Aegle marmelos

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This article is about the bael tree. For the Biblical demon, see Baal (demon). For the professional wrestler, see Bael (wrestler).
Bael (Aegle marmelos) tree at Narendrapur W IMG 4116.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Sapindales
Family: Rutaceae
Subfamily: Aurantioideae
Tribe: Clauseneae
Genus: Aegle
Species: A. marmelos
Binomial name
Aegle marmelos
(L.) Corrêa

Aegle marmelos, commonly known as bael, Bengal quince,[1] golden apple,[1] Japanese bitter orange,[2] stone apple, wood apple, bili,[3] and bhel,[4] is a species of tree native to India. It is present throughout Southeast Asia as a naturalized species.[5] The tree is considered to be sacred by Hindus. Its fruits are used in traditional medicine and as a food throughout its range.

In 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), other federal regulators, and local health officials, investigated an outbreak of 97 persons with acute nonviral hepatitis that first emerged in Hawai'i and was ultimately linked to dietary supplements adulterated with aegeline by the company USPlabs LLC.[6]

Vernacular names[edit]

The tree is called "belpatthar ka paid" in Hindi "ಬಿಲ್ಪತ್ರೆ ಮರ" and the religious tree "ಬಿಲ್ವ" or "ಬಿಲ್ಪತ್ರೆ" in Kannada, "vilvam" (வில்வமரம்) in Tamil, "beli" ( බෙලි )in Sinhala.. The fruits are known as ಬೇಲದ ಹಣ್ಣು (edible variety), ಬಿಲ್ವ (sacred variety) in Kannada, "bela" in Odia, "bael" (বেল) in Bengali and bilva and maredu (మారేడు) in Telugu. It is a native of India and is found widely in Asia, in countries like Burma, Thailand, Sri Lanka, etc. It is called as Sivadruma by the Hindus and is considered as a sacred herb. It is widely found in Indian Siva temples since the herb is considered sacred to Shiva, the lord of health. The leaves of the plant are being offered to Gods as part of prayers.[7][8] The fruits can be eaten either freshly from trees or after drying them.

All parts of the herb (leaves, fruits, roots) are used for medicinal purposes. The herb is widely helpful to kapha and vata dosas. It is not suited to pita dosa.

Botanical information[edit]

Bael is the only member of the monotypic genus Aegle.[5] It is a mid-sized, slender, aromatic, armed, gum-bearing tree growing up to 18 meters tall. It has a leaf with three leaflets.


Bael occurs in dry forests on hills and plains of northern, central, eastern and southern India, Pakistan, southern Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. It is cultivated throughout India, as well as in Sri Lanka, the northern Malay Peninsula, Java, Timor Leste, the Philippines, and Fiji. 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 °C to 48 °C). It requires a pronounced dry season to give fruit.

A ripe bael fruit in India
Bael fruit

This tree is a larval foodplant for the following two Indian Swallowtail butterflies:


The bael fruit has a smooth, woody shell with a green, gray, or yellow peel. 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 flavor 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."[9] Numerous hairy seeds are encapsulated in a slimy mucilage.


The fruit is eaten fresh or dried. If fresh, the juice is strained and sweetened to make a drink similar to lemonade. It can be made into sharbat (Hindi/Urdu) or Bela pana (Odia: ବେଲ ପଣା) or bel pana (Bengali: বেল পানা), a refreshing drink made of the pulp with water, sugar, and lime juice, mixed, left to stand a few hours, strained, and put on ice. One large bael fruit may yield five or six liters of sharbat.

Bili tree

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.

The Tamil Siddhars call the plant koovilam (கூவிளம்) and use the fragrant leaves for medicinal purposes, including dyspepsia and sinusitis.[citation needed] A confection called ilakam (இளகம்) is made of the fruit and used to treat tuberculosis and loss of appetite.[10]

In the system of Ayurveda this drug finds several and frequent therapeutic uses in different forms and recipes. They are prescribed in a number of diseases such as gastro intestinal diseases, piles, oedema, jaundice, vomiting, obesity, pediatric disorders, gynecological disorders, urinary complaints and as a rejuvenative. Besides the wide medicinal utility the plant and its certain parts (leaves and fruits) are of religious importance since the tree is regarded as one of the sacred trees of Indian heritage.[11]

Aegeline Supplements and Nonviral Hepatitis[edit]

Aegeline (N-[2-hydroxy-2(4-methoxyphenyl) ethyl]-3-phenyl-2-propenamide) is a known constituent of the bael leaf and consumed as a dietary supplement for a variety of purposes.[12][13][14][15] In 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), other federal regulators, and local health officials, investigated an outbreak of 97 persons with acute nonviral hepatitis that first emerged in Hawaii. Seventy-two of these persons had reported using the dietary supplement OxyElite Pro, produced by USPlabs.[6] FDA had previously taken action against an earlier formulation of OxyElite Pro because it contained dimethylamylamine (DMAA), a stimulant that FDA had determined to be an adulterant when included in dietary supplements and that they determined can cause high blood pressure and lead to heart attacks, seizures, psychiatric disorders, and death.[16] USPlabs subsequently reformulated this product and another product called VERSA-1 by replacing DMAA with aeageline, without informing FDA or submitting the required safety data for a new dietary ingredient.[16]

Doctors at the Liver Center at The Queen's Medical Center investigating the first cases in Hawai'i reported that between May and September of 2013, eight previously-healthy individuals presented themselves at their center suffering with drug-induced liver injury.[17] All of these patients had been using the reformulated OxyELITE Pro, which they had purchased a variety of sources, and which had different lot numbers and expiration dates, at doses within the manufacturer's recommendation.[17] Three of these patients developed fulminant liver failure, two underwent urgent liver transplantation, and one died.[17] The number of such cases would ultimately rise to 43 in Hawai'i.[16][17] In January of 2014, leaders from the Queen's Liver Center informed state lawmakers that they were almost certain that aegeline was the agent responsible for these cases.[18]

On November 17, 2015, FDA announced that the U.S. Department of Justice was criminally charging USPlabs and several of its corporate affiliates and officers with eleven counts of charges related to the sale of those products.[19] The charges surrounded an alleged conspiracy to import ingredients from China using false certificates of analysis and labeling, and lying about the ingredients' source and nature after inclusion in their products.[19] The various defendants surrendered or were apprehended by the United States Marshals Service, and FDA and special agents from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service seized assets including investment accounts, real estate, and luxury and sports cars.[19] This capped a yearlong sweep of potentially unsafe or tainted supplements that resulted in civil injunctions and criminal actions against 117 manufacturers and/or distributors of dietary supplements and products falsely marketed as such but containing banned or unauthorized ingredients.[19]

Religious significance-The Holy Bael[edit]

Bael leaves used in worship of a lingam - icon of Shiva.

The fruit is also used in religious rituals.

In Hinduism the tree is sacred. It is used in the worship of Shiva, who is said to favour the leaves. The tri-foliate form of leaves symbolize the trident that Shiva holds in his right hand. The fruits were used in place of coconuts before large-scale rail transportation became available. The fruit is said to resemble a skull with a white, bone-like outer shell and a soft inner part, and is sometimes called seer phael (head-fruit). However, it is quite likely that, the term 'Seer Phal' has coined from the Sanskrit term 'ShreePhala, which again is a common name for this fruit. Many Hindus have bael trees in their gardens.

The Shree Suktam of the RigVeda refers to it as being the tree associated with Goddess Lakshmi, which could also be the reason why it is called 'ShreePhala'. It states '...tava vrikshotha bilvah| tasya phalaani tapasaa nudantu maayaantraayaashcha baahyaa alakshmih||'. The hymn is in praise of Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, beauty and all things auspicious. The translation of the above mentioned lines of the hymn, addressing Goddess Lakshmi, is '... and your tree is bilva. May the fruits of that (the bilva tree) do away with alakshmi (poverty, spiritual and material) in me, both within and without.'

In the traditional Newari culture of Nepal, the bael tree is part of a fertility ritual for girls known as the Bel baha. Girls are "married" to the bael fruit and as long as the fruit is kept safe and never cracks the girl can never become widowed, even if her human husband dies. This was seen to be protection against the social disdain suffered by widows in the Newari community.

Medicinal uses[edit]

Research has found the essential oil of the Bael tree to be effective against 21 types of bacteria.[20] It is prescribed for smooth bowel movement to patients suffering from constipation and other gastrointestinal problems.

Research also indicates that unripe Bael fruit is effective in combating giardia and rotavirus. While unripe Bael fruit did not show antimicrobial properties, it did inhibit bacteria adherence to and invasion of the gut (i.e. the ability to infect the gut). [21]

Local names[edit]

  • South-East Asia
  • South Asia
    • Assamese: বেল
    • Hindi: बेल (Bel)
    • Gujarati: બીલી
    • Urdu: (Bael)بیل, (Sirphal) سری پھل
    • Nepali: बेल: (Bel or Wood Apple)
    • Odia: Baela ବେଲ
    • Bengali: বেল (Bell)
    • Kannada: ಬೇಲದ ಹಣ್ಣು ('belada hannu', edible variety)
    • Kannada: ಬಿಲ್ವಪತ್ರೆ ಮರ ('bilvapatre mara', the sacred variety tree)
    • Konkani: gorakamli
    • Malayalam: കൂവളം (koo-valam)
    • Marathi: बेल (Bel)
    • Punjabi: ਬਿਲ (Bil)
    • Sanskrit : बिल्व (Bilva)Shreephala, shaandilya, shailoosha, maaloora
    • Sindhi: ڪاٺ گدرو
    • Sinhalese: බෙලි (Beli)
    • Tamil: வில்வம் (Vilvam)
    • Telugu: మారేడు (maredu)
    • Sir Phal (old Hindi)


  1. ^ a b "USDA GRIN Taxonomy". 
  2. ^ Sorting Aegle names, retrieved 29 September 2015 
  3. ^ "Flowers of India". Retrieved 6 June 2013. 
  4. ^ Wilder, G.P. (1907), Fruits of the Hawaiian Islands, Hawaiian Gazette, ISBN 9781465583093 
  5. ^ a b "Purdue Horticulture". Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  6. ^ a b "FDA Investigation Summary: Acute Hepatitis Illnesses Linked to Certain OxyElite Pro Products". US Food and Drug Administration. July 30, 2014. Retrieved 19 November 2015. 
  7. ^ Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam, ed. India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 79. 
  8. ^ Wilkins, W.J. (2003). Hindu Mythology. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld (P) Limited. p. 470. ISBN 81-246-0234-4. 
  9. ^ Boning, Charles (2006). Florida's Best Fruiting Plants: Native and Exotic Trees, Shrubs, and Vines. Sarasota, Florida: Pineapple Press, Inc. p. 35. 
  10. ^ Raamachandran, J. Herbs of Siddha Medicines, The First 3D Book on Herbs, pp.16.
  11. ^ National R&D Facility for Rasayana
  12. ^ Riyanto, S; Sukari MA; Rahmani M; et al. (2001). "Alkaloids from Aegle marmelos (Rutacea).". Malaysian J Anal Sci. 7 2: 463–465. 
  13. ^ Lanjhiyana, S; Patra KC; Ahirwar D; et al. (2012). "A validated HPTLC method for simultaneous estimation of two marker compounds in Aegle marmelos (L.) Corr., (Rutaceae) root bark.". Der Pharm Lett. 4 1: 92–97. 
  14. ^ Govindachari, TR; Premila MS (1983). "Some alkaloids from Aegle marmelos.". Phytochem. 22 3: 755–757. 
  15. ^ Sharma, BR; Rattan RK; Sharma P (1981). "Marmeline, an alkaloid, and other components of unripe fruits of Aegle marmelos.". 20 11. pp. 2606–2607. 
  16. ^ a b c "OxyElite Pro Supplements Recalled". US Food and Drug Administration. November 18, 2013. Retrieved 19 November 2015. 
  17. ^ a b c d Roytman MM, Pörzgen P, Lee CL, Huddleston L, Kuo TT, Bryant-Greenwood P, Wong LL, Tsai N (August 2014). "Outbreak of severe hepatitis linked to weight-loss supplement OxyELITE Pro". Am J Gastroenterol 109 (8): 1296–8. doi:10.1038/ajg.2014.159. PMID 25091255. 
  18. ^ Daysong, Rick (January 28, 2014). "EXCLUSIVE: Months after recall, new OxyElite Pro illnesses reported". Hawaii News Now. Retrieved 19 November 2015. 
  19. ^ a b c d "FDA takes action to protect consumers from potentially dangerous dietary supplements". US Food and Drug Administration. November 17, 2015. Retrieved 19 November 2015. 
  20. ^ Pattnaik, S; Subramanyam VR; Kole C. (1996). "Antibacterial and antifungal activity of ten essential oils in vitro". Microbios, 86 (349): 237–246. PMID 8893526. 
  21. ^ Brijesh, S; Daswani P; Tetali P; Antia N; Birdi T (2009). "Studies on the antidiarrhoeal activity of Aegle marmelos unripe fruit: Validating its traditional usage". BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 9 (47): 47. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-9-47. Retrieved 28 February 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

H.K.Bakhru (1997). Foods that Heal. The Natural Way to Good Health. Orient Paperbacks. ISBN 81-222-0033-8. 

External links[edit]