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Health Benefits of Bael Fruit

Introduction

Bael fruit, (Aegle marmelos), also spelled as bel, is a tree of the family Rutaceae, cultivated for its fruit. 

Common names

 Bilva, Holy fruit tree, Bel, Shirphal,  Bengal quince, Wood apple 

Botanical Information on Fruit

The tree’s wood is yellowish white and hard but not durable The slow-growing trees bear strong spines and alternate compound leaves with three leaflets. The sweet-scented white flowers are borne in panicle clusters and are sometimes used in perfumes. The fruit is pyriform (pear-shaped) to oblong in shape and 5–25 cm (2–10 inches) in diameter. It has a very hard woody grey or yellow rind and sweet, thick, orange-coloured pulp.

The bael fruit typically has a diameter of between 5 and 12 cm. It is globose or slightly pear-shaped with a thick, hard rind and does not split upon ripening. The woody shell is smooth and green, grey until it is fully ripe when it turns yellow. Inside are 8 to 15 or 20 sections filled with aromatic orange pulp, each section with 6 (8) to 10 (15) flattened-oblong seeds each about 1 cm long, bearing woolly hairs and each enclosed in a sack of adhesive, transparent mucilage that solidifies on drying. The exact number of seeds varies in different publications. It takes about 11 months to ripen on the tree and can reach the size of a large grapefruit or pomelo, and some are even larger. The shell is so hard it must be cracked with a hammer or machete. The fibrous yellow pulp is very aromatic. It has been described as tasting of marmalade and smelling of roses. Boning (2006) indicates that the flavour is "sweet, aromatic and pleasant, although tangy and slightly astringent in some varieties". It resembles a marmalade made, in part, with citrus and, in part, with tamarind. Numerous hairy seeds are encapsulated in a slimy mucilage.

Ecology

Aegle marmelos is native across the Indian subcontinent and is found wild throughout the Indian Peninsula. It occurs in dry, open forests on hills and plains at altitudes from 0–1,200 m (0–3,937 ft) with mean annual rainfall of 570–2,000 mm (22–79 inches). It has a reputation in India for being able to grow in places that other trees cannot. It copes with a wide range of soil conditions (pH range 5-10), is tolerant of waterlogging and has an unusually wide temperature tolerance from −7–48 °C (19–118 °F). It requires a pronounced dry season to give fruit. 

In India, bael production is widely reported in Odisha, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh.

Nutritional Value of Bael Fruit (100 gms.)

  • Edible portion - 64%
  • Moisture - 61.5 gm
  • Protein -  1.8 gm
  • Fat - 0.3 
  • Mineral - 1.7 gm
  • Fibre -  2.9 gm.
  • Carbohydrate - 31.8 gm.
  • Energy - 137 K.cal
  • Calcium - 85 mg.
  • Phospherous -  50 mg
  • Vitamins C - 8 mg.
  • Potassium -  600 mg.
  • Vitamin-B - Rich in B1 and B2
  • Sodium - Nil        

Fruits as food 

The fruits can be eaten either fresh from trees or after being dried and produced into candy, toffee, pulp powder or nectar. If fresh, the juice is strained and sweetened to make a drink similar to lemonade. It can be made into sharbat or Bela pana, a beverage. Bela Pana made in Odisha has fresh cheese, milk, water, fruit pulp, sugar, crushed black pepper, and ice. Bel pana, a drink made of the pulp with water, sugar, and citron juice, is mixed, left to stand a few hours, strained, and put on ice. One large bael fruit may yield five or six litres of sharbat.

If the fruit is to be dried, it is usually sliced and sun-dried. The hard-leathery slices are then immersed in water. The leaves and small shoots are eaten as salad greens. Bael fruits are of dietary use and the fruit pulp is used to prepare delicacies like murabba, puddings and juices.

Traditional medicinal use

As per Dhanvantri Nigantu, unripe fruit is Sangrahi, Agnidipak, Katu (pungent), Tikta (bitter), Kashaya (astringent) in taste, Uhsna Veerya, Tikshna and Kapha nashak (alleviates Kapha), hence used to treat Grahaniroga, Pravhika and Agnimandya as an ingredient of various Ayuvedic formulations, like Bilvapanchak kwath, Bilvadi leha and Bilvadi ghrita etc.

The leaves, bark, roots, fruits, and seeds are used in traditional medicine to treat various illnesses, although there is no clinical evidence that these methods are safe or effective. The fresh ripe pulp of the higher quality cultivars, and the "sherbet" made from it, are taken for their mild laxative, tonic and digestive effects. A decoction of the unripe fruit, with fennel and ginger, is prescribed in cases of hemorrhoids. It has been surmised that the psoralen in the pulp increases tolerance of sunlight and aids in the maintaining of normal skin color. It is employed in the treatment of leucoderma.

For medicinal use, the young fruits, while still tender, are commonly sliced horizontally and sun-dried and sold in local markets. Because of the astringency, especially of the wild fruits, the unripe bael is most prized as a means of halting diarrhea and dysentery, which are prevalent in India druing the summer months. 

A bitter, light-yellow oil extracted from the seeds is given in 1.5 g doses as a purgative. It contains 15.6% palmitic acid, 8.3% stearic acid, 28.7% linoleic and 7.6% linolenic acid. The seed residue contains 70% protein.

The bitter, pungent leaf juice, mixed with honey, is given to allay catarrh and fever. With black pepper added, it is taken to relieve jaundice and constipation accompanied by edema. The leaf decoction is said to alleviate asthma. A hot poultice of the leaves is considered an effective treatment for ophthahnia and various inflammations, also febrile delirium and acute bronchitis.

A decoction of the flowers is used as eye lotion and given as an antiemetic ( drug that is effective against vomiting and nausea). The bark contains tannin and the courmarin, aegelinol; also, the furocourmarin, marmesin; umbelliferone, a hydroxy coumarin; and the alkaloids, fagarine and skimmianine. The bark decoction is administered in cases of malaria. Decoctions of the root are taken to relieve palpitations of the heart, indigestion, and bowel inflammations; also to overcome vomiting.

The fruit, roots and leaves have antibiotic activity. The root, leaves and bark are used in treating snakebite. Chemical studies have revealed the following properties in the roots: psoralen, xanthotoxin, O-methylscopoletin, scopoletin, tembamide, and skimmin; also, decursinol, haplopine and aegelinol, in the root bark.

When is it best to eat a bael fruit

Bael fruit is harvested between March and May. Bael fruit is picked when it's still yellowish-green. Let it sit until the stem separates from the fruit and the green tint disappears. Mature bael fruits ripe in 2-3 weeks under ambient conditions. Large size fruits take longer time in ripening as compared to small sized fruits.

Avoid fruit that is bruised or showing signs of mold.

Health Benefits

  • The medicinal value of Bael fruit is enhanced due to presence of Tanin, the evaporating substance in its rind. The rind contains 20% and the pulp has only 9% of Tanin. This substance helps to cure diabetes.
  • An ideal summer drink - The bael sharbat is cooling, refreshing, highly nutritious, mild laxative and tonic during hot summers. 
  • Treatment of Asthma - Grind 5 gms. of Bael leaves. Add 1 spoon of honey. Take orally in morning and evening for relief.
  • Cure of Anaemia - Extract the pulp of Bael. Dry it and grind it to powder form. Add one spoonful of this powder to boiled cowmilk. Also add some sugar candy. Take this dose twice a day in morning and evening for a long period.
  • Fractures - Extract the pulp of raw bael. Dry it and grind it to powder form. Mix 10 gms. of powder, 50 gms. of pure ghee, ½ spoonful of turmeric powder with a glass of luke warm water, stir well. Take it orally twice a day.
  • Healing of Wound - Take rind, root, leaves, fruit pulp of equal quantity. Grind them to extract juice. Add 10 gms. of honey. Drink it.
  • Swollen Joints - Few bael pulp mixed with hot mustard oil to be applied on the affected area twice a day during morning and evening for relief.
  • High Blood Pressure - Bael leaves to be taken every morning. The juice of bael leaves added with honey can also be taken every morning.
  • Jundice - Extract juice of 100 nos. of soft bael leaves. Mix it with the powder of 10 Nos. of black pepper. Take the mixture every morning and evening. Added to this take at least five glasses of sugarcane juice daily after meals.
  • Diarrhoea - Dry raw bael fruit pulp. Take out seeds. The dried pulp if consumed quickly, stops loose motion.
  • Troubles During Pregnancy - One spoon of raw fruit pulp if taken twice a day stops frequent vomiting nausea during pregnancy. Little sugar candy may be added to the pulp for taste.
  • Typhoid - Our body becomes weak due to high fever. Grind 200 bael leaves. Boil in one cup of water till it becomes thick. Take this paste with a little honey twice or thrice a day.
  • Healthy Mind and Brain - Ripe bael fruit taken with fresh cream (butter) and sugar candy powder sharpens concentration and intelligence.

In current market Bael fruit is available in the form of Murabba & Juice & Sharbat and you can make candy at home.

References :

Written By: - Mr Roshan Vasantrao Pawar | Student - Indira Gandhi National Open University Delhi, School of Social Work 



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