Review Article

Phytochemistry and Pharmacological Values of Rocket (Eruca sativa Miller) -- A Review  

Sarfaraz Khan Marwat1 , Fazal ur  Rehman2 , Asghar Ali  Khan1
1. Department of Agronomy, Faculty of Agriculture, Gomal University, Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan
2. Faculty of Pharmacy Gomal University Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan
Author    Correspondence author
International Journal of Horticulture, 2016, Vol. 6, No. 16   doi: 10.5376/ijh.2016.06.0016
Received: 09 May, 2016    Accepted: 20 Jun., 2016    Published: 10 Aug., 2016
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This is an open access article published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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Marwat S.K., Rehman F., and Khan A.A., 2016, Phytochemistry and pharmacological values of rocket (Eruca sativa Miller) -- A review, International Journal of Horticulture, 6(21): 1-7 (doi: 10.5376/ijh.2016.06.0016)


Rocket (Eruca sativa Miller) is an annual herbaceous oilseed plant of family Brassicaceae. Its phytochemistry and pharmacological values have been reviewed in the present paper. The reported phytochemical studies conducted on various parts of E. sativa plant revealed the presence of flavonoid compounds, alkaloids, cardiac glycosides, phenolics, saponins and tannins ascorbic acid, essential oil. The essential oil contains volatile components as well as a great amount of sulfur- and nitrogen-possessing compounds. The rocket plant is high in erucic acid. The rocket oil also has glucosinolate methylsulphinylbutyl isothiocyanate which induce enzymes activity. It is generally used as a food, in which the leaves are eaten as part of salads. Medicinally it is used for increasing fertility and sperm production, eye infection (antibacterial). It is also helpful in digestive process and kidney activities. E. sativa is mainly responsible for different biological and pharmacological activities such as: antimicrobial, antibacterial, anti-fungal, antitumour, analgesic, antioxidant, antidiabetic, antidiarrhoeal, anti-inflammatory, anti-giardial activity etc. Although plenty of compounds were isolated from this plant, but further bioactivities have not been widely investigated yet. And further efforts concerning therapeutic significance are necessary (to investigate formulas) for the improvement of human health.

Eruca sativa; Rocket; Phenolics compounds; Biological potential

1 Introduction

Medicinal plants are an important natural source of possible secure medicines.  Their role is of great significance in the treatment and prevention of various diseases. They provide phytomedication for the first level of health care systems of countryside and distant mountainous regions where over 70% of inhabitants depend on traditional and conventional system of drugs (Marwat et al., 2008), owing to superior cultural suitability, slightest harmful with none or much decreased adverse results (Marwat et al., 2009) and high cost of allopathic medicines (Marwat et al., 2008).


Rocket (Eruca sativa) is a member of mustard family (Cruciferae - Brassicaceae) (Figure 1). It is greatly used as vegetable and flavor, and has an extensive therapeutic exploitation. Its traditional use as astringent, diuretic, digestive, emollient, tonic, depurative, laxative, rubefacient and stimulant has also been significantly reported in this regard. Girgir, the Arabic name of Rocket, was cultivated as garden crop and used as flavor. And as herbal drug it was employed as aphrodisiac, for the treatment of eye infection, and for digestive and kidney troubles (Bajilan and Al-naqeeb, 2011).



Figure 1  A = Eruca satina floral part, B = Fruit, C = Seeds, D = E. sativa (Tara Mira) oil and biodiesel

Note: Source: A:




Eruca sativa has various common names, including “Tarmira” in Urdu (Rani et al., 2010; Gulfraz et al., 2011), ‘jarjeer’ or ‘jarjir’ in Arabic (Hussein et al., 2013), ‘roquettin French (Russell et al., 2010), ‘rocket, true rocket, rocket salad or garden salad’ (Rani et al., 2010), arugula in English, ‘roka’ in Turkey (Uğur et al., 2010), rucola or ruchetta in Italian, Indau in Russian, mandab in Farsi  languages (Katzer, 2002) and Usoo in Saraiki, ‘Jamau’,’ Tharkhae Sag’ in Pashto, ‘Tara meera’ in Urdu (Marwat et al., 2008), Tara Mira in Hindi (Anonymous, 2014a).


A term rocket is used for plants which form rosette of intensely green coloured, disected leaves with a particular taste (Doležalová et al., 2013)


In most European languages the word rocket may appear to develop from the source roc, which in early Latin meant "harsh, rough" due to the presence of the bitter taste of its leaves, and from which the Latin name eruca has been derived (Pignone, 1996).


2 History

The history of detection and utilization of various therapeutic herbs is as early as the history of finding and employment of plants as food (Nisar et al., 2011). Rocket (Eruca sativa) has been recognized since ancient times and has been recorded in the Materia Medica (Greek herbal) of Dioscorides written in the first century (Morales and Janick, 2002).


Pliny, the first century doctor and botanist, considered the tea prepared from the seeds of Eruca sativa helpful to be used as an antihelmintics. A well-known Jewish doctor of the medieval, Maimonides, pointed out that after eating Eruca seeds, secretion of the saliva is inspired. Asaph Haropheh, another doctor of the Middle Ages (5th to 15th century), suggested the utilization of rocket for the treatment of liver and gastric troubles, kidney stones and for increasing milk flow in nursing mothers (Yaniv, 1996).


It has been grown as an edible herb in the Mediterranean area since Roman times, and was cited by different old writers as an aphrodisiac most significantly in a poem long credited to Virgil, Moretum, which contains the line: "et veneris revocans eruca morantuem" ("the rocket excites the sexual desire of drowsy people") Some authors assert that for this reason during the Middle Ages it was forbidden to grow rocket in monasteries. It was listed, however, in a decree by Charlemagne of 802 as one of the pot herbs suitable for growing in gardens (Wikipedia, 2014).


Gillian Reilly, author of the Oxford Companion to Italian Food, states that because of its reputation as a sexual stimulant, it was "prudently mixed with lettuce, which was the opposite" (i.e., calming or even soporific). Reilly continues that "nowadays rocket is enjoyed innocently in mixed salads, to which it adds a pleasing pungency” (Reilly, 2008).


Eruca sativa (Rocket) was locally gathered from the wild or cultivated domestically in gardens with other plants such as parsley and basil. At present rocket is cultivated on commercial basis throughout the world and is purchased in supermarkets and farmers' markets. It is also naturalized as a wild plant away from its native range in temperate regions around the world, including northern Europe and North America (Yaniv, 1996). It is commonly cultivated for fodder, seed oil, medicinal and other purposes in Pakistan (Jafri, 1973).


3 Taxonomic Aspects

Kingdom:              Plantae

Subkingdom:        Tracheobionta

Superdivision:       Spermatophyta

Division:                Magnoliophyta

Class:                    Magniliopsida (Anonymous, 2014b)

Subclass :              Rosidae

Order :                   Brassilcales

Family :                  Brassicaceae

Genus:                   Eruca

Species:                 Eruca sativa (Anonymous, 2014c)


3.1 Plant description

Eruca sativa (Rocket) is a yearly grown herb with unlikable smell. Its stem is erect, simple, sometimes branched, usually with hairs, 10-80 cm tall (Jafri, 1973). The leaves lying towards the base are petiolate (stalked), while the upper ones are comparatively sessile. All the leaves are pinnatisect or rarely pinnate, with a long oblong or obovate terminal lobe which is coarsely toothed or lobed, rarely entire (Miyazawa et al., 2002). Inflorescence 15-50-flowered raceme. The flowers are pedicellate, pale yellow or whitish, 1.5-2.0 cm across; there are four somewhat oblong hairy sepals and four obovate, long clawed, brown or violet veined petals. Fruit is a siliqua about 3 times longer than broad (12-25 x 3-5 mm), erect, with stalk and a flattened beak and arranged relatively parallel to the stem. Seeds are 1.5 - 2mm, yellow-brown or reddish, spherical or ovoid in 2 rows in each cell (Miyazawa et al., 2002). Fl. Per.: April – June (Jafri, 1973).


3.2 Geographical distribution

Rocket is native to the Mediterranean region, from Morocco and Portugal in the west to Lebanon and Turkey in the east (Andrews, 2013), and Central Asia where it has been grown since centuries (Uğur et al., 2010; Pimpini and Enzo, 1996). In prehistoric Rome, rocket was cultivated for its leaves and seeds (Andrews, 2013). It is developed in various regions of Indo-Pak subcontinent and Middle East (Gulfraz et al., 2011). and is a favorite and popular part of the traditional Arab meal (Russell et al., 2010). Rocket is widely cultivated in Europe and its cultivation has reached to Americas through migration (Sastry, 2003).


4 Phytochemistry

Literature survey of Phytochemical analysis of leaves and seeds of E. sativa reveals the presence of flavonoid compounds (Michael et al., 2011), alkaloids, cardiac glycosides, phenolics, saponins and tannins, ascorbic acid (Gulfraz et al., 2011; Hussein et al., 2013), essential oil (Miyazawa et al., 2002). The essential oil contains volatile components, representing about 97% of the oil, which are characterized by the main constituents, 4-methylthiobutyl isothiocyanate, 5-methylthiopentanonitrile, and as well as a great amount of sulfur- and nitrogen-possessing compounds. As the generic name (Eruca) implies, the herb rocket plant is high in erucic acid (Saljoqi et al., 2012). The E. sativa oil also has glucosinolate methylsulphinylbutyl isothiocyanate which induces enzymes activity. The compounds identified in various parts of the rocket have been summarized in Table 1.



Table 1 Chemical constituents of various parts of rocket (E. eruca)

Note: AqEFL = Aqueous extract of fresh leaves, SO = Seed oil, FlLfSd = Flower, Leaf, Seed, EO = Essential Oil, Fl = Flower, Lf = Leaf, Rt = Root, WP = Whole plant, Sg = Seedling


5 Pharmacological Values

Nearly all parts of the plant have some pharmacological properties (Table 2). The leaves are antiscorbutic, diuretic, stimulant and stomachic. The seed is rubefacient and stimulant. The rocket oil also has glucosinolate methylsulphinylbutyl isothiocyanate which induces enzymes activity. All phytochemicals found in seeds are responsible for different bioactivities including antimicrobial activity against various pathogenic microorganisms (Gulfraz et al., 2011). The presence of phenolic compound in the seed indicates its antimicrobial properties against pathogenic bacteria (Khoobchandania et al., 2010) while Tannins are reported to exhibit antiviral, antibacterial and antitumor activity and also used as diuretic. Similarly Cardiac glycosides are helpful to overcome various human diseases, and Saponin has the property of precipitating and coagulating red blood cells (Gulfraz et al., 2011). Recent studies suggest that rocket has already shown anticancer activities (Hussein et al., 2013).



Table 2 Biological Activities of Rocket (Eruca sativa)


5.1 Antimicrobial activity

Antibacterial activity of various solvent extracts of E. sativa seed as well as seed oil was investigated against Gram+ve and Gram-ve bacterial strains. Maximum zone of inhibition was observed from seed oil followed by methanolic seed extracts from all bacterial strains compared with broad spectrum antibiotics gentamicine. MIC values of seed oil were within the ranges of 52-72 μg/mL as compared to 56-70 μg/mL standard antibiotic (Gentamicine) (Gulfraz et al., 2011).


The antimicrobial potential of various solvent extracts from Eruca sativa (aerial and root) and seed oil against-antibiotic resistant Gram-negative (Escherichia coli, Pseudomoms aeruginosa and Shigella flexneri) and Gram-positive (Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus subtilis) bacteria was investigated. Among the various preparations, seed oil was the most active, exhibiting a maximum zone of inhibition of 97% for Gram-positive bacteria and of 74–97% for Gram-negative bacteria. The MIC of the seed oil was found to be 65–75 and 60–70 μg/mL for Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria, respectively (Khoobchandania et al., 2010). Many workers believed that antimicrobial activity of Eruca oil is mainly due to higher concentration of erucic acid, which was present in both free and triglyceride form (Gulfraz et al., 2011).


5.2 Antifungal activity

A study was conducted to evaluate the antimicrobial activity of Eruca sativa seeds. The seed extract has variable degree of inhibition. The crude water extract of seed showed moderate antifungal activity while it showed highest antibacterial activity against Hafnia alvei and Enterobacter agglumerans. Crude water extract showed significant inhibition against some fungal strain like Spadicoides stoveri and Paecilomyces variotii while some fungal strain has insignificant inhibition. Methanolic extract of seed exhibited antibacterial activity against E. agglumerans and H. alvei. It was also found to be affective against Penicillium funiculosum and P. variotii (Rani et al., 2010).


The oil of the seed contains erucic acid. A number of plant species have been reported to possess natural substances, which inhibit the growth of many fungi. In the present study the different extract of plant were used to inhibit the growth of microorganisms. The crude juice Eruca sativa were active only on Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhi and Bacillus subtilis. This is the first attempt to study the antifungal activity of Eruca sativa seed powder (Rani et al., 2010).


5.3 Fungicide

Rocket in combination with ½ Telone, also played an important role in reduction of Verticillium and Rhizoctonia (Fungi) levels (Riga et al., 2006).


5.4 Pesticidal activities

Two pot experiments were conducted during two successive summer seasons of 2010 and 2011 in the greenhouse of National Research Centre, Egypt to study the effect of incorporating seeds powder of Eruca sativa and Brassica rapa to the soil at the rate of 0, 25, 50 and 75 g/kg soil on the growth and propagative capacity of purple nutsedge as well as maize plants. At 45 days after sowing (DAS) all concentrations used of both E. sativa and B. rapa minimized to great extent the growth of foliage, underground organs as well as the dry weight of purple nutsedge that reached to complete control at 75 DAS, only with the higher concentrations (50 and 75g/kg soil) of E. sativa. On the other hand, low and middle concentrations used of both E. sativa and B. rapa caused significant increase in all growth characters and total carbohydrate contents of maize comparing to the corresponding controls. Results suggested that both E. sativa and B. rapa seeds powder could be used as a natural selective bioherbicide to control purple nutsedge weed and also improve maize growth (Messiha et al., 2013).


The usage of rocket in biological control has also been mentioned in 13th century literature as, rocket seeds were sown together with other vegetables to inhibit pest development (Yaniv, 1996).  


Green manures in combination with synthetic nematicides are used to manage plant parasitic nematodes in a potato cropping system. Rocket (E. sativa) has shown great potential for controlling plant parasitic nematodes as, rocket is both a green manure (it contains chemicals with high biocidal activity that mimic synthetic fumigants) and a nematode-trap crop (nematodes are attracted to the roots of Rocket, enter them but are unable to grow and multiply) (Riga et al., 2006).


5.5 Nematicide

Greenhouse studies showed that Rocket reduced Meloidogyne chitwoodi (a plant pathogenic root-knot nematode that is a crop pest of potatoes etc.) in relation to the control and the other green manure treatments. The subsequent filed trial (2005) showed that rocket in combination with half the recommended rate of Telone improved the potato yield and tuber quality, and it reduced root knot nematode populations. Similarly rocket in combination with synthetic nematicides also reduced Pratylenchus penetrans. (plant pathogenic nematode) (Riga et al., 2006).


5.6 Insecticide

It also shows some insecticidal properties to control the rice pests, stored grain pests and nematode etc (Saljoqi et al., 2012). The effect of Nigella and Rocket oils on Spodoptera (Insect) against the fourth instar larvae was studied. One day after feeding, data generally showed that all treatments reflected significantly lower effects than those recorded after 7 days, and the highest concentration (10%) caused the highest percentage of mortality for all treatments (Elatif et al., 2009).


5.7 Antioxidant activity

Rocket contains β-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, fat-soluble carotenoid pigmanets that act as antioxidants and prevent diseases like cancer and macular degeneration.


Rocket is wealthy source of important antioxidants, thought to be necessary in stopping free radical action in the bodies of human beings. Rocket is dense with the natural antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin K, and vitamin A. In addition to fighting free radical activity, these vitamins offer great immune system of support. Vitamin A and flavonoid compounds in Rocket may help protect your body from skin cancer, lung cancer, and oral cancer (Andrews, 2013).


E. sativa extract was found to possess a potent antioxidant effect, with a large amount of polyphenols and a high reducing ability. Glucoerucin and flavonoides are the major antioxidants present in it. E. sativa extract and they significantly scavenged several reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reactive nitrogen species (RNS). Feeding of E. sativa extract to rats induced a significant protection against HgCl induced renal toxicity (Saad and Said, 2011; Sarwar et al., 2007).


Sarwar et al. (2007) suggested that the ethanolic extract of E. sativa seeds possessed a potent antioxidant activity and exert a protective effect on mercuric chloride induced renal toxicity. In both mentioned studies, the health-promoting activities of rockets plants have been partially related to their strong antioxidant properties (Michael et al., 2011).


5.8 Antigenotoxic properties

E. sativa belongs to Brassicaceae, that is recognized as a significant chemopreventive plant family. A recent study evaluated the chemopreventive power and fundamental mechanism of E. sativa extracts in HeptG2 cells. No genotoxic effect could be observed in HepG2 cells treated with up to 50 uL/mL plant juice for 24 hrs when using the comet assay. In antigenotoxicity experiments, E. sativa reduced the benzopurene(s) pyrene induced genotoxicity. This effect was accompanied by a significant induction of glutathione S-traferase (Saad and Said, 2011).


5.9 Anti-diabetic activity

The seed oil of E. sativa is attempt for impediment and treatments of diabetes mellitus induced experimentally by alloxan injection in rats and possess a strong antioxidant and renal defensive activity and prevent oxidative damage impose to the kidney. Administration of taramira oil has reduced the effects of diabetes mellitus in rats (Sastry, 2003).


5.10 Anti lice and anti-dandruff effects

E. sativa essential oil from the seeds has been used in some South Asian countries for head lice, and dandruff though be it very irritating to the scalp. This is done by massaging the oil onto the scalp and hair, and leaving the oil in for up to 2 hours before shampooing (Irfan, 2012).


5.11 Anti acne

Maimonides and Ibn Wahshiyyah are cited as saying that the application of mixture of the powder of the seeds and the cream is useful for the treatment of acne on the face (Saad and Said, 2011).


6 Conclusion

A literature review on Eruca sativa revealed that although plenty of compounds were isolated from this plant, but further bioactivities have not been widely investigated yet. And further efforts concerning therapeutic significance are necessary (to investigate formulas) for the improvement of human health.



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