Health benefits of Rose Apple (Java Apple)

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Rose Apple (Java apple) Quick Facts
Name: Rose Apple (Java apple)
Scientific Name: Syzygium samarangense
Origin Bangladesh to the Solomon Islands. It is commonly and widely cultivated in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Taiwan.
Colors Varies from white to greenish white to pink, red, maroon and dark purple
Shapes Bell-shaped, edible berry 4–6 centimeters (1.6–2.4 in) long with 4 fleshy calyx lobes at the tip
Flesh colors Spongy White
Taste Sweet-sour or sweet
Health benefits Good for LDL cholesterol, Reduce Toxicity, Boost Immunity, Control Diabetes, Fights free radicals repairs the damage, Beneficial for skin, Aid in Digestion, Prevents Cancer, Prevents muscle cramps, Maintains a Healthy Heart, Treats Bladder Infections, Prevents Constipation, Treats Diarrhea, Good for Pregnant Women, Maintain Healthy Bones and Teeth, Treats Celiac Disease, Reduced risk of strokes, Presence of niacin boosts HDL, Increase fertility
Syzygium samarangense also known as Java Apple, Java Rose apple is a plant species in the family Myrtaceae. The plant is native to Bangladesh to the Solomon Islands. It is commonly and widely cultivated in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Taiwan and now widely cultivated in the tropics. Common names in English include Java Apple, Java Rose apple, Mountain Apple, Samarang Rose Apple, Wax Apple, Wax Jambu, water apple, cloud apple, jambu air, bell fruit, Jamaican apple and Royal apple.

In Malaysia, there are three species which bear edible fruits, namely, the water apple (Syzygium aqueum), Malay apple (Syzygium malaccense), and wax apple or jambu air (Syzygium samarangense). S. samarangense is the most popular of the three in Southeast Asia, and the trees are cultivated in home gardens, often planted along driveways and paths. Fruit production is non-seasonal and the peak periods are in February to April and October to December. It has become an increasingly popular fruit in the tropical region where it can fetch a price of up to 3 USD per kilogram and has the potential to bring great benefit to local farmers and the country’s economy. (Note: The fruit from the Rose Apple tree is called Gulab jamun Ka Phal in Hindi. Do not confuse it with Gulab Jamun dessert.)

Plant Description

Rose Apple (Java Apple) is an evergreen tree that grows about 5–15 m tall, with short and crooked trunk, 25–50 cm diameter, with pinkish grey flaky bark, often branched near the base and with wide, irregular crown. The plant found growing in deep, loamy soil but it is not too demanding, it can also flourishes on sand and limestone with very little organic matter. Leaves are opposite, elliptic to elliptic-oblong, 10–25 centimeters (4–10 in) long and 5–10 centimeters (2–4 in) broad. Base is cordate, apex obtuse to slightly acuminate, coriaceous with thin margin, pellucid dotted, 14–19 pairs of nerve. They are strongly aromatic when bruised; petiole is stout, 3–5 mm long, yellowish green sometimes tinged with purple. Leaves are pink to dark violet when young turning to yellowish green to green with age.

Flowers

Flowers, borne in drooping panicles of 3 to 30 at the branch tips or in smaller clusters in the axils of fallen leaves, are fragrant, white to yellowish-white, 3/4 to 1 1/2 in (2-4 cm) broad, 4-petalled, with numerous stamens 3/5 to 1 in (1.5-2.5 cm) long.  Bearing of clonal trees starts after 3-5 years. There are definite flowering seasons, often two, sometimes three in a year, but the timing varies from year to year. It commonly flowers early or late in the dry season; the flowers appear to be self-compatible. Flowers fall on the ground in 2-3 days, leaving behind the tiny fruits to mature and ripen in about 2 months.

Fruits

Fertile flowers are followed by bell-shaped, edible berry, with colors ranging from white, pale green, or green to red, purple, or crimson, to deep purple or even black. The fruit grows 4–6 centimeters (1.6–2.4 in) long in wild plants, and has 4 fleshy calyx lobes at the tip. The skin is thin and waxy, and the flesh is white spongy, juicy, aromatic, mildly sweet and crisp. Each berry holds 1–2 rounded seeds not larger than 0.8 centimeters (0.3 in) in diameter. The flowers and resulting fruit are not limited to the axils of the leaves, and can appear on nearly any point on the surface of the trunk and branches; when mature, the tree is considered a heavy bearer, yielding a crop of up to 700 fruits.

Despite its name, a ripe wax apple only resembles an apple on the outside in color, it does not taste like an apple, and it has neither the fragrance nor the density of an apple. Its flavor is similar to a snow pear, and the liquid-to-flesh ratio of the wax apple is comparable to a watermelon. Unlike either apple or watermelon, the wax apple’s flesh has a very loose weave; the very middle holds a seed situated in a sort of cotton-candy-like mesh. This mesh is edible, but flavorless; the color of its juice depends on the cultivar; it may be purple to entirely colorless.

History

Java apple is indigenous in Bangladesh to the Solomon Islands. It has naturalized in the Philippines since prehistoric times. It is commonly and widely cultivated in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Taiwan. It is frequently cultivated in India and in Africa (Zanzibar and Pemba) and also in the Antilles, Suriname and northern Australia.

Health Benefits of Java Apple (Rose Apple)

Although research is limited, some very important health benefits have been related with this unusual fruit. Let’s take a closer look at them.

1. Good for LDL cholesterol

‘Bad cholesterol’ or low-density lipoprotein can lead to a buildup of fatty, waxy deposits in your arteries and puts your heart at risk. Cardiovascular complications associated with high levels of LDL cholesterol include strokes and coronary heart diseases. However, the nutrients and fiber in rose apples have the ability to affect the bad cholesterol positively, boosting heart health and overall well being.(1)

2. Reduce Toxicity

Given the diuretic properties of rose apples, they are traditionally used in many decoction to clear liver and kidney toxins effectively. Toxic chemicals in the body can lead to serious health issues like heart diseases, cancer, and arthritis. Water apples can remove toxic substances from the body, thus boosting the overall health and well-being of a person.(2)

3. Boost Immunity

Active and volatile components in rose apple have been associated to having antimicrobial and anti-fungal effects. Research has shown that it can protect the skin from developing various infections and can boost the strength of the immune system against infectious diseases. (3)

4. Control Diabetes

Jambosine is a type of alkaloid, found in rose apples, and has shown promising results in blocking or regulating the conversion of starch into sugar. This could be a very important development for someone already living with diabetes and those at risk of developing this condition. Further research is ongoing about the impact of jambosine on blood sugar control. Traditionally, an infusion of roasted seed powder was said to be helpful against diabetes.(4), (5)

5. Fights free radicals repairs the damage

Rose apple leaves have antioxidants and hence prevent free radicals from oxidizing the cells and thus causing damage to the body. Free radicals can cause many serious diseases and it is necessary to have food rich in antioxidants to restrict molecular oxidation. Both the leaves and the bark of the rose apple tree have some antioxidant properties but further research is needed in this regard. (6)

6. Beneficial for skin

Skin is the biggest organ of our body. Rose apples have anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that can help treat skin conditions such as acne vulgaris. Skin infections can also be treated by leaves of rose apple plant. Rose apples are also believed to have preventive actions on skin infections. Anti-oxidants in rose apples to help in maintaining optimal skin health by reducing the damage caused by stress, pollution, and poor diet. Eating water apples frequently can give you soft and supple skin, and get rid of wrinkles.

In a study for Java apple leaves, it was found to have rich cosmeceutical properties. Leaf extract was found to be rich in phenolic compounds that are protective against free radicals. Further research could make it one of the important ingredients in the skin care cosmetic products. (7)

7. Aid in Digestion

High fiber content of rose apples makes them very good for regulating the passage of food through your digestive tract, relieving constipation, and more serious health conditions. Also, in traditional medicine, the seeds of rose apples have been used to prevent diarrhea and dysentery.

8. Prevents Cancer

Studies have shown that incorporating fruits that are rich in essential nutrients help to prevent tumors growth in several parts of the body.

Presence of vitamin C which is an antioxidant that has several key roles to play in the human body as well as vitamin A and other active organic compounds helps to prevent the body from effects of cancerous diseases. Health scientists have researched and found rose apple noteworthy in treating prostate and breast cancer.

9. Prevents muscle cramps

Condition of hypokalemia is caused due to low levels of potassium in the body – which forms an important electrolyte for nerve and cell functioning. The levels of potassium in the body are controlled by the kidneys, but some potassium-wasting agents can cause more potassium to get lost through urine. Rose apples are abundant in potassium and regular intake can strengthen the muscles, thus preventing muscular cramps.

10. Maintains a Healthy Heart

Regular consumption of rose apples also helps maintains a healthy heart by moderating the blood cholesterol level. Flesh of apples such as water apple contains natural phytochemicals, epicatechin that contributes greatly in lowering high blood pressure which can lead to stroke and other heart diseases.

This point has been supported by several scientific researches that were carried out to compare rose apples and satin on the effects of blood cholesterol. Eating rose apples daily helps to improve the metabolism of the heart and prevent certain heart problems.

11. Treats Bladder Infections

People suffering from bladder infections should include rose apples in their diet. Fruit contains chemical compounds that help in flushing out toxins. It is a natural diuretic which can stimulate the disposal of urine for people suffering from bladder problems. Additionally, consuming rose apples can also help in preventing kidney stones formation.

12. Prevents Constipation

Plant prevents constipation and aid in normal digestion due to its abundance of dietary fiber in good quantity as the body requires for proper digestion. In other words, regular intake of rose apples helps to prevent certain gastrointestinal problems and allows smooth movement of food in the digestive tract.

13. Treats Diarrhea

Leaves of rose apples are beneficial and medicinal to human health because it contains a bitter-tasting organic substance called tannins to a certain level that can be used to treat diarrhea and dries watery secretion.

14. Good for Pregnant Women

Essential minerals and vitamins that are good for pregnant women are present in rose apples. During pregnancy, there are unavoidable health conditions such as nausea and vomiting which can cause dehydration during pregnancy; water apples help to keep them hydrated.

15. Maintain Healthy Bones and Teeth

The plant is necessary for bone health because they contain calcium to a certain percentage (29 mg of calcium according to research) which helps to maintain healthy teeth and bones as well as prevent osteoporosis. Magnesium, phosphorus and potassium that all play vital roles in the bone formation and keeping healthy teeth are also present in reasonable amounts.

16. Treats Celiac Disease

Malnutrition such as Vitamin C deficiency and lack of bone-density minerals can cause coeliac sprue. Water apple is rich in vitamin C and other nutrients that help to prevent this type of ill health. Again, eating hard cider fruits such as rose apples which are known to be natural gluten-free diet is a natural way of getting rid of coeliac sprue.

17. Reduced risk of strokes

Dangerous heart ailments such as inflammation, atherosclerosis, and blood pressure can be effectively dealt with a regular intake of rose apples. Thanks to the abundance of vitamin C in water apples, they can lower the dangers associated with oxidative health damage and cardiac issues, specifically the risk of strokes.

18. Presence of niacin boosts HDL

Rose apples have niacin that can boost the high-density lipoproteins in the body, which is essentially the HDL or the good cholesterol. Niacin also has the added advantage of lowering triglycerides, fats in the blood that can increase the risk of heart strokes. Rose apples have a generous amount of niacin, and regular consumption can definitely improve good cholesterol levels.

19. Increase Fertility

No one would have thought if this fruit is also good for helping improve the fertility of men. The content of vitamin C in Syzygium samarangense serve as antioxidants that are beneficial for maintaining healthy cells of the body, including sperm cells from damage from exposure to free radicals.

Traditional uses and benefits of Rose Apple (Java apple)

  • Various parts of the tree are used in traditional medicine, and some have in fact been shown to possess antibiotic activity.
  • Plant contains tannins and is astringent.
  • In particular the bark, leaves and roots of Malay apple are used against different ailments.
  • Flowers are astringent and are used to treat fevers and halt diarrhea.
  • Sweetened preparation of the flowers is believed to reduce fever.
  • Seeds are used against diarrhea, dysentery and catarrh.
  • It has been claimed that an infusion of roasted, powdered seeds is beneficial to diabetics in Nicaragua.
  • They say in Colombia that the seeds have an anesthetic property.
  • Leaf decoction is applied to sore eyes, also serves as a diuretic and expectorant and treatment for rheumatism.
  • Juice of macerated leaves is taken as a febrifuge.
  • Powdered leaves have been rubbed on the bodies of smallpox patients for the cooling effect.
  • Bark decoction is administered to relieve asthma, bronchitis and hoarseness.
  • Cuban people believe that the root is an effective remedy for epilepsy.
  • These fruits also help to avoid sunstroke and help us to get rid of all the negative consequences of dehydration.
  • They are used to cure high blood pressure (hypertension), in addition to several inflammatory conditions like sore throat.
  • The antimicrobial property of the fruit is effective in treating the herpes virus.
  • They are helpful in ensuring the health of our digestive system and, at the same time, are effective in preventing constipation.
  • You may also use the juice of Java apple as a substitute for pharmaceutical diuretics.
  • Whole plant has a variety of medicinal uses which range from dermatological, digestive, head and throat to endocrine remedy.
  • Powder from the dried leaves is applied on cracked tongue in Malaysia.
  • Preparation of the roots is used to cure itching, given to alleviate swelling, to treat dysentery and serves as an emmenogogue and abortifacient.
  • People make wax apple soup with crystal sugar to treat coughing without phlegm in Taiwan.
  • Fruit is also served as a cold dish on banquets to relieve the effects of alcohol.
  • In India, the fruit is regarded as a tonic for the brain and liver.

Ayurvedic Health benefits of Java apple

  • Conjunctivitis: Prepare a decoction of Rose Apple leaves. Take it twice a day.
  • Diabetes: Take Rose Apple fruit seeds. Make them dry, roasted and then powdered. Prepare an infusion of the obtained powder. Take it once a day for a week.

Culinary uses       

  • Ripe fruit is eaten fresh out of hand or they are sliced and eaten in fruit cocktails, or dipped in salt, in a sweetened dark soya sauce, in sambal or in a fruit salad “rujak” mixed with a spicy peanut sauce.
  • The fruit are also preserved in pickles “asinan” in Indonesia.
  • Java apple can also be stewed like apples.
  • Fruit is frequently used in salads, and used in light sautéed dishes in Indian Ocean island cuisine.
  • Ripened fruit varies in hue and can be from yellowish-greenish white to light pink to red to a dark, maroon purple.
  • Java apple fruits are also utilized for making vinegar as well as wine.
  • Juice extracted from the ripened fruits is used for making jelly, jam, different types of sauces and a variety of beverages.
  • Aside from consuming ripe java apple fruits raw, you can also use them in the form of salad dressings.
  • Alternatively, you can also dip the fruits in fairly sweet and spicy sauces.

Other facts

  • Java apple is also cultivated as ornamental or wind break.
  • Red hard wood is used for house construction in the Nicobar and Andaman Islands.
  • In India, they say that a mature rose apple tree will yield 5 lbs. (2 kg) of fruit each season.
  • The flexible branches have been used in Puerto Rico to make hoops for large sugar casks, and also are valued for weaving large baskets.
  • Bark has been used for tanning and yields a brown dye.
  • Heartwood is dark-red or brown, fibrous, close-grained, medium-heavy to heavy, strong; and has been used to make furniture, spokes for wheels, arms for easy chairs, knees for all kinds of boats, beams for construction, tool handles, ship building,, frames for musical instruments (violins, guitars, etc.), and packing cases.
  • Flowers are a rich source of nectar for honeybees and the honey is a good amber color.

Precautions

  • Stems, seeds, and leaves of certain cultivars can be highly toxic and contain trace amounts of cyanide.
  • Consume rose apples from trusted markets and avoid excessive consumption of other parts of the fruit besides the flesh and the skin.
  • Eating too many java apple fruits may result in itchiness or inflammation of the throat, thereby causing coughing.
  • Intake of vinegar prepared from java apple may be effective in putting off kidney stone formation.

References:

https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=506170#null

https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/52458

https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=SYSA3

http://www.narc.gov.jo/gringlobal/taxonomydetail.aspx?id=312990

https://www.wikidata.org/wiki/Q11643111

https://wikivisually.com/wiki/Syzygium_samarangense

http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-200262

https://www.flowersofindia.net/catalog/slides/Wax%20Apple.html

https://uses.plantnet-project.org/en/Syzygium_samarangense

http://tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php?id=Syzygium+samarangense

https://gd.eppo.int/taxon/SYZSA

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syzygium_samarangense

https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/rose_apple.html?&utm_medium=13084

http://www.cropj.com/khandekar306_10_12_2016_1640_1648.pdf

http://www.asianplant.net/Myrtaceae/Syzygium_samarangense.htm

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