Typically amla is mixed with other Indian herbs such as fenugreek (methi), cassia, shikakai and henna; however, the fruit can also be used alone as a gentle cleanser and conditioner.
Amla is usually sold as a pale brown powder, which has a pleasantly fruity smell. The powder is made from the fruit of the amla tree Emblica officinalis; amla is also called “Indian gooseberry”. Amla fruits are edible, often eaten pickled; however, those in the Western world would be extremely lucky to come across a whole specimen for hair care! The powder can be found in Indian grocery stores and herbal shops, boxed and sold inexpensively. Amla is also available as an oil or in herbal shampoos.
How to Make Amla Oil at Home
Purchased amla oil is often made with a mineral oil base, which many users of natural hair care prefer to avoid; the oils can also be heavily and/or artificially perfumed. To make homemade amla oil, mix amla powder with a desired hair oil such as coconut or jojoba, heat gently until the mixture turns brown, and store in a covered container for a few weeks before using.
How to Use Amla Oil on Hair
Like other hair oils, amla oil can be used as a deep treatment before washing hair, or a leave-in conditioner after washing. To use as a deep treatment, massage a teaspoonful or more amla oil into the scalp, roots and length of your hair. Cover with a plastic bag and leave for an hour or as long as overnight, then wash hair as normal.
As a leave-in conditioner, use only a very tiny amount of amla oil. A good rule of thumb is to take a very small quantity of oil and rub it into the palms of the hands. If the oil disappears and leaves only a slight sheen, you are unlikely to over-oil your hair. Rub your hands down the length of your hair, particularly on the ends. Many people prefer oiling on wet hair, but oil can also be used on dry hair. If you accidentally add too much oil and end up with greasy-looking hair, consider it a deep treatment and wash it out!
How to Use Amla Paste to Cleanse and Condition Hair
Amla paste is made by mixing a few tablespoons of amla powder with enough water to make a spreadable paste. Leave this mixture to sit overnight – some sources suggest mixing the paste in an iron vessel. The exact consistency of the paste is not important; runnier pastes are easier to apply to the hair, but drippier.
Once the amla paste has ripened overnight it can be mixed with other Indian herbs – fenugreek, henna, cassia and shikakai are common – or used alone. Use a spoon or hands to apply the paste to te scalp, roots and length of the hair. Cover with a plastic bag and a towel for warmth and leave the paste in for one or more hours. Is it important the paste stays moist, as it will be very difficult to wash out if it dries in the hair.
Rinse the amla paste out under warm or cool water, massaging the scalp and gently washing the length until the water runs clear. Amla can be used as both a cleanser and a conditioner, but you can add commercial conditioner or a natural conditioning alternative after rinsing if you prefer.
Amla generally leaves hair clean, shiny, soft and moisturised.
Using Amla to Cool Henna Dye to Brown
Amla darkens and cools the fiery red tones of henna when mixed with henna paste. Do a strand test before applying to guage how much the colour will change from plain henna, as this varies between brands.