Prunus domestica

Herbs gallery - Plum

The plum is a supple and round fruit with a thin skin that has a sweet flavour. The fruit has a sugary fleshy tissues and a thick sharp stone. The plum trees belong to the Prunus genus and Prunus subgenus. The subgenus of plum tree is different from other fruit trees in the same subgenus like cherries, peaches, bird cherries and others. Unlike the other trees in the Prunus subgenus, the shoots of the plum trees have a terminal bud and the side buds are single and not in bunches. The plum flowers appear in groups of one to five on small stalks. The plum fruit itself has a furrow that runs down on one side and it encloses a stone. The fruit is a berry or drupe that belongs to the genus prunus that also comprises nectarine, peaches, damson and almonds. The fruits are usually large measuring 3 cm to 6 cm and differ in season, size, and color as well as in flavour. The plum trees may be best portrayed as undersized tree or big shrub. This fruit tree is extensively cultivated in several places, including the United States, Japan, China and many regions in Europe.

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The taste of the plum fruit varies - often the flavour is sweet and sometimes it is tart, especially the skin of the fruit may have a sharp taste. A single plum fruit may have both the flavours - sweet and tart. The fruit is succulent and can be consumed fresh or alternatively used to prepare jams and other recipes. In addition, the juice extracted from the plum fruit may be fermented to prepare a plum wine. When the plum juice is fermented, it yields a type of brandy that is called Slivovitz, Palinka, Rakia or Ţuică in the eastern European regions. Dried or dehydrated plums are often referred to a prune. However, prune does not simply mean dried plums, but is a different kind of plum that may have existed before the fruits that we presently identify as plums. In fact, the prunes were also succulent and sweet flavoured fruits enclosing numerous antioxidants. Both plums as well as prunes are known to have a laxative impact and this quality of the fruits is attributed to the different amalgams enclosed by the fruits - sorbitol, dietary fibre and isatin. In addition, the juice extracted from the plums and prunes are frequently used to control the effectiveness of the digestive system.

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Like in the instance of several other constituents of the rose family, even the plum seeds enclose cyanogenetic glycosides together with amygdalin. These materials have the aptitude to putrefy into a sugar molecule and hydrogen cyanide gas, which may prove to be detrimental for the health if taken in large amounts. In fact, in the entire rose family, the plum seeds do not have the dubious distinction of being most poisonous - this culpability goes to bitter almond. Nevertheless, one should never take high doses of these substances as they are definitely hazardous.

Incidentally, in recent times, companies selling 'dried prunes' in the United States are now marketing their items as 'dried plums'. The reason for such concealed marketing is that prunes have harmful implications when they are used by aged people enduring constipation. Plums are dried and salted before they are used as snacks that are occasionally called 'salao' or 'salaito'. In fact, dried plums of different tastes are available with the Chinese grocery shops as well as speciality stores all over the world. Compared to the standard prunes, the dried plums sold by these shops are likely to be much more dehydrated. Often people use licorice to heighten the flavour of the dried plums. In addition, licorice is also used to prepare salty flavoured plum beverages as well as toppings for baobing or shaved ice.

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In addition to dried plums, another variety of the fruit - pickled plums, usually a preserved preparation of the fruit, is obtainable in various regions of Asia as well as international speciality outlets. The pickled plum available in Japan is known as 'umeboshi' which is generally used to prepare rice balls known as 'Omusubi' or 'Onigiri'. It may be mentioned here that 'ume' which is used to prepare 'umeboshi' actually has more resemblance to apricots compared to plums.

A variety of oil known as prune kernel oil is extracted from the internal segment of the cavity of the plum. As mentioned earlier, plums are available in an assortment of hues and sizes. While the flesh of a number of varieties is more firm, the fleshes of several varieties of the fruit are white, green, yellow or reddish in color. Even the color of the fruit's skin varies accordingly.

Consumption of plums is considered to be healthy for the body. In addition to its sweet flavour, the fruit also possesses several remedial properties. Chemical analysis of the plum fruit has revealed that it encloses 87 per cent water, nine per cent sugar, 0.8 per cent proteins, 0.8 per cent pectin and 0.5 per cent dietary fibres. In addition, plums contain significant amounts of organic acids, including 1.3 per cent of apple acid, vitamins B1, B2, PP and 10 mg per cent of vitamin C along with some amounts of pro-vitamin A. Among the essential minerals, plum fruits contain potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and about 2.1 mg per cent of iron.

However, the contents of dried plums are somewhat different. Although they are dehydrated, dried plums still enclose substances that are beneficial for our health. However, compared to fresh plums, dried plums contain higher amounts of sugars (around 57.8 per cent), different organic acids (3.5 per cent) and dietary fibres also go up to 1.6 per cent. In addition, each 100 gm of dried plum product contains 104 mg of natrium, 864 mg of potassium, 83 mg of phosphorus, 80 mg of calcium and 15 mg iron. Compared to fresh plums, the dried plums also have a considerably greater energy value - approximately 264 kcal.

Plums are beneficial for the body, especially for the treatment of anemia (deficiency of haemoglobin) and avitaminosis (any ailment caused by vitamin deficiency). In effect, plums are very useful for those suffering from anemia, as the fruit supplies the much-needed mineral iron to such people. Plums are also very useful in digestive ailments, as they function as an essential collaborator. Plums are also useful for people taking diets with a view to shed additional body flab. Their characteristics in aiding weight loss are attributed to the high amount of vital organic substances contained by plums as well as their unloosing impact.

In addition, plums also aid in regulating metabolism. However, it is not advisable to consume excessive amounts of the fruit, as it may prove to be counter-productive. It is best to eat as much as 1.5 kg of plums in a day to remain comfortable as well as reap the benefits offered by the fruit. If you prefer to ingest dried plums, for best results, soak about seven or eight of them in water for a couple of hours before consuming them.

The remedial benefits of consuming plums are many and one of them is that they have a potent antibacterial characteristic. Consumption of plums also helps in rejuvenating the body after undertaking strenuous physical workouts or when someone is enduring mental exhaustion. In addition, plums also enhance the competence of the immune system in combating free radicals, as they have a strong antioxidant impact. Finally, it needs to be mentioned that plums also have cosmetic values, as they improve the condition of the skin.

Health advantages of plums

Plums offer a number of health benefits. Plums contain several elements, including vitamins of the B-complex group and vital minerals like potassium, iron and fluoride - all of which are beneficial for the body. Several researches have suggested that ingestion of dried plums are useful for averting osteoporosis, alleviating symptoms of influenza, reducing the cholesterol levels as well as have a low Glycemic Index (GI). Moreover, plum is a fleshy and delicious fruit that is low in calorie content.

Preventing osteoporosis
A number of researches have shown that dehydrated prunes or plums containing rich quantities of polyphenols have the aptitude to reinstate the structure as well as mass of bones.
During a study carried out for three months engaging as many as 58 women in postmenopausal stage, scientists found that dehydrated plums considerably enhanced the intensity of insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) as well as the bone specific alkaline phosphatise (BSAP) actions. In fact, elevated levels of serum IGF-I and BSAP are related to better pace of development of bones. While the findings of the study indicate that use of dried plums are likely to have positive results vis-à-vis density of bone mineral, scientists feel that there is a need for further researches on this subject before one can arrive at a definite conclusion.
Findings of one more research demonstrated that use of dried plum polyphenols augment formation of bones or osteoblast activities. In fact, prunes have been found to be an excellent resource for boron that is considered to have a vital function in averting osteoporosis.
An introductory study conducted on the subject by scientists in Japan has found that the juice extracted from plums had potent anti-influenza actions in vitro (in an artificial environment) and was capable of combating human influenza A. Scientists are, therefore, of the view that the plum juice concentrate may be useful in the prevention as well as alleviation of symptoms of influenza.
Lowering cholesterol
Findings of a research carried out for about eight weeks and engaging 41 men as subjects having minor case of hypercholesterolemia or high levels of cholesterol showed that taking plums as dietary enhancements led to considerably reduced levels of LDL cholesterol (also known as 'bad cholesterol') plasma.
Glycemic Index (GI)
As mentioned earlier, findings of a research undertaken to find out the approximate Glycemic Index (GI) of different foodstuff, established that plums as well as prunes possessed a low GI.

Additional advantages of plums

Plums are luscious, plump and juicy fruits that are low in calorie content and do not enclose any saturated fats. On the contrary, plums enclose several vitamins, minerals that endorse good health. Some of the amalgams found in plums also promote health including dietary fibre, isatin and sorbitol - all of them have been identified as important elements that control the working of the digestive system and, therefore, are frequently used to treat constipation. In addition, freshly obtained plums are rich in vitamin C content and are also considered to be potent antioxidants. As is well known, consuming foods that have high vitamin C content aids the body to build up resistant against infections, neutralize inflammation as well as hunt for and get rid of the free radicals that are detrimental for our health.

In fact, newly picked plums, the ones of the yellow Mirabelle sort in particular, are an excellent resource of beta carotene as well as vitamin A, which is essential for good eyesight. In addition, vitamin A is also essential for sustaining vigorous mucus membranes and the skin. Eating fruits that have high vitamin A content is also believed to provide protection from cancers of the lung and the oral cavity.

Plums have been found to contain high amounts of essential minerals, such as potassium, iron and fluoride that are useful for maintaining good health. While iron is a vital mineral needed for the formation of red blood cells, potassium is an essential element for the cells as well as the fluids in the body and aids in regulating the pace of the heartbeat and blood pressure.

Plum is also an excellent fruit that promotes health largely owing to the presence of flavonoid polyphenolic antioxidants, including high contents of cryptoxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin. These chemical substances aid in protecting the body against the harmful effects of free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that are dispossessed of oxygen by hunting them down and eliminating these substances from the body. In fact, the free radicals and ROS are largely responsible for the aging process and numerous ailments suffered by us. Zeaxanthin needs special mention as it forms a vital dietary carotenoid that is especially assimilated into the macula lutea of the retina where it is believed to offer antioxidant as well as shielding light-filtering utilities.

This fruit also contains high amounts of vitamins in the B-complex category, including vitamin B-6, niacin and pantothenic acid. Acting as cofactors, these vitamins aid the body in metabolizing carbohydrates, fats and proteins. In addition, these B-complex vitamins also offer approximately five percent of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) concentration of vitamin K. It may be mentioned here that vitamin K is essential for many vital functions of the body, including functioning of the blood clotting factors, lessening the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease among the aged as well as in the metabolism of the bones.


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