The fruit of Elaeocarpus ganitrus is used to make a string necklace from the dried fruit beads. Rudraksha is the Sanskrit seed name that is used as Hindu prayer beads. The word “rudraksha” is made up of two words: “rudra” is the name given to Shiva, the Hindu god who is regarded as an incarnation of the destructive power of God, and “aksha” which translates to “eye” in Sanskrit. It is a broad-leaved evergreen tree species found in India’s East Himalayan foothills (up to an altitude of 2,000 feet), Nepal, and Southeast Asia. It grows as a giant tree reaching heights of up to 65 meters.
The tree starts producing fruits from its seventh year onward. Fruits fall to the ground when ripe and are collected from the forest floor. Each tree is known to yield one to two thousand fruits annually. To collect the fruit from the forest floor, the area under the tree is swept clean, an ecologically destructive process as it leaves no seeds and other flora at the foot of these trees. Natural regeneration does not occur as there are no seeds to germinate, leading to a steady diminution of numbers of this species in its natural habitat.
Shiva Purana, Padma Purana, and Bhagwat Gita, three of the most famous Hindu religious texts, refer to rudraksha’s greatness and healing powers. According to the Ayurvedic medical system, wearing Rudraksha can positively affect the heart and nerves. It helps relieve stress, anxiety, depression, palpitations, and lack of concentration. It also treats nerve pain, epilepsy, migraine, asthma, hypertension, arthritis, and liver diseases. It is highly regarded for its anti-aging effect and electromagnetic and inductive properties. People with high blood pressure claim to benefit from using rudraksha seeds.
Rudraksha contains indolizidine types of alkaloids, minerals, vitamins, steroids, flavonoids, etc. Aqueous leaves contain glycosides, while an ethanolic extract contains gallic acid, ellagic acid, and quercetin.
A study by Dr. Jayantha Kumar Sarma et al. (2010) on cats indicates that rudraksha can reduce hypertension. Another study on rats also indicates an anti-hypertensive property of the species (Sakat et al., 2009). The anti-diabetic property has been observed in trials conducted on rats, which showed that it is comparable to the modern drug glimepiride (Srikanth et al., 2012; Juvekar et al., 2011).
Its anti-fungal property was effective against Candida albicans and moderately effective against Aspergillus niger. The immuno-modulatory effect has also been identified in a study by Hule (2010). Kumar et al. (2008) studied the antioxidant effect of the leaves.
Leaf extracts exhibit a broad spectrum of anti-microbial activity. They were found to inhibit the growth of Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Penicillium sp, Aspergillus flavus, Candida albicans, and C. tropicalis. The extract showed maximum relative percentage inhibition against B. cereus (Singh B et al., 2010).
Cold, compressed, 100% pure oil extracted from rudraksha seeds is a dietary supplement. Ingesting two drops of oil daily is said to assist with internal healing. It is also used as a hair oil as it helps remove dandruff, acts as a hair conditioner, and reduces acne and pimples. It helps soothe the skin conditions of eczema and ringworm, reducing the itching and speeding the healing of the skin. It is also used as a body massage oil.
To learn more about sacred plants and herbs, you can check the following books – Holy Herbs: Modern Connections to Ancient Plants and Asian Herbs.