The tree called the jambul is indigenous to the South Asia and Australian regions. The products of the jambul tree are a typical example of a medicinal plant with dual use - it is used as a food source and as well as a source for herbal medicines. The ripened jambul fruit is consumed in the form of a fruit preserve, the ripe fruit resembles a ripened apricot in both scent and taste and is eaten with relish in many places. A strong astringent and carminative property is associated with both - the seeds and the fruit of the jambul tree. Elevated blood sugar levels are lowered by the fresh seeds, which are also very beneficial in the treatment of metabolic disorders like diabetes and related blood sugar problems.
Compared to other tree species, jambul grows very rapidly, quickly reaching its full height within forty years. The jambul is a tall tree with a wide range of heights in different places it grows in, it can often reach heights of one hundred ft - thirty m - in India and the region of Oceania. The jambul tree varieties grown in Florida can reach up to forty or fifty ft in height - twelve to fifteen meters. The spread of the tree can be thirty six ft - eleven m - on average, the typical diameter of the trunk being two or three ft - about 0.6-0.9 m across in width. The jambul tree normally forks into multiple trunks that radiate a short distance from the ground around the tree. The jambul tree has a distinct appearance as the bark covering the lower part of the tree is discolored, rough textured, cracked and flaking, the bark texture further up the tree is smooth with a light gray coloration. The evergreen leaves have a scent reminiscent of the compound turpentine. The arrangement of the leaves is opposite; each is about two to ten inches in length - five to twenty five cm, with a width of one to four inch - two and a half to ten cm across. The evergreen leaves of the jambul tree have an oblong shape, being oval or elliptic, and may be blunt or tapering to a point at the tips. The leaves of the plant are pinkish in coloration when tender, however, as they begin to mature, they turn leathery, glossy and dark green colored on the upper surface, with a light green coloration underneath. Each leaf is marked by a conspicuous and yellowish midrib running through the lamina. Jambul bears fragrant smelling flowers in clusters that are one to four inches in size - or two and a half to ten cm. Each flower is about half an inch - 1.25 cm - across, with a length of one inch or two and a half cm. The calyx of each flower has a particular funnel shape formed from the unison of four to five petals. The flowers are white in color at first, as they mature they become rose pink in coloration, the flowers are shed soon after and only the numerous stamens are left on the stalk.
The jambul also bears fruits in clusters of different sizes, each cluster may hold ten to forty round or oblong, often curved fruits or just a few. Each fruit is half an inch to two inches - 1.25 to 5 cm in length. When tender the fruit is usually green or light magenta in color, as it ripens slowly it becomes dark purple or completely black in coloration. An Indonesian variety bearing a white colored fruits has been reported in the herbal literature. Each fruit is characterized by a smooth and thin skin, which is glossy and has an adherent surface. The fruit has an inner purple or white, very juicy pulp. Each fruit normally encloses a single, oblong shaped, green or brown colored seed that can be about one and a half inches - four cm long. Fruits from some varieties are seedless, while most varieties bear fruits with two to five seeds tightly compressed inside the leathery coat. The taste of the fruit ranges from acidic to somewhat sweet; the fruits tend to have an astringent effect and can therefore be unpalatable due to this property.
In the South Asian region, the jambul grows in the wild in Sri Lanka and India, in Burma as well as the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal. The jambul is an introduced species in Malaya, and is now naturalized in many south East Asian countries. Buddhists venerate the tree in the Southern Asian region, the tree is also usually planted near many Hindu temples, being considered sacred to Krishna, a Hindu God. Jambul is also used in religious rites and rituals, and its leaves and fruits are used in the worship rites for the elephant - headed god of the Hindus - called Ganesha or Vinaijaka, who is the personification of the conceptual spiritual reality called "Pravana" or "Om", which is the highest state of philosophical and religious understanding in Hinduism.
Jambul may have been naturalized and introduced to the Philippine islands during pre-historic times, it is now widely planted and a common sight in that archipelago. The jambul is also seen in the island of Java and elsewhere in the East Indies - it is thought to be an introduced species in these islands as well. The jambul tree is found growing in the Australian states of Queensland and New South Wales. It is found in east Africa as well, including the island of Zanzibar and Pemba as well as the area around Mombassa in the coastal region of the republic of Kenya. Along the West African coast, such as in Ghana, the tree can only be found in gardens and herbaria. The jambul was also introduced into Israel during the 1940's by accident. The jambul grows quite well here as well, but fruits very poorly. The jambul fruit is considered to be of no value in Israel, but the tree itself functions as an ornamental plant and is used in forestry along the humid zones of this country. Jambul trees have also been cultivated in Algiers as an ornamental garden tree.
The jambul can also be found in the Hawaiian Islands, where it was established as a naturalized species by 1870 - the seeds of the jambul probably reached these islands as a result of dispersal by migrating mynah birds. As of today, the jambul grows in a semi wild state on all the Hawaiian Islands in areas with good moist soils at elevations below 2,000 ft. In Hawaii, jambul has been the subject of vigorous attempts at extermination using herbicides. The tree tends to shades out desirable forage plants and other useful native plant species - it is thus considered to be a major invasive pest species. The jambul is also planted in the Marquesas along most of the inhabited valleys. Till the early twentieth century, the jambul was a cultivated plantation tree in the Bermudas, and other Caribbean islands including Jamaica, Cuba, Haiti, as well as the French Islands of the Lesser Antilles and the British colony of Trinidad. The jambul found its way to Puerto Rico in the 1920's, and is found in the wild there as well. Despite its long presence in the region, the tree has remained little known in the Caribbean islands. Jambul can be sighted occasionally in Belize and Guatemala, as well as Surinam, Venezuela and Brazil; however, it is not planted on a large scale in these countries.
The jambul has been included among a number of herbal medicines found in different parts of the world, such as the bilberry which all have the unique ability to lower elevated blood sugar levels in the body especially in diabetics and hyperglycemic individuals. Herbalist typically recommend remedies made from the jambul to counteract the deleterious effects of long term diabetes, in this common disease, the islet cells in the pancreas do not produce enough insulin - this enzyme helps glucose enter cells and is thus responsible for the regulation and control of glucose levels in the body. In middle age, many people in the modern world become susceptible to type II diabetes, this lifestyle disease is increasingly prevalent throughout much of the world as lifestyles and dietary habits change. Herbal treatment with jambul remedy is effective during the early and mild stages of the disease, when it is also accompanied by a strict dietary regimen by the affected person.
Diabetics in India, are given the powdered down jambul seeds as a remedy, sometimes the tincture may also be given to the patients. The herbal remedy also alleviates the frequent need to urinate that accompanies the diabetic condition.
The fruit of the jambul tree is made into preserves such as sauces, tarts and jams; it can also be eaten raw as well. Fruit sherbet, syrup and "squash", an Indian drink is also prepared from good quality jambul fruits. The jambul fruits are fermented into wine in the Indian state of Goa as well as the Philippines. Similar in some respects to Port, the jambul is an important source of wine, and the many types of distilled liquors, brandy as well as the "jambava" are all products of the fermented fruit of the jambul tree. The honey produced by bees from the flowers of the jambul is of fine quality and jambul flowers typically have abundant nectar in them - thus making them good apiary plants.
In India, the jambul leaves are commonly utilized as fodder for livestock as well as being used as food for tassar silkworm caterpillars. The tender shoots of the jambul have been traditionally used as an aid for cleaning the teeth by the native peoples in Zanzibar and Pemba. The distilled essential oil of the jambul leaves has been employed as a scent in the manufacture of soaps and is often blended with other materials used in the production of inexpensive perfume for the perfumery market. The essential oil of the leaves is chemically composed of mono or sesquiterpene hydrocarbon chains that are very common compounds in essential oils frequently seen in many other plant oils as well.
The extracts of the jambul bark can give durable brown colored dyes that come in various hues, which depend on the mordant used in the process of dye making and the strength of the bark extract. Tannins are found to compose about the eight to nineteen per cent of the bark and the tannins obtained from the jambul bark are extensively used in the tanning of leather goods as well as in the preservation and maintenance of fishing nets in coastal areas. The heartwood obtained from the jambul is quite hard if it is kiln dried; the wood is difficult to work with but polishes well and has a good sheen. The wood is very durable to long term water exposure and is also resistant to borers and termites. The wood of the jambul tree is commonly used to make beams and rafters, as well as in electrical and telecommunication posts, in bridges, in the manufacture of boats and oars, in the making of sailing masts, troughs, to line wells, in the manufacture of agricultural implements, to make bullock carts, to make solid cart wheels, in railway sleepers and to line the bottoms of railroad cars in India. Furniture is also occasionally made from the wood of the jambul in India.
The jambul herb is considered to have diuretic, astringent, stomachic, carminative and anti-scorbutic effects in herbal medicine. Acute or chronic diarrhea can be alleviated by consuming the fruits that have been cooked down to a thick jam. In Indian herbal medicine, the juice of the ripened jambul fruit, or an herbal decoction made from the fruit, or even vinegar prepared from the jambul is administered to patients affected by chronic diarrhea, urinary retention or an enlargement of the spleen. Soreness in the throat is treated by using the water diluted juice; the lotion made from the fruit is also used in the treatment of ringworm infestations affecting the scalp and the skin in general. Oral administration of the remedy made from jambul seeds, administered either in herbal liquid or in the form of an herbal powder two to three times daily is recommended for patients affected by long term diabetes mellitus or glycosuiria and related blood sugar problems. Most patients do not suffer any ill effects from the sudden reduction in the blood sugar level induced by the herbal remedy. Diabetics are usually prescribed the remedy made by steeping the leaves in alcohol. Dysentery can be effectively treated using the extracted juice from the leaves, this remedy can be used by itself or employed in combination with the juice of the mango or emblic leaves. Different types of skin diseases can be treated using the jambul leaves made into an herbal poultice. A potent anti-biotic effect has been noticed in the extract of the leaves, the stems, the flower buds and the opened jambul blossoms; the bark also has the same effect. The jambul bark is made into a decoction to treat digestive disorders like dyspepsia, chronic dysentery, as well as diarrhea - it is also used as an enema solution. The bark peeled from the roots is also used in the same way for treating similar disorders. An herbal decoction made from the jambul bark is used in the treatment of cases of asthma and bronchitis, this solution is also used as a gargle or oral mouthwash - it possesses an astringent effect beneficial in dealing with ulceration in the mouth, spongy gums, and stomatitis in affected patients. Local inflammation on the body is treated using ashes of the bark that has been mixed with water; this is spread over the affected area. The bark ash blended with oil is also applied to burns as a soothing and healing herbal rub. The use of tannin rich remedies on burnt tissues is no longer acceptable in modern therapy, because it is often absorbed and can induce cancerous growth in the affected part of the body. Human health can be severely affected by the consumption of excessive amounts of tannin rich plant products over a long period of time. Jambul is grown as a shade tree in coffee plantations in India and other places. The big tree is resistant to wind and is closely planted in neat rows as a windbreak in some places, particularly in large plantations.
Other medical uses
Habitat and cultivation
The jambul grows indigenously in parts of south Asia as well as in the Australian region. Tropical forests in India, Indonesia, and large parts of Africa have good populations of the jambul tree. Commercially, the jambul is cultivated for its fruit, which is used in many herbal preparations. The growing jambul plants require good exposure to sunlight and well drained soils to grow in, the jambul is propagated using stored seed or from semi-ripe cuttings done in summer. The fruits ripen fully in the fall, and are harvested before winter.
The jambul is a very adaptable species of plant, and widely occurs in many tropical and sub-tropical climates with different environmental regimens. A hardy plant, the jambul easily thrives on many types of soils, growing rapidly on lowlands, in wet areas and on higher, well-drained lands. The tree can grow on loamy soils, marl, sandy soils as well as soils with a high calcareous component. The optimum rate of growth for the jambul is in areas that receive heavy rainfall ranging between 1,500 -10,000 mm per year. Jambul gives luxuriant growth in heavy rainfall areas, with a rainfall of about 1,000 cm annually, in such places the jambul may grow at a rate of four hundred inch a year. Jambul trees are normally seen in areas receiving 900 - 5000 mm annually in the Indian sub-continent. Jambul grows best in regions where the mean relative humidity in the month of July varies from about seventy to a hundred per cent, with a January humidity rate of forty to ninety per cent. Jambul trees are tolerant of prolonged flooding and resistant to water logging of the soil. The mature jambul tree is also tolerant of drought and water scarce soils, managing quite nicely in well drained soils and semi-arid places. The optimum growth of jambul trees with respect to elevation is from sea-level up to six thousand ft or eighteen hundred meters, however, the tree will not fruit when grown at altitudes above two thousand ft or six hundred meters - at these heights the tree is grown mainly as a timber source. The jambul grows very well in riparian habitats along river banks and is capable of tolerating prolonged flooding and water logging in such areas. Mature trees are also remarkably tolerant of drought. For the flowering and fruiting phases, the advent of dry weather is desirable but not necessary. The young and tender jambul trees are rather sensitive to frost; however, older stands of trees remained largely unaffected by brief spells of below freezing temperatures as seen in southern Florida in the US. As far as altitude is concerned, the jambul grows relatively better at higher, well-drained lands in loamy, marl, sand or oolitic limestone soils than it does on wet lowland soils.
The jambul grows well when the absolute maximum shade temperature is in the range of 2.5˚C to 17.5˚C in areas where it is normally found. Jambul grows in areas where the mean maximum temperature during May - hottest month of the year, ranges from a low of 30˚C to a high of 43.5˚C. The mean minimum temperature in January - typically the coldest month in such areas ranges from a low of 5˚C to a high of 23.9˚C.
The jambul herbal remedy also seems to induce a very potent hypoglycemic action in the body according to clinical research conducted on the action of the herb in the body - this property of the herbal remedy is similar to the action of a number of other well known medicinal plants and results in the lowering of elevated blood glucose levels in the body of an affected person. For this reason the herbal jambul remedy is considered very valuable as a remedy for treating diabetes and glucose related problems. The level of glucose in the urine is also actively reduced by the jambul remedy.
Herbal infusion: the herbal infusion of jambul can be prepared steeping one to two teaspoonfuls of the crushed seeds in a cup of boiling water. The herb must be allowed to infuse into the water for ten to fifteen minutes. The strained and cooled infusion can be drunk thrice daily as a remedy for various illnesses.
Collection and harvesting
Harvest of jambul fruits that is grown in India, Australia and other Asian countries, is carried out late in the summer or early in the fall.