which harbors potent antioxidant and antitumor properties as demonstrated utilizing multiple in vivo models of tumors including breast and leukemia.
|Table 1: Molecules from Phyllanthus emblica fruit extract having proven antitumor properties.
Phenolic compounds from Phyllanthus emblica extract identified by HPLC having antitumor properties Tumor model utilized to identify antiproliferative and antitumor properties
Ellagic acid (tannin) Colon, prostate cell lines, and breast and prostate xenografts
Corilagin (tannin) Ovarian Tumor cells, liver Tumor cells, and hepatocarcinoma xenografts
Pyrogallol (tannin) Lung Tumor cells, gastric Tumor cells, and lung adenocarcinoma xenografts
Chebulagic acid (tannin) Retinoblastoma colon Tumor , breast Tumor , prostate Tumor , and leukemia Tumor cell lines
Gallic acid (tannin) Breast and lung Tumor cell lines, some activity against lung Tumor xenograft
Quercetin (flavonoid) Numerous Tumor cell lines from multiple tissue types, transgenic murine model of breast Tumor , leukemia xenograft, and phase I clinical trial
For References see the References Tab above.
AntiTumor Properties of Phyllanthus emblica (Indian Gooseberry) from Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity
Volume 2015 (2015), Article ID 950890, 7 pages.
Therapeutic potential of Phyllanthus emblica (amla): the ayurvedic wonder.
AntiTumor Properties of Phyllanthus emblica (Indian Gooseberry).
Amla powder can be added to daily smoothies and with Golden Milk (Turmeric, black pepper, coconut milk, honey, ginger, cinnamon) after the heated milk has been cooled down with some filtered water.
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