Dr. Vikas Sharma
Emblica officinalis commonly known as Indian gooseberry or amla / aonla, belonging to family Euphorbiaceae, originally native to India, is today found growing in Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Sri Lanka, South-East Asia, China and Malaysia.
All parts of the plant are of use in treating various ailments, but the fruit, which is yellowish-green in color, globular in shape, fleshy and smooth, obtusely triangular six-celled nut, is of immense use in various folk and traditional systems of medicine.
Amla is reported to possess hepatoprotective, cardioprotective, diuretic, laxative, refrigerant, stomachic, restorative, alterative, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory properties, prevents peptic ulcer and is a digestive medicine. It is used for a variety of ailments such as anemia, hyperacidity, diarrhea, eye inflammation, leucorrhea, jaundice, nerve debility, liver complaints, cough, and anomalies of urine.
Cancer is a deadly disease and is becoming a big load on families and economies. According to Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), cancer has constantly been spreading its tentacles in Jammu and Kashmir during the past several years. In 2014, 1,774 cancer-related deaths have been reported and 19,534 new patients have been registered at the Oncology Department of the Government Medical College (GMC), Jammu and Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) at Soura, Srinagar. Despite the recent advances in surgery, endocrine therapy, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, it is considered that the management of cancer is still not up to the mark and we are in emergent need of drugs for the treatment of cancer having no side effects.
There is strong, consistent evidence that high intake of fruits protect against various cancers especially cancers of respiratory and digestive tracts. These protective effects of high fruit consumption are attributed to the active micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and non-nutritive components (phytochemicals) that exhibit a potential for modulating human metabolism in a manner favorable for the prevention of cancer. The Jammu Division has great botanical diversity, but fruits of kandi belt have not been subjected to accepted scientific evaluation for their potential anticancer effects. Therefore, researchers from Division of Biochemistry SKUAST-Jammu in collaboration with the Scientists from Cancer Pharmacology Division, Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (IIIM-CSIR), Jammu collected desi amla from kandi belt of Jammu district and evaluated/tested its in vitro cytotoxic effect against various human cancer cells. They got significant results, that is strong antiproliferative effect on a range of human cancer cell lines was displayed by amla as it suppressed the proliferation of a wide spectrum of six human cancer cell lines derived from six different tissues and the growth inhibition range was between 72-99%. Maximum growth inhibition of 99% was observed against ovarian cancer cells followed by 96% of colon cancer cells. The fruit also showed 84% growth inhibition of lung, 82% of renal, 78% of CNS and 72% of melanoma cancer cells. The striking observation was produced against ovarian cancer cell line as growth inhibition of 99% was observed in this case. What is quite remarkable in these observation is that the cytotoxic effect shown by the amla extract was much stronger than that shown by standard drugs for cancer (serving as positive controls in the investigation). Further, the research is going on in the Division of Biochemistry, SKUAST-Jammu in collaboration with IIIM-CSIR, Jammu to find out the fruits of Jammu subtropics that possess anticancer potential and can further be used for the management of cancer.
To conclude, amla have shown remarkable activity against ovarian cancer cells and the results obtained from our investigation confirmed the therapeutic potency of the fruit and showed that this fruit possesses certain cytotoxic constituents that can be used for developing anticancer agents for ovarian cancer therapy. This research work has two fold importance: First, in Jammu subtropics, the in vitro anticancer efficiency of amla against the above mentioned human cancer cells have not been reported in the literature. Secondly, the results from the investigation forms a good basis for the selection of this fruit for further phytochemical and pharmacological analysis and offer us new drugs from natural sources which would be less toxic and more potent for the efficient management of cancer.
Thus, on the basis of present analysis, it is suggested that we should encourage the consumption of amla in our daily meals so as to avoid the risk of deadly disease i.e., cancer.
(The author is Assistant Professor, Division of Biochemistry, Faculty of Basic Sciences SKUAST-JAMMU)
Dr. Vikas Sharma