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Full of eastern promises

Colette Harris tries an exotic new tonic: Amla 49
How celebrities do love their Eastern health fads - the more ancient and obscure the better. The latest to ensnare Demi Moore, Liz Taylor and Fergie is Ayurveda, the ancient Indian health system that has been keeping Asians sprightly for thousands of years. And the latest commercial ayurvedic supplement to hit the UK is Amla 49.

The main ingredient in this fruit-and-herb tonic is pulped amla fruit, or Indian gooseberry, a sour-tasting berry packed with vitamin C. But there are 48 other components, including herbs like tiger's claw and Indian trumpet flower.

Around 25 million Asians use an all-round herbal tonic prescribed in the Charaka Samhita, an ancient treatise on ayurvedic principles. This is what Amla 49 - which claims to have cleansing and antioxidant properties - is based on. "We import it from India, where it's made up using the traditional recipe as a basis," explains importer Bodywealth UK.

But Dr Ela Shah of the Ayurved Consultancy thinks that a mere basis in a traditional recipe does not add up to much. Dr Shah says: "This product is a diluted version of a traditional mixture, with all sorts of things like sweeteners and honey added. Amla fruit is full of vitamin C, so you would get that benefit, but I doubt you would get much else. You might as well eat amla jam."

However, Chinese herbal expert, Sharon Subner, of the Good Health Clinic in London is a fan. "You only get a little bit of each thing in the mixture, but the combination gives you something extra," she says.

"I would say this product is a good immune booster and metabolism regulator. And with vitamin C and warming spices like cloves and cinnamon, Amla 49 would be great for colds."

Amla 49 costs pounds 9.99. Call 0171 721 7674 for stockists.