Bael / Bel or Bilva is woody tree native to Indian subcontinent bearing peculiar trifoliate leaves and woody skinned fruit. Hindus use these Bael leaves to worship god Shiva and often found in temple gardens. Fruits of bael are used for making healthy juice and marmalade. Scientifically known as Aegle marmelos, this sacred tree has mentions in ancient Hindu texts and is widely used in Indian traditional medicine systems for its medicinal properties.
It is also known by Bengal quince, Indian quince, stone apple, golden apple, holy furit, sirphal, maredoo / mapin / matuum (Thialand), phneou / pnoi (Cambodia), bau nau (Vietnam), bilak/ maja pahit (Malaysia), modjo(Java), oranger du Malabar (France), Marmelos (Portugal).
The tree can grow up to 40 feet tall. They bear fragrant flowers and thorns with trifoliate leaves. Fruit has woody skin and of size of cricket ball. The fruit has to be cracked open with hammer and bear numerous seeds inside Seeds are sticky with fibrous hairs Flesh pulp of bael can be eaten fresh or dried. Leaves find use as salad greens.
Nutritional Value of Bael
Bael fruit offers good amount of carbohydrates or sugar and protein. It provides minerals and vitamins including riboflavin, thiamin, Vitamin C, carotene, phosphorus, iron and calcium. In dried form concentration of minerals and vitamins is increased.
The root, stem and leaves have been shown to contain tannins. Alkaloids, sterols, coumarin and aromatic components have been isolated. Bael fruit seed bears oil which contains palmitic acid, linoleic acid and linolenic acid.
Health benefits of Bael
It is used as a medicine to cure a number of diseases in India. Medicinal properties of bael have been listed in ancient Indian medicinal text “Charaka Samhita.” Almost all parts of this tree, viz., root, leaf, trunk, fruit and seed, are used for curing one human ailment or another.
Bael benefits for gastro-intestinal disorders
Ripe bael fruit have laxative effect. It is used for cleaning and toning intestines. For best result, it should be taken in form of sherbet. Bael sherbet is prepared from pulp of ripe fruit. The pulp can be taken without addition of milk, water or sugar. Bael is also found useful in treatment of Irritabie bowel syndrome (IBS). A study found bael extract useful in treatment of patients with IBS. It is frequently used in Ayurveda for treatment of intestinal problems. A paste made from Bael root is also used in treatment of gastrointestinal disorders.
Bael on Diahrrea & dysentery
Bael has been widely used in traditional India medicine as an anti-diarrhoeal agent. However scientific evidence has been found confirming such property, its mode of action is yet to be studied. Unripe fruit is considered useful in treating diarrhea and dysentery. Bael fruit can be sliced, dried and powdered to store it longer and used as medicine for dysentery. Often such bael fruit powder is taken with honey, jaggery or butter milk as home remedy for diarrhea. Bael offers antimicrobial property and helps in preventing infectious diarrhea. Bael fruit decoction is found useful in against giardia and rotavirus.
Bael leaves for treatment of Peptic ulcer
A decoction made from bael leaves is considered home remedy for peptic ulcers. This property can be attributed to presence of tannins present in bael leaves which reduces inflammation and heals ulcers. Bael fruit also offers fibers and mucilage which have properties for protecting stomach inner lining and heal ulcers.
Antimicrobial properties of Bael
Study has found that essential oil obtained from bael leaves have antifungal activity. It inhibits germination of fungal spores and thus resists their growth. Another in-vitro study found antiviral activity of bael parts. Traditional ayurvedic medicine form has used this property in treatment of various infectious diseases like diarrhea, typhoid and others.
Anti-inflammatory properties of Bael
Raw bael fruit is anti-inflammatory in nature and thus helps in reducing inflammation in body tissues. Consumption of bael can relief inflammation in arthritis and gout. Bael fruit pulp along with hot mustard oil is considered good anti-inflammatory massage for swollen joints and arthritis.
Bael leaves for reduction of blood pressure
Bael leaves offer phytonutrients which help in reducing high blood pressure. It helps in regulating blood pressure. Bael leaf juice along with honey is considered home remedy for blood pressure problems.
Bael for treatment of respiratory disorders
Bael is found useful in treatment of various respiratory disorders. This can be attributed to its anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. Bael leave juice or bael leaf tea is considered home remedy for respiratory disorders like cold, cough and asthma. It is helpful in case of recurrent cold. Bael leaves are heated in sesame oil along with black pepper and cumin; massaging scalp with this oil can increase body resistance to cold and cough. Bael leaves decoction along with honey is used as ayurvedic medicine for asthma.
Bael and treatment of cancer
Studies with bael parts for treatment of cancer have been encouraging. Researchers have been able to extract unique components from bael fruits, leaves and other parts which have potential anticancer properties. Studies have found that bael extract inhibits growth of cancer and tumor cells.
Bael leaves regulate thyroid hormone
Thyroid hormone plays a vital role in regulating metabolism in body. A study found that bael leaves extract reduced T3 serum levels in body, suggesting its possible use in regulation of hyperthyroidism. More studies shall confirm potential use of bael leaves in regulating thyroid hormone.
Heart friendly Bael
Among the various plants which are considered of high medicinal value in Ayurveda, Bael is one of them. Bale is considered to be heart tonic. Consumption of bael fruit or juice is considerd good for heart. It reduces risk of heart attack. Bael fruit contains fibers which helps in preventing absorption of cholesterol in intestine. Bael juice also helps in reducing blood cholesterol levels and controls tissue lipids.
Bael and treatment of daibetes
Aegle marmelos is considered herbal remedy for treatment of diabetes in ancient medicine forms like Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha. Studies have verified hypoglycemic effect of water extract of bael fruit. It is speculated that bael reduces blood glucose either by increased utilization of glucose through direct stimulation of insulin.
Bael protects liver
Studies have suggested hepatoprotective effects of bael. It helps heal liver injuries, liver cirrhosis caused due to alcohol and protects liver from infection. Consumption of bael fruit or bael fruit juice can be considered good tonic for liver.
Bael to heal wounds
A study has found that extract of Bael root healed skin wounds and results were comparable to standard dru nitrofurazone. Consumption of bael fruit juice or bael leaves tea is considered effecting in treating wounds. Dried raw bael pulp powder along with turmeric and honey is given as home remedy for treating fractures in India.
Bael benefits to skin
Essential oil in bael leaves is considered good for skin and helps moisturize the skin. Drinking bael juice helps prevent skin infections and allergies. With astringent and antimicrobial effect it is considered beneficial for skin. You may try out this Bael fruit face pack at home. Just blend Bael fruit powder (2 tsp), Dates (2 tsp) and honey (1tsp) to make a paste, which when applied to face for 15-30 minutes helps firm up skin and remove acne and wrinkles.
Leucoderma or Vitiligo involves development of white patches on skin. This skin condition is due to loss of melanin in skin or loss of ability of skin to develop pigments. Bael fruit has been traditionally used in treatment of vitligo. Bael fruit offers nutrients essential to prevent pigmentation loss. Study suggests that psoalen present in Bael fruit pulp along with carotenes is responsible to maintain normal skin color. Consumption of bael can help treat leucoderma and restore pigmentation in skin.
Bael as body coolant
Bael fruit or bael marmalade is used as body coolant. It helps reduce heat and thirst of body, often responsible for acne, mouth ulcers. Bael fruit juice helps in treatment of hyperacidity and reduces symptoms of heartburns. It is ideal summer drink. Bael leaves are also used for treating burning urine sensation. Eating bael marmalade can help protect from sunstrokes.
Various other traditional benefits of Bael plant
Bael is offered to believe various other medicinal uses. Most of them do not have scientific backing. Bael is traditionally used in treatment of various disease as under –
- Jaundice- Bael leaf extract with pepper and honey.
- Morning sickness during pregnancy – raw bael fruit pulp along with little sugar.
- Treatment of fever – Paste of bael leaves applied to temple or drinking bael leaves decoction
- Ulcerative Colitis – Bael fruit
- Ear Problems – Bael root extract boiled with neem oil.
- Acidity – Bael leaves ground with pepper eaten
- Epilepsy – Bael leaves boiled in water and paste administered orallay with honey.
- Typhoid – Bael leaves boiled in water and paste administered orallay with honey or Bael leaf tea.
- As tonic to mind and brain- Eating ripe bael fruit
- As eye lotion- decoction of bael flowers
- Malaria – Bael bark decoction to relieve symptoms of malaria
- Indigestion – bael leavespaste along with black pepper taken orally.
- Leporsy – powder of dried bael leaves applied to wound
- Myalgia – Paste of bael root administered orally
- Enhancing breast milk – Bael fruit juice to be consumed with dried ginger powder (sunth) and jaggery by nursing mothers
- Blood purifying tonic – Bael pulp juice with honey
Where to find bael fruit? Look for dried bael fruit or fresh bael fruit in asian groceries. Some Thai or Indian grocers stock them.
How to make Bael Squash
Bael fruits are often seasonal. Hence to make best use of benefits of bael fruit, they are generally stored dried or in form of squash. One fresh large bael fruit may yield juice sufficient for 10-15 people. The pulp of this fruit can be stored in form of squash. To make bael squash, pulp from ripe bael fruit can be collected. Lemon juice, around 1 tsp for each glass of pulp can be added. Dilute this pulp by adding twice the quantity of water to pulp. Boil this mixture. Make sugar syrup by boiling sugar with water. Add sugar in equal quantities as the pulp, while water just sufficient to dissolve all sugar. Stain the boiled bael juice and mix this with sugar syrup. Store this in clean bottle and refrigerate for future use.
Bael sherbet from dried bael fruit:
Slices of bael fruit can be sundried and preserved for future use. These dried bael fruit slices can be simmered in water to make bael sherbet. This juice along with lime and sugar or honey makes a refreshing drink. This drink can be taken hot as bael fruit tea or served chilled as bael fruit sherbet.
Bael murabba or bael marmalade is another way to store bael fruit for enjoying its health benefits.
Ingredients – 1 kg of Bael fruit, ½ kg of sugar, 2 tsp of lemon juice, ½ tsp of cardamom powder, ¼ tsp of salt. Method – Break open the fruits and remove seeds. Spoon out the fleshy part from fruit. Cut the fruit in small pieces. Make sugar syrup by boiling sugar in a cup of water. Adding lemon juice makes syrup clear and removes any impurities. As the syrup thickens add the fruit and salt. Continue to cook as syrup thickens. You may remove fruit pieces from syrup. Add cardamom powder and mix. As syrup thickens, stop cooking and allow it to cool. This jam can be stored in bottle and refrigerated.
Side effects of bael
Bael leaves contain various phytochemcials, hence caution required while consumption is done during pregnancy. Bark offers tannins which ingested in large quantity over long period can be harmful.Image Credits: Wikimedia - Asit Ghosh, Wikimedia - Asit Ghosh