Eruca sativa / Rucola

Arugula (Eruca sativa, Brassicaceae)

Range and Habitat

Arugula (Eruca sativa, Brassicaceae), also known as rucola and rocket, is a weedy annual that is drought-tolerant and prefers a hot, dry climate.1,2 The name “arugula” is a modern American designation and likely derives from the Italian term “rucola.”3 The name “rocket” is more common in British English, as is roquette in France. Both rucola and roquette are diminutives of the Latin eruca, which means “caterpillar” and may refer to the fuzzy appearance of the young stems. The different names for arugula demonstrate the wide area where it grows, in a swath of the northern Mediterranean and the near east that stretches from Portugal to Afghanistan.1 It has been naturalized in northern Europe and North America.4

Arugula is distinguished by its upright stem, which can have four-petaled white, yellow, or purple flowers, as well as its green, aromatic, serrated leaves.5 Its thin, narrow fruit is a pod filled with small, oil-rich seeds.1 Although it is commonly thought of as a relative of spinach or lettuce, it is actually a cruciferous vegetable of the family Brassicaceae, which includes broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, and cabbage.

By Ariel Palmon (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsThe leaves and seeds of arugula are both edible. The leaves boast an aromatic, peppery, and mustard-like flavor and are mainly consumed raw in salads. Young leaves are tenderer and have a milder flavor, while mature leaves are larger, woodier, and more bitter.4 The seeds can be pressed for oil.1

Phytochemicals and Constituents

As a leafy green vegetable and a member of the family Brassicaceae, arugula is an extremely nutrient-dense food. It is low in calories and rich in vitamins A, C and K, folate, magnesium, and calcium.3 Calcium, magnesium, and potassium help control blood pressure and maintain bone health. It also provides riboflavin, potassium, copper, iron, and zinc. Arugula’s health benefits are a potent combination of cruciferous vegetable and leafy green, as it contains compounds found in both: glucosinolates, a group of compounds which exert powerful anticancer and detoxifying mechanisms, and antioxidant phytochemicals such as carotenes and chlorophyll. Compared to other brassica plants, arugula has one of the highest beta-carotene, kaempferol, and quercetin contents.6

Arugula seed oil, commonly called taramira or jamba oil, is likewise rich in glucosinolates.2 It also contains high amounts of erucic and gadoleic acids, which have more commercial than health benefits, as detailed in the following section.

Historical and Commercial Uses

Ancient and modern practitioners interpret arugula’s peppery taste as a fiery, “lively” quality, which lends itself to a variety of different uses. In the ancient world, the Romans and the Egyptians considered arugula to be a potent aphrodisiac which was used to “restore vigor to the genitalia,” and planted it at the base of statues of the god Priapus7, who was considered the god of fertility, livestock, and gardens. Its reputation as an aphrodisiac was widespread and persistent, and some monasteries banned its cultivation on their grounds, citing its “hotness and lechery.”

Arugula had widespread use in Greco-Arab and Islamic medicine practices, primarily for its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.8 It was taken orally as a general tonic for wellness and as an aid to digestion and kidney function. Additionally, records exist of a physician’s prescribing a topical treatment of ground seeds mixed with cream for acne. Evidence of arugula use and cultivation dates back to the Hellenistic Period in Greece (323 BCE – 31 BCE).

Due to its high vitamin A and C content, arugula has been used as a therapeutic food for eye infections and nightblindness, and its sharpness and astringency reveals its stimulant, diuretic, and antiscorbutic (effective against scurvy) properties.2 Many of its modern and traditional uses overlap with dandelion greens, to which it is very similar in taste and nutritional profile. The leaves have also been used topically as a rubefacient (drawing blood to the surface of the skin) to improve circulation.

The fresh leaves of arugula has been consumed and favored as a salad green in Mediterranean countries for centuries. With the growing popularity of the Mediterranean cuisine, its consumption continues to grow in the United States as well as the rest of the world. Arugula is best consumed raw or very lightly cooked, as many of its beneficial compounds (chlorophyll, glucosinolates, and isothiocyanates) degrade quickly when heated.

In India, Pakistan, and Iran, arugula is grown as a commercial oilseed crop. Due to its high erucic acid content, taramira oil and similar oils are used as commercial lubricants and as massage oils.2 The seed matter left behind after oil processing is used as livestock fodder. Where it is popular, including India, taramira oil also has widespread culinary use, though it must age for six months after processing to mellow its initial overwhelming acrid taste. Once aged, the oil can be used in salads and for cooking purposes, and is a traditional ingredient in pickles and mustard.

Modern Research

As a member of the Brassicaceae family, arugula shares the extensively-studied effects of its relatives, such as broccoli and kale.

Cruciferous vegetables are excellent sources of antioxidants and are highly regarded for their anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, chemo-preventive, and cardio-protective effects.9-13 They have high levels of sulfur-containing compounds called glucosinolates which, when crushed or chewed, turn into indoles and isothiocynates. These two bioactive constituents have been shown to be potent cancer-fighters, protecting against many forms of cancers, including breast,14 prostate,15 and colorectal cancer.16

Arugula can be a valuable addition to the diet of people with Crohn’s disease and other gastrointestinal conditions, providing valuable vitamins, minerals, and insoluble fiber.6 Those who suffer from Crohn’s disease are at higher risk for vitamin deficiencies and malnutrition as a result of a limited diet; however, in a 2012 clinical study, almost 80% of subjects reported no change to their symptoms after consuming steady amounts of arugula. Though cruciferous vegetables are considered off-limits to people following a low-FODMAP diet (which seeks to eliminate fermentable oglio-, di-, and mono-saccharides and polyols due to a bacterial imbalance in the gut), arugula was well tolerated and also should be considered as a nutrient-dense addition for people with these sensitivities.

Nutrient Profile17

Macronutrient Profile: (Per 1 cup arugula leaves)

5 calories

0.52 g protein

0.73 g carbohydrate

0.13 g fat

Secondary Metabolites: (Per 1 cup arugula leaves)

Excellent source of:

Vitamin K: 21.7 mcg (27.13% DV)

Good source of:

Vitamin A: 475 IU (9.5% DV)

Vitamin C: 3 mg (5% DV)

Folate: 19 mcg (4.75% DV)

Vitamin E: 0.09 mg (4.48% DV)

Calcium: 32 mg (3.2% DV)

Also provides:

Magnesium: 9 mg (2.25% DV)

Potassium: 74 mg (2.11% DV)

Iron: 0.29 mg (1.61% DV)

Dietary Fiber: 0.3 g (1.2% DV)

Riboflavin: 0.02 mg (1.18% DV)

Vitamin B6: 0.02 mg (1% DV)

Phosphorus: 10 mg (1% DV)

DV = Daily Value as established by the US Food and Drug Administration, based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Recipe: Arugula and Walnut Pesto


1/2 cup raw, unsalted walnuts halves

2 cups fresh arugula leaves

1-2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt to taste


In a dry, nonstick skillet over medium heat, toast walnuts until lightly browned and fragrant. Be careful not to burn. Remove from the heat.

In a food processor, combine arugula, walnuts, and garlic and pulse until roughly chopped. Continue pulsing, drizzling in olive oil in a steady stream until combined. Stir in Parmesan cheese and add salt to taste.

Alternatively, this recipe can be made with a mortar and pestle. Roughly chop the arugula leaves and toast walnuts as described, then combine nuts, salt, and garlic in mortar and grind until smooth. Then add the cheese, olive oil, and arugula, and continue grinding until smooth.


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    3. Murray M, Pizzorno J. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, NY: Atria Books; 2005.

    4. Madison D. Edible: An Illustrated Guide to the World’s Food Plants. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society; 2008.

    5. Bailey LH, Bailey EZ. Hortus Third. New York, NY: Macmillan; 1976.

    6. Campbell B, Han DY, Triggs CM, Fraser AG, Ferguson LR. Brassicaceae: nutrient analysis and investigation of tolerability in people with Crohn’s disease in a New Zealand study. Functional Foods in Health and Disease. 2012;2(11):460-468.

    7. Onstad D. Whole Foods Companion: A Guide for Adventurous Cooks, Curious Shoppers & Lovers of Natural Foods. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing Company; 1996.

    8. Saad B, Said O. Greco-Arab and Islamic Herbal Medicine: Traditional System, Ethics, Safety, Efficacy, and Regulatory Issues. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.; 2011.

    9. Manchali S, Murthy KNC, Patil BS. Crucial facts about health benefits of popular cruciferous vegetables. J of Func Foods. 2012;4(1):94-106.

    10. Björkman M, Klingen I, Birch ANE, et al. Phytochemicals of Brassicaceae in plant protection and human health-influences of climate, environment and agronomic practice. Phytochemistry. 2011;72(7):538-556.

    11. Sulforaphane Glucosinolate Monograph. Alternative Medicine Review [serial online]. December 2010;15(4):352-360.

    12. Reidl MA, Saxon A, Diaz-Sanchez D. Oral sulforaphane increases phase II antioxidant enzymes in the human upper airway. Clin Immunol. 2009;130:244-251.

    13. Johansson NL, Pavia CS, Chiao JW. Growth inhibition of a spectrum of bacterial and fungal pathogens by sulforaphane, an isothiocyanate product found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables. Planta Med. 2008;74:747-750.

    14. Pledgie-Tracy A, Sobolewski M, Davidson N. Sulforaphane induces cell type-specific apoptosis in human breast cancer cell lines. Molecular Cancer Therapeutics. 2007;6:1013–1021.

    15. Herman-Antosiewicz A, Johnson DE, Singh SV. Sulforaphane causes autophagy to inhibit release of cytochrome c and apoptosis in human prostate cancer cells. Cancer Research. 2006; 66: 5828–5835.

    16. Seow A, Yuan JM, Sun CL, Van Den Berg D, Lee HP, Yu MC. Dietary isothiocyanates, glutathione S- transferase polymorphisms and colorectal cancer risk in the Singapore Chinese Health Study. Carcinogenesis. 2002;23:2055–2061.

    17. Basic Report: 11959 Arugula, raw. Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture website. Available here. Accessed March 29, 2016

Health benefits of Arugula / Eruca sativa

As in other greens, arugula too is one of very low calorie vegetable. 100 g of fresh leaves hold just 25 calories. Nonetheless, it has many vital phytochemicals, anti-oxidants, vitamins, and minerals that may immensely benefit health.

Salad rocket has an ORAC value (oxygen radical absorbance capacity, a measure of anti-oxidant strength) of about 1904 µmol TE per 100 grams.

Being a member of Brassica family, arugula leaves are rich sources of certain phytochemicals such as indoles, thiocyanates, sulforaphane, and iso­thiocyanates. Together, these compounds have been found to counter carcinogenic effects of estrogen and thus may offer protection against prostate, breast, cervical, colon, ovarian cancers by virtue of their cancer-cell growth inhibition, cytotoxic effects on cancer cells.

Further, di-indolyl-methane (DIM), a lipid soluble metabolite of indole has immune modulator, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral properties (by potentiating Interferon-Gamma receptors). DIM has currently been found application in the treatment of recurring respiratory papillomatosis caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and is in Phase-III clinical trials for cervical dysplasia.

Fresh salad rocket is one of greens rich in folates. 100 g of fresh greens contain 97 µg or 24% of folic acid. When given to the anticipant mothers during their conception time, folate may help prevent neural tube defects in the newborns.

Like as in kale, salad rocket is an excellent source of vitamin A. 100 g fresh leaves contain 1424 µg of beta-carotene, and 2373 IU of vitamin A. Carotenes convert into vitamin A in the body. Studies found that vitamin A and flavonoid compounds in green leafy vegetables help protect from skin, lung and oral cavity cancers.

This vegetable also an excellent sources of B-complex group of vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), and pantothenic acid those are essential for optimum cellular enzymatic and metabolic functions.

Fresh rocket leaves contain good levels of vitamin C. Vitamin C is a powerful, natural anti-oxidant. Foods rich in this vitamin help the human body protect from scurvy disease, develop resistance against infectious agents (boosts immunity), and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals from the body.

Salad rocket is one of the excellent vegetable sources for vitamin-K; 100 g provides about 90% of recommended intake. Vitamin K has potential role in bone health by promoting osteotrophic (bone formation and strengthening) activity. In addition, adequate vitamin-K levels in the diet help limiting neuronal damage in the brain and thus, has established role in the treatment of patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

Its leaves contain adequate levels of minerals, especially copper and iron. In addition, it has small amounts of some other essential minerals and electrolytes such as calcium, iron, potassium, manganese, and phosphorus.

Tradition, Uses and Biodiversity of Rocket (Eruca sativa, Brassicaceae) in Israel

Zohara Yaniv, D. Schafferman and Z. Amar

Economic Botany

Vol. 52, No. 4 (Oct. - Dec., 1998), pp. 394-400


Eruca sativa (rocket) is a native plant of Israel, documented in the old literature. A survey was conducted of the old literature of ancient Israel, including Jewish, Classical and Islamic sources up to the Middle ages. It was found that rocket was used as a garden crop and spice. It was also known as a medicinal plant and was used as an aphrodisiac, for eye infections, and for digestive and kidney problems. It is important to note that special attention was given in the old times to biodiversity within the rocket species. In the light of its high erucic acid content, native accessions were collected and evaluated as a potential future source of industrial oil. Ten accessions of Eruca sativa were cultivated in Bet-Dagan experimental farm during the 1995/96 growing season. Physiological as well as chemical parameters were recorded. Erucic acid (C 22:1) and eicosenoic acid (C 20:1) contents varied from 33 to 45% and from 7.3% to 9.8%, respectively. Special attention was given to the expressed biodiversity among the accessions and its relation to their origins. /// Eruca sativa (Roquette) est une plante endemique (native) en Israel, documentée dans la littérature ancienne. Une recherche de la littérature ancienne d'Israel comprenant des source juives, classiques et islamiques a été effectuée. Il s'est avéré que la roquette était utilisée comme plante de jardin et de condiment. Elle a été connue comme plante médicinale et utilisée comme aphrodisiaque, contre les infections des yeux et pour des problèmes digestifs et rénaux. Il est important de noter l'attention spéciale accordée dans les temps anciens à la biodiversité parmi les espéces de roquette. Tenant compte de sa haute contenance en acide erucique, des accessions natives ont été collectées et évaluées comme future source potentielles d'huile industrielle. Dix accessions d'Eruca sativa ont été plantées α la ferme expérimentale à Bet Dagan durant la saison de culture 1995/96. Des paramètres physiologiques et chimiques ont été enregistré. Les teneurs en acide erucique (C22:1) et en acide eicosenoique (C20:1) ont varié de 33 à 45% et de 7.3 à 9.8% respectivement. Une attention speciale a été acordée a la biodiversité exprimée dans les accessions et sa relation a ses origines.

PLoS One. 2014 Jun 20;9(6):e100599. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0100599. eCollection 2014. Erucin, the major isothiocyanate in arugula (Eruca sativa), inhibits proliferation of MCF7 tumor cells by suppressing microtubule dynamics.

Azarenko O1, Jordan MA1, Wilson L1.

Consumption of cruciferous vegetables is associated with reduced risk of various types of cancer. Isothiocyanates including sulforaphane and erucin are believed to be responsible for this activity. Erucin [1-isothiocyanato-4-(methylthio)butane], which is metabolically and structurally related to sulforaphane, is present in large quantities in arugula (Eruca sativa, Mill.), kohlrabi and Chinese cabbage. However, its cancer preventive mechanisms remain poorly understood. We found that erucin inhibits proliferation of MCF7 breast cancer cells (IC50 = 28 µM) in parallel with cell cycle arrest at mitosis (IC50 = 13 µM) and apoptosis, by a mechanism consistent with impairment of microtubule dynamics. Concentrations of 5-15 µM erucin suppressed the dynamic instability of microtubules during interphase in the cells. Most dynamic instability parameters were inhibited, including the rates and extents of growing and shortening, the switching frequencies between growing and shortening, and the overall dynamicity. Much higher erucin concentrations were required to reduce the microtubule polymer mass. In addition, erucin suppressed dynamic instability of microtubules reassembled from purified tubulin in similar fashion. The effects of erucin on microtubule dynamics, like those of sulforaphane, are similar qualitatively to those of much more powerful clinically-used microtubule-targeting anticancer drugs, including taxanes and the vinca alkaloids. The results suggest that suppression of microtubule dynamics by erucin and the resulting impairment of critically important microtubule-dependent cell functions such as mitosis, cell migration and microtubule-based transport may be important in its cancer preventive activities.

Alqasoumi et al. Rocket 'Eruca sativa': A salad herb with potential gastric anti-ulcer activity.

World Journal of Gastroenterology, 2009; 15 (16): 1958 DOI: 10.3748/wjg.15.1958

A research group from Saudi Arabia studied the anti-ulcer properties of the salad herb Rocket, also known as Arugula, species name Eruca sativa. They found that Rocket extract possesses antisecretory, cytoprotective and anti-ulcer activities against experimentally-induced gastric lesions in rats. The anti-ulcer effect is possibly through prostaglandin mediated activity and/or through its anti-secretory and antioxidant properties.

Gastric ulcer is an illness that affects a considerable number of people worldwide. Although the introduction of proton-pump inhibitors to the classic anti-ulcer therapy has revolutionized treatment of peptic ulcers and other gastrointestinal disorders, there is still no complete cure for this disease. It has been shown that long term use of these drugs leads to various adverse and side effects. Relapses of the malady, ineffectiveness of different drug regimens and even resistance to drugs are emerging. Thus, there is an urgent requirement to identify more effective and safe anti-ulcer agents. In recent years, Rocket "Eruca sativa L." (EER), a member of the Brassicacae family, has gained greater importance as a salad vegetable and spice, especially among Middle Eastern populations and Europeans. It is believed that plants belonging to the Brassicacae family possess diversified medicinal and therapeutic properties including inhibition of tumorigenesis, anti-ulcer, and hepatoprotective activities.

A research team led by Dr Syed Rafatullah from Saudi Arabia validated the gastric anti-ulcer properties of EER on experimentally-induced gastric secretion and ulceration in albino rats. T

In this study, gastric acid secretion studies were undertaken using pylorus-ligated rats. Gastric lesions in the rats were induced by noxious chemicals including ethanol, strong alkalis, indomethacin and hypothermic restraint stress. The levels of gastric wall mucus (GWM), nonprotein sulfhydryls (NP‑SH) and malondialdehyde (MDA) were also measured in the glandular stomach of rats following ethanol administration. The gastric tissue was also examined histologically. The extract was used in two doses (250 and 500 mg/kg body weight) in all experiments.

They found that the ethanolic extract of EER significantly and dose-dependently reduced the basal gastric acid secretion, titratable acidity and ruminal ulceration. Rocket extract significantly attenuated gastric ulceration induced by necrotizing agents (80% ethanol, 0.2 mol/L NaOH, 25% NaCl), indomethacin and hypothermic restraint stress. The anti-ulcer effect was further confirmed histologically. On the other hand, the extract significantly replenished GWM and NP‑SH levels, as well as the MDA level significantly reduced by extract pretreatment.

They concluded that EER extract possesses antisecretory, cytoprotective, and anti-ulcer activities against experimentally-induced gastric lesions. The anti-ulcer effect is possibly through prostaglandinmediated activity and/or through its anti-secretory and antioxidant properties.

Journal Reference:

Alqasoumi et al. Rocket 'Eruca sativa': A salad herb with potential gastric anti-ulcer activity. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 2009; 15 (16): 1958 DOI: 10.3748/wjg.15.1958



1 bunch of well-washed rocket, torn

1 tbsp capers

200 gr Parmesan, thinly sliced

300 gr tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 cucumber, roughly chopped

green and black olives, or stuffed green olives with pimento

balsamic vinegar

olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste