Elaeocarpus sphaericus: A Tree with Curative Powers: an Overview
Elaeocarpus sphaericus, commonly known as Rudraksha, is an evergreen tree occupying several regions of central and north- east India. The tree is known for its varied medicinal and therapeutic properties. The dried fruit, known as the Bead, possesses electrical and electromagnetic properties accounting for their innumerable healing powers. The leaves, fruits and seeds also serve several medicinal and therapeutic purposes. While delayed fruiting and poor seed viability resist mass propagation via seeds, other vegetative propagation methods are also not very successful. This study briefly reviews the botany, pharmacology, biochemistry and concerns in propagation and conservation of this species. This is an attempt to compile and document information on different aspects of E. sphaericus and highlight the need for research and development to promote this plant.
to cite this article:
Manu Pant, Ankita Lal, Prabha Bisht and Anju Rani, 2013. Elaeocarpus sphaericus: A Tree with Curative Powers: an Overview. Research Journal of Medicinal Plants, 7: 23-31.
Received: July 19, 2012;
Accepted: December 03, 2012;
Published: April 18, 2013
Elaeocarpus is a genus of tropical and subtropical evergreen trees and shrubs.
Belonging to family Elaeocarpaceae, the genus includes approximately 350 species
distributed from Madagascar in the west to New Zealand in the East; covering
the regions of Southeast Asia, Southern China, Japan, Malaysia, Australia, New
Guinea, Fiji and Hawaii (Coode, 2007). Most species
are evergreen forest trees but some montane species are nearly shrubs. The Indian
subcontinent marks the western limit of Elaeocarpus distribution in Asia
(including India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan and Srilanka) (Zmarzty,
2001). Besides, about 30-45 species of Elaeocarpus are indigenous
to the subcontinent of which Elaeocarpus sphaericus is one of the medicinally
and commercially valuable species.
Elaeocarpus sphaericus Gaertn. K. Schum. (Syn. Elaeocarpus ganitrus
Roxb.) (Chromosome number 2n = 50) is commonly known as Rudraksha (in Hindi)
or Bead tree (in English). The trees occupy the areas starting from Manila,
Philippines and fleeting through Myanmar to whole North-East India, Bangladesh,
Nepal and Bhutan (Asolkar et al., 1992; Bhuyan
et al., 2002). In India, the trees occupy the regions ranging from
the Gangetic Plain to the foothills of the great Himalaya, Arunachal Pradesh,
Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and the Konkan Ghats (Fig. 1) where
the tree is known by an array of vernacular names viz. Rudraksha, Bhootanasana,
Neelakandaksha, Sivaksha Sivapriya (Sanskrit), Rosery nut; Rudraksham (Malyalam);
Ludrai (Sylhet), Dubichi (Chakma), Ludrak (Garo).
|| Distribution of E. sphaericus in India (dotted regions)
||(a) Elaeocarpus sphaericus (rudraksha) (a) Tree (b)
Leaves and (c) Dried fruit (bead)
Rudraksha is a large, evergreen, drought-tolerant, perennial broad-leaved tree
with a large spreading crown. The tree attains a height of about 50-200 feet
(Singh et al., 2003; Kumar
et al., 2008). The stem is cylindrical with a dirty white and coarse
textured bark. Leaves are 10-15 cm long, simple, alternate, oblong-lanceolate,
acute or acuminate, obscurely and irregularly crenate-serrate or sub entire.
They are shining green on the upper side with and dull-fibrous on dorsal side
(Fig. 2a-b). As the tree matures, the leafy
crown obtains a pyramidal shape in nature and the roots rise up narrowly near
the trunk and radiate out along the ground-surface. Flowering occurs in the
month of April-May. The flowers are small, white with fringed petals (about
8 mm long), half way down and ciliolate. Fruiting is delayed; taking about 7-8
years to fruit. The fruits are borne in the month of June and gradually ripen
over a period of time extending from August to October (Khan
et al., 2005). A standard fruit is about 1.3-2 cm in diameter, globose
or obovoid and purplish-blue in colour (thus the name Blueberry bead). It has
a hard, stony endocarp (sclerotesta) with lignified isodiametric sclereids.
The fruit includes five or six carpels, each carpel having a single large seed.
The seed is elliptical consisting of a membranous seed coat. It encloses a dense
cellular endosperm comprising of calcium oxalate druses and tubercles (Singh
et al., 2010). The stony endocarp (with seed inside) on drying forms
the much-valuable Bead (Fig. 2c). The type of
bead formed varies with the environment and location of the trees; for instance,
the Himalayan beads are larger, heavier and therapeutically more powerful due
to the environment they grow in.
THERAPEUTIC PROPERTIES OF BEADS AND THEIR MECHANISM OF ACTION
E. sphaericus beads (The Blueberry beads) are formed of different combinations of Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen and different trace elements. The Ayurvedic system of medicine highlights the therapeutic powers of these beads which are known to have a positive effect on heart and nerves. The bead is attributed with ability to reduce body temperature and having a calming effect. People suffering from anxiety are advised to keep a five-mukhi (five-faced) E. sphaericus bead to regain confidence; hence acting as a stabilizing anchor. Besides, beads have electromagnetic and electrical properties giving them several healing powers (Fig. 3). Owing to these properties, the beads enjoy a good market and have an excellent commercial value.
FOLKLORE AND TRADITIONAL USES
Elaeocarpus sphaericus tree holds immense importance in the Hindu religion. According to Hindu mythology, the term Rudraksha means Tears of Lord Shiva (Rudra-Lord Shiva in his most fierce forms+ Aksha: Eye). The tree, therefore enjoys much revered status and is worshipped as being generated from the tear drops from eyes of Lord Shiva (after His 1000 years of meditation) and helps provide concentration (aksha = axis= concentration). The remedial powers of Rudraksha and its usage have been mentioned in several religious texts viz., Padma Purana, Mantra Maharnava, Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad, Siva Purana (Vidyesvara Samhita), Srimad Devi Bhagavatam.
In ancient times, the fruits were employed to ward-off evil spirits and omens
(Acharya, 1976) which could have been some form of microbial
infection. In folk medicine, the parts of Rudraksha tree have been extensively
used in the treatment of stress, anxiety, depression, palpitation, nerve pain,
epilepsy, migraine, asthma, hypertension, arthritis and liver diseases (Khare,
2004; Dasgupta et al., 1984). The Rudraksha
berry is used in a variety of treatment including indigestion, vomiting, injuries,
epilepsy etc. Besides, the fruits also constitute the diet of the fruit bats
or flying foxes in the Himalayan region.
CHEMICAL CONSTITUENTS AND MEDICINAL USES
Elaeocarpus species are known to contain several chemicals such as triterpenes, tannins (e.g., geranin and 3, 4, 5-trimethoxy geranin), indolizine alkaloids (e.g. grandisines), flavonoids.
|| Therapeutic potential of rudraksha beads
E. sphaericus, in particular, has been reported to possess alkaloids,
glycosides, steroids, flavonoid (quercetin), tannins (gallic and ellagic acids),
fatty acids (palmitic and linoleic acids), carbohydrates, proteins and ash (Lal,
1975; Rastogi and Mehrotra, 1991; Sakat
et al., 2009; Singh et al., 2010;
Shah et al., 2011). Several isomeric alkaloids
of molecular formula C16H21NO2 have been isolated
from the leaves of Rudraksha tree (Johns et al.,
1969, 1970). These include elaeocarpidine, elaeocarpine,
isoelaeocarpine, epiisoelaeocarpiline, epialloelaeocarpiline, alloelaeocarpiline,
pseudoepiisoelaeocarpiline. Besides, the species also contains an important
non-aromatic indolizidine alkaloid-rudrakine (Ray et
al., 1979) (Fig. 4).
These important chemical constituents of the leaves, fruits and seeds of E.
sphaericus account for several medicinal properties of Rudraksha. The extracts
of leaves and fruit, in particular, exhibit analgesic, antiepileptic, anticonvulsive,
antihypertensive, hypnotic, tranquillizing, thermogenic, sedative, smooth muscle
relaxant and hydrocholeretic properties (Lal, 1975;
Bhattacharya et al., 1975; Dasgupta
et al., 1984; Panday and Bhattacharya, 1985;
Almeida et al., 2001; Sakat
et al., 2009; Nain et al., 2012).
||Chemical constituents of Elaeocarpus sphaericus (a)
Elaeocarpidine, (b) (+) -Elaeocarpine, (c) (+) -Epielaeocarpiline, (d) (+)
-Isoelaeocarpine, (e) (-) -alloelaeocarpiline, (f) (+) -Pseudoepiisoelaeocarpiline,
(g) (+) -Epialloelaeocarpiline, (h) Rudrakine, (i) Gallic acid, (j) Ellagic
acid, (k) Quercitin, (l) Palmitic acid and (m) Linoleic acid
Rudraksha fruits are also useful in cough, bronchitis, neuralgia, cephalalgia,
anorexia, migraine, manic conditions and other brain disorders (Singh
et al., 2000a, b). The flesh or pulp of drupe
has been reported to cure epilepsy and mental illness (Satyavati
et al., 1976) (Table 1).
|| Medicinal properties of Elaeocarpus sphaericus
Besides the medicinal properties, Rudraksha tree is also valued for its timber. The white wood from the tree has a unique strength to weight ratio making it a preferred source for a variety of purposes such as manufacture of aeroplane-propellers.
E. sphaericus is conventionally propagated through seeds since cuttings/grafting
methods have not been very successful. The seeds are collected in the month
of December-January. The treatment involves a 15 min pre-washing of cleaned
stones with concentrated sulphuric acid followed by washing in tap water and
subsequent soaking in lukewarm water (40°C) for about 48 h. Alternatively,
a method of mechanical scarification by hammer may be employed; taking due care
to minimize any damage to the seeds. Sowing is done in shaded mother beds at
a depth of 1.0 to 1.5 cm (Singh et al., 2003).
The seeds prefer a clayey or loamy, slightly acidic (6.0-6.3) to neutral (6.3-7.3)
and well drained soil. Shade conditions are necessary to provide an ambient
micro-environment optimal for seed germination since the gestation period may
vary a minimum of 45 days to over an year. A dense canopy cover has been reported
to be preferable for E. sphaericus seedlings growth (Khan
et al., 2004). Germinated seedlings at 2 or 3 leaves stage and become
ready for field plantation after about 8 months (Singh et
al., 2003). The plant requires a temperature range of 10-30°C, humid
to warm climate with preferable partial shade for suitable growth.
Despite all attempts, there are no proven records of successful establishment
of seedling-raised plants of E. sphaericus in nurseries or forests. This
may be due to the fact that if cuttings are taken from mature trees the success
achieved in rooting is not encouraging until and unless the tissue has been
rejuvenated following hedging. Besides, conventional vegetative propagation
methods using branch cuttings may result in plagiotropic growth (Joshi
et al., 2003a).
Delayed fruiting, poor seed viability (less than 3 months) and erratic seed-germination
rates impede mass propagation via seeds (Bhuyan et al.,
2002). This, aided by increasing human-activities has led to an alarming
danger to the existing populations of Rudraksha. Unscientific practices of bead
collection have caused a drastic decline of the seed reservoir in the soil,
hence hampering natural species regeneration (Bhuyan et
al., 2002; Khan et al., 2004). The natural
and planted forest stands of the species are therefore becoming increasingly
Most of the studies on E. sphaericus have been limited to pharmacological
and pharmacognostic investigations. A strong need is felt to screen the different
chemo-types of Rudraksha growing at different phytogeographical locations. Similarly,
biodiversity studies at morphological, biochemical and genetic levels will enable
the research community to realize the extent of variability within the existing
germplasm of the species. Want of suitable and established agro-techniques to
promote propagation of E. sphaericus opens a wide scope for exploring
varied aspects of the species. Resistances in regeneration via conventional
methods of cuttings, graftings and through seed germination have resulted in
constant decline in natural stands of Rudraksha. Moreover, regeneration via
seeds do not ensure true-to parent type populations. Thus, there are no established
varieties or lines of this medicinally valuable tree species. Clonal forestry
becomes important to bridge the gap between the growing demand and inadequate
supply of wood (Joshi et al., 2003b). In this
scenario, plant tissue culture technique offers a potential instrument for mass
multiplication, clonal propagation and germplasm conservation of this medicinally
and economically valuable tree species. Several workers have reported the efficiency
of tissue culture technology in mass propagation, with a high multiplication
rate, of commercially important species (Bisht et al.,
1999, 2010a-b). However,
there are no published reports on in vitro propagation of this species
calling for concerted efforts in this direction.
Acharya, R.S., 1976.
Shiv Purana. Vol. 1, Sanskrit Institute, Barley, Pages: 170
Almeida, R.N., R.N. Almeida, D.S. Navarro and J.M. Barbosa-Filho, 2001.
Plants with central analgesic activity. Phytomedicine, 8: 310-322.CrossRef | PubMed | Direct Link |
Asolkar, L.V., K.K. Kakkar and O.J. Chakra, 1992.
Second Supplement to Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants with Active Principles Part-1 (A-K) 1965-1981. NISC, CSIR, New Delhi, India, pp: 265-266
Bhattacharya, S.K., P.K. Debnath, V.B. Pandey and A.K. Sanyal, 1975.
Pharmacological investigations on Elaeocarpus ganitrus
. Planta Med., 28: 174-177.CrossRef | PubMed |
Bhuyan, P., M.L. Khan and R.S. Tripathi, 2002.
Regeneration status and population structure of Rudraksh (Elaeocarpus ganitrus
) in relation to cultural disturbances in tropical wet evergreen forest of Arunachal Pradesh. Curr. Sci., 83: 1391-1394.Direct Link |
Bisht, P., V.K. Sharma, I. Joshi and M.L. Kapoor, 1999.
Micropropagation of newly produced F1 hybrid of Eucalyptus
SM. X E. camaldulensis
DEHN. Southern Form). Silvae Genetica, 48: 104-108.Direct Link |
Bisht, P., M. Pant and A. Kant, 2010. In vitro
propagation of Gigantochloa atroviolaceae
Widjaja through nodal explants. J. Amer. Sci., 6: 1019-1025.Direct Link |
Bisht, P., M. Pant, A. Kant and R.A. Mir, 2010. In vitro
propagation of Dendrocalamus hamiltonii
Nees & Arn. Ex Munro through nodal explants from mature culms. J. Non Timber Forest Products, 17: 401-408.
Coode, M.J.E., 2007.
Elaeocarpaceae for flora malesiana: New information on Elaeocarpus
from Borneo and Sulawesi. Kew Bull., 62: 329-332.Direct Link |
Dasgupta, A., S.S. Agrawal and D.K. Basu, 1984.
Anticonvulsant activity of the mixed fatty acids of the Elaeocarpus ganitrus
Roxb. Indian J. Physiol. Pharm., 28: 245-286.PubMed |
Hule, A.K. and A.R. Juvekar, 2009.
Effect of alkaloidal fraction of Elaeocarpus ganitrus
Roxb. seeds on murine in vitro
immune parameters. J. Pharm. Res., 2: 1261-1265.Direct Link |
Hule, A.K. and A.R. Juvekar, 2010.
Evaluation of immunomodulatory effects of methanol extract of Elaeocarpus ganitrus
seeds. J. Nat. Remed., 10: 68-77.Direct Link |
Hule, A.K., A.S. Shah, M.N. Gambhire and A.R. Juvekar, 2011.
An evaluation of the antidiabetic effects of Elaeocarpus ganitrus
in experimental animals. Indian J. Pharmacol., 43: 56-59.CrossRef |
Johns, S.R., J.A. Lamberton and A.A. Sioumis, 1969.
Elaeocarpus alkaloids. III. The structures of elaeocarpidine, a new indole alkaloid. Aust. J. Chem., 22: 801-806.
Johns, S.R., J.A. Lamberton, A.A. Sioumis and R.I. Willing, 1970.
Elaeocarpus alkaloids. IV. The alkaloids of Elaeocarpus sphaericus
. Aust. J. Chem., 24: 1679-1694.Direct Link |
Joshi, I., P. Bisht, V.K. Sharma and D.P. Uniyal, 2003.
Studies on effect of nutrient media for clonal propagation of superior phenotypes of Dalbergia sissoo
roxb. Through tissue culture. Silvae Genetica, 52: 143-147.Direct Link |
Khan, M.L., P. Bhuyan and R.S. Tripathi, 2004.
Survival and growth of seedlings of Rudraksh (Elaeocarpus ganitrus
) under varied canopy conditions after transplant. Trop. Ecol., 45: 233-239.Direct Link |
Khan, M.L., P. Bhuyan and R.S. Tripathi, 2005.
Effects of forest disturbance on fruit set, seed dispersal and predation of Rudraksh (Elaeocarpus ganitrus
Roxb.) in northeast India. Curr. Sci., 88: 133-142.Direct Link |
Khare, C.P., 2004.
Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Springer Publication, New York, USA
Kumar, T.S., S. Shanmugam, T. Palvannan and V.M.B. Kumar, 2008.
Evaluation of antioxidant properties of Elaeocarpus ganitrus
Roxb. leaves. Iran. J. Pharmaceut. Res., 7: 211-215.Direct Link |
Lakshmi, T., A. Roy, K. Durgha and V. Manjusha, 2011.
Coping with hypertension using safer herbal medicine: A therapeutic review. Int. J. Drug Dev. Res., 3: 31-57.Direct Link |
Lal, C., 1975.
Tabulated phytochemical reports. Phytochemistry, 14: 1467-1468.Direct Link |
Nain, J., K. Garg and S. Dhahiya, 2012.
Analgesic and anti-inflammatory activity of Elaeocarpus sphaericus
leaf extract. Int. J. Pharm. Pharm. Sci., 4: 379-381.
Panday, V.B. and S.K. Bhattacharya, 1985.
Scientific appraisal of rudraksha (Elaeocarpus ganitrus
): Chemical and pharmacological studies. J. Res. Edu. Ind. Med., 4: 47-50.Direct Link |
Rastogi, R.P. and B.N. Mehrotra, 1991.
Compendium of Indian Medicinal Plants. Publication and Information Directorate, Lucknow, India, pp: 261-262
Ray, A.B., L. Chand and V.B. Pandey, 1979.
Rudrakine: A new alkaloid from Elaeocarpus ganitrus
. Phytochemistry, 18: 700-701.Direct Link |
Sakat, S.S., S.S. Wankhede, A.R. Juvekar, V.R. Mali and S.L. Bodhankar, 2009.
Antihypertensive effect of aqueous extract of Elaeocarpus ganitrus
Roxb. seeds in renal artery occluded hypertensive rats. Int. J. Pharm. Tech. Res., 1: 779-782.Direct Link |
Sarkar, P.K. S.S. Sengupta and S.S. Bhattacharya, 1972.
Effect of Elaeocarpus ganitrus
Roxb. seeds on blood pressure. Indian J. Pharm., 4: 128-135.Direct Link |
Sarkar, P.K. and S.S. Sengupta, 1972.
Studies with ethylacetate extract of Elaeocarpus ganitrus
seeds on mammalian heart-intact and isolated preparations. Indian J. Pharm., 4: 129-137.
Sarkar, P.K., S.S. Sengupta and S.S. Bhattacharya, 1973.
Further observations with Elaeocarpus ganitrus
on normal and hypodynamic hearts. Indian J. Pharm., 5: 252-258.Direct Link |
Satyavati, G.V., M.K. Raina and M. Sharma, 1976.
Medicinal Plants of India. Vol. 1, Indian Council of Medical Research, New Delhi, India
Shah, G., P.S. Singh, A.S. Mann and R. Shri, 2011.
Scientific basis for the chemical constituent and therapeutic use of Eleocarpus
species: A review. Int. J. Inst. Pharm. Lif. Sci., 1: 267-278.
Singh, B., A. Chopra, N.P.S. Ishar, A. Sharma and T. Raj, 2010.
Pharmacognostic and antifungal investigations of Elaeocarpus ganitrus
(Rudraksha). Indian J Pharm. Sci., 72: 261-265.CrossRef |
Singh, R.K., S.B. Acharya and S.K. Bhattacharya, 2000.
Pharmacological activity of Elaeocarpus sphaericus
. Phytother. Res., 14: 36-39.CrossRef | PubMed |
Singh, R.K., S.K. Bhattacharya and S.B. Acharya, 2000.
Studies on extracts of Elaeocarpus sphaericus
fruits on in vitro
rat mast cells. Phytomed, 7: 205-207.PubMed |
Singh, R.K. and G. Nath, 1999.
Antimicrobial activity of Elaeocarpus sphaericus
. Phytoth. Res., 13: 448-450.PubMed | Direct Link |
Singh, R.K. and B.L. Pandey, 1999.
Anti-inflammatory activity of Elaeocarpus sphaericus
fruits extracts in rats. J. Arom. Plant Sci., 21: 1030-1032.
Singh, U.V., S.P. Ahlawat and N.S. Bisht, 2003.
Nursery technique of local tree species-II. SFRI Information Bull No, 11.
Zmarzty, S., 2001.
Revision of Elaeocarpusm
(Elaeocarpaceae) section Elaeocarpus
in Southern India and Sri Lanka. Kew Bull., 56: 405-447.Direct Link |
Joshi, I., P. Bisht, V.K. Sharma and D.P. Uniyal, 2003. In vitro
clonal propagation of mature eucalyptus F1
SM. x E. grandis
HILL ex. MAIDEN). Silvae Genetica, 52: 110-113.Direct Link |