Raktika: The bright seed of Gunja

Raktika or Rati, seed of Gunja vine, was used in ancient India as a unit of weight for weighing the precious metals like Gold. The seeds have the quality of having almost identical weights. It is generally taken as 0.118 grams but the consistency over the different times is doubtful. The standard varied from time to time and place.

Gunja is also the name of girls in India. Remember, Actress Sadhana Singh was called by this name in the super hit Hindi movie called “Nadia Ke Paar“.

The botanical name of Gunja is Arbus Precatorious. It is vine which spirals on the trunks of the trees. The seed is bright red with black spots like ladybirds. The seeds contain a potent toxin called which is called abrin and consists of proteins which are dimers and called abrin A and abrin B respectively. It is very lethal. The unit B attaches itself to the cell. Once inside the cell, the A chain deactivates the 26S subunit of Ribosome. One moelcule is enough to deactivate up to 1,500 ribosome.

Manu defined the weight units in ancient India as follows:

5 Raktikas = 1 masa

16 masas = 1 tola or suvarna.

4 tolas =1 pala

10 palas =1 dharana.

Thus Raktika or Ratti was the smallest weight unit.

Besides, the Raktikas were used to make beads and ornaments.

The seed is also known as Jequirity, Crab’s Eye, Rosary Pea, John Crow Bead, Precatory bean, Indian Licorice, Akar Saga, Giddee Giddee or Jumbie  Bead in different parts of the world. It is, as one of its names suggests, used as rosary beads. The seeds are used in Andhra and Tamil Nadu in the medicine called Siddha medicine. For this purpose, the toxin arbin has to be deactivated. It is done by boiling the seeds with milk which helps in peptization of the proteins.

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6 thoughts on “Raktika: The bright seed of Gunja

  1. Dear Ranjit Singh,

    I was inquiring if we could obtain permission rights to use your photo of the Precatory bean above.

    We’d like to further educate pet owners about the danger at our website: http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/poison/precatory-bean/

    We’re an animal poison control center based in Minneapolis and would be happy to give full credit of the photo to you.

    Please let me know – thank you!

    Katie Branflick
    Pet Poison Helpline

    1. I am so sorry that I could not reply early. Madam, I wish to tell that the photo does not belong to me. I have also copied it from the google search. So I cannot get any credit for a thing which is not mine.

      Thanks

  2. Malika Best says:

    A very informative article. I live on the Caribbean island of Tobago, where in my back yard I have been collecting these red and black seeds for some time, having recalled seeing them on a bracelet as a child. I feel fortunate that I found out that they are poisonous before I attempted this. However I would appreciate the instructions to deactivate this poison.
    This bean is also part of my countrys’ history and superstisions, and personally I think quite beautiful.
    Thanks,

    Malika Best

    1. Thanks madam. I was also attracted by the beauty of these seeds. I am not a doctor. But on searching the net, I could not come across antidote. So best thing is to keep it out of children’s reach. If ingested whole without chewing, these are said to be harmless because the hard shell does not allow the poisonous molecules enter the blood system and seeds pass through stools.

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