RUDRAKSHA-TREE FROM SHIVA'S TEARS; HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES
This tree is an evergreen with white flowers in the Eleocarpaceae family, which is native to the Indian subcontinent and the Himalayan regions. It is said by Hindus to have sprung from Lord Shiva’s tears, and is used for its medicinal properties as well as for its spiritual ones by Hindus and Buddhists. It should not be confused with the Bead Tree or the Chinaberry tree (Melia azadarach). It is a symbol of purity, and the bead that is most prized has to be given as a gift by a holy person for it to work.
The tree is especially valued for its seeds, which are made into prayer beads, or soften a person wears just one bead around the neck to protect from evil. There are several categories of seeds, the one most prized being the one with only one line on it, which is believed to protect the wearer for life against any accident. There is a whole site devoted to the spiritual side of the seed, Rudraksha 101 if you are interested in pursuing it.
In Ayurvedic medicine, the seeds and blue fruit surrounding them (which gives rise to the name blueberry beads for the rosary beads) are used for all manner of ailments, including:- insanity, epilepsy, bronchitis, coughs, colds, neuralgia, arthritis, mental problems, insomnia, headaches, jaundice, high blood pressure, and fever. However this list is not exhaustive.
The berry contains flavonoids such as quercetin and 7 alkaloids whose properties are under investigation. In fact although there have been several clinical studies in vivo they have been on animals and more research is needed into how the extracts of fruit and seeds actually work to produce the effects they have on animals.
The various extracts have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties and to be effective against fungal infections such as Candida albicans (thrush). They have also lowered anxiety levels and proven to be a mild sedative. They also have pain-killing properties. Studies have shown that they have anti-convulsion properties, and can relieve the symptoms of asthma and help with bronchial problems. They can also lower blood cholesterol levels and so protect the heart as they also show that they can lower blood pressure. They can relax the smooth muscles in the body and can help cure ulcers. Perhaps the main benefit we will eventually be able to gain from them is that they may be a useful anti-depressant.