Perhaps more commonly known as the “amla” berry, the Indian gooseberry is a fruit that is native to regions of Southeast Asia.
A quick Google search also yields many results about amla’s rich vitamin C content – commonly used as a more natural alternative to synthetic vitamin C supplements in the form of citric acid or ascorbic acid. Amla is regarded as one of the richest dietary sources of vitamin C, with around 600-700 mg of vitamin C per fruit (1).
There is a wide scope of research examining amla extract. Both in vitro and in vivo studies indicate amla extract has potent anti-cancer and immune-regulating properties. This biological activity is believed to be mediated through the high antioxidant content of amla, especially the polyphenols – tannins, and flavonoids (2).
But, how can amla berry extract help heal and protect the skin? Why do we include it in our vegan collagen booster?
- Commonly used in cosmetic moisturizers and serums, amla extract is shown to hydrate and protect the skin.
- Amla extract improves skin elasticity, skin thickness, and water content, and reduces wrinkles around the eyes (3).
- Vitamin C is important for supporting collagen production and synthesis as a cofactor. Specifically, vitamin C has been shown to help stabilize collagen mRNA. This is especially important for those who have decreased elastin production (more on that later).
What is the connection between vitamin C and collagen?
Vitamin C is an important (essential) nutrient that helps to prevent scurvy, which we cannot manufacture (synthesize) on our own.
The function of the skin as a protective barrier
The primary function of the skin is to support our body as a barrier from the environment – protecting us against pathogens and various harmful microbes. It is composed of two different layers – the epidermal layer, and the dermal layer (4).
Skin is multi-functional, and the largest “organ” in the body.
Usually, its appearance reflects the health of underlying structures and organs – it shields us from physical and chemical threats, dehydration, bacteria, and environmental pollutants.
While the outer layer (epidermis) provides this ‘barrier’ functionality against the environment, the inner layer (dermis) ensures elasticity and supports the epidermis nutritionally. As the skin is in constant contact with our environment and the external world, it usually faces the worst brunt of physical aging and damage.
The Role of Vitamin C in Skin Health
The skin normally contains very high concentrations of vitamin C, which has the job of supporting collagen synthesis and protecting against UV-B ray-induced photodamage.
It is pretty well accepted in the cosmetic industry and healthcare industry that nutritional status is essential to skin health and the appearance of the skin.
Vitamin deficiencies result in skin disorders or fungal infections. Vitamin C deficiency results in scurvy, characterized by bleeding gums, impaired wound healing, and thinning hair (5).
Vitamin C in the skin is transported into cells from blood vessels present in the “dermal” layer. Levels of vitamin C in the skin are comparable to levels found in various other organs, with much lower levels reported in aged or sun-damaged skin.
Excessive exposure to oxidant stress and inflammation from pollutants, toxicants, UV rays, and bacteria is associated with depleted levels of vitamin C in the “epidermal” layer (6).
The documented high concentration of vitamin C in the skin layers indicates vitamin C has many important biological functions that support skin health.
Vitamin C and collagen production
Vitamin C is an important cofactor in the hydroxylases that help to stabilize collagen structure, while also supporting collagen expression. There is a well-documented dependence of collagen enzymes on vitamin C to support collagen formation by fibroblasts in the dermis (7).
Additionally, vitamin C itself stimulates collagen mRNA production by fibroblasts (8).
A fibroblast is a type of cell that helps in the formation of connective tissue, supporting and connecting tissues and organs.
The bad news is that collagen production and vitamin C production tend to rapidly decline as you age. Supplementing with vitamin C, particularly from a whole-food source like amla, can help counteract this decline, boosting collagen levels in the skin.
The many other health benefits of amla extract
The efficacy and safety of amla have been extensively studied, as one of the most popular nutraceuticals within the traditional Indian Ayurvedic system of medicine.
Throughout an 18-week study, amla intake improved blood fluidity, reduced markers of oxidative stress, and lowered LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. There were no side effects reported, and no changes to the function of the liver (9).
Amla branch extract has been used as a skin lightener; improving skin elasticity, and hydration, and decreasing melanin production. The effect of amla extract on melanin production makes it a viable option for treating hyperpigmentation or discoloration (10).
An animal study noted that amla extracts reduced body weight, weight gain, and health markers in rats that were fed a high saturated fat diet (11).
Studies have found amla promotes hair growth and prevents hair loss. Specifically, it seems to inhibit an enzyme responsible for hair loss (12). Amla seems to stimulate better hair growth, acting on the hair follicles even when consumed orally (13).
Amla is a great supplement for boosting collagen synthesis
Vitamin C is crucial for supporting the body’s production of collagen. As a high-potency source of vitamin C (the highest dietary fruit source), amla extract – or Indian gooseberry – is a great option for those looking to boost collagen levels.
A staple in Indian Ayurvedic medicine, amla also supports overall antioxidant status.
Many animal and human studies demonstrate a high degree of safety with amla berries and extract, even when used long-term. Considering amla is a fruit extract and not a concentrated compound (an alkaloid like berberine extracted from a plant), there is less risk involved with supplementation in terms of potential negative side effects.
Amla has a whole host of other benefits that make it a worthy addition to Earth & Elle’s Vegan Collagen.