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 (vilvam)
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 (or bili[1] or bhel[2]), also Bengal quince,[3] golden apple,[3] Japanese bitter orange,[4] stone apple, or wood apple, 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.[not verified in body]

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" (ବେଲ) in Odia, "bael" (বেল) in Bengali and bilva and maredu (మారేడు) in Telugu. It is called Sivadruma by the Hindus and is considered as a sacred herb.

Botanical information[edit]

Phylogeny and anatomy[edit]

Bili tree

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.[citation needed]


A ripe bael fruit in India
Bael fruit

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."[6] Numerous hairy seeds are encapsulated in a slimy mucilage.

Range and ecology[edit]

Bael is a native of India and is found widely in Asia, in northern, central, eastern and southern parts of India, as well as in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, southern Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.[citation needed] It is widely found in Indian Siva temples.[citation needed] It occurs in dry forests on hills and plains.[citation needed] 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.

This tree is a larval foodplant for the following two Indian Swallowtail butterflies, the Lime butterfly Papilio demoleus, and the Common Mormon: Papilio polytes.

Food uses[edit]

The fruits can be eaten either freshly from trees or after drying them. 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. 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.

Medicinal uses[edit]

Medicinal Uses: 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. Marmelosin derived from the pulp is given as a laxative and diuretic. In large doses, it lowers the rate of respiration, depresses heart action and causes sleepiness.

For medicinal use, the young fruits, while still tender, are commonly sliced horizontally and sun-dried and sold in local markets. They are much exported to Malaya and Europe. 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 in the summer months. Bael fruit was resorted to by the Portuguese in the East Indies in the 1500's and by the British colonials in later times.

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. The bark contains tannin and the cournarin, 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.

Traditional uses[edit]

All parts of the herb (leaves, fruits, roots) are used for medicinal purposes.[citation needed] the herb is considered sacred to Shiva, the lord of health.[citation needed] The herb is considered widely helpful to kapha and vata dosas, but not suited to pita dosa.[citation needed] 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.[7][full citation needed] 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 ailments such as gastrointestinal diseases, piles, oedema, jaundice, vomiting, obesity, pediatric disorders, gynecological disorders, urinary complaints and as a rejuvenate.[citation needed]

Modern research[edit]

There has been a report that the essential oil of the Bael tree may have antibacterial activity.[8][non-primary source needed] On the other hand, a claim has been made that while unripe Bael fruit does not show antimicrobial properties, it does inhibit bacteria adherence to and so ability to infect the gut.[according to whom?][original research?][citation needed] A further claim has been made that unripe Bael fruit is effective in combating the anaerobic flagellated protozoan parasite giardia,[according to whom?][original research?][citation needed] and the double-stranded RNA virus, rotavirus.[according to whom?][original research?][citation needed] The essential oil of the Bael tree oil is also said to stimulate bowel movements in patients suffering from constipation and other gastrointestinal problems.[according to whom?][original research?][citation needed]

Aegeline 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.[9][10][11][12] 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.[13] 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.[14] 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.[14]

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.[15] 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.[15] Three of these patients developed fulminant liver failure, two underwent urgent liver transplantation, and one died.[15] The number of such cases would ultimately rise to 43 in Hawai'i.[14][15] 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.[16]

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.[17] 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.[17] 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.[17] 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.[17]

Religious significance[edit]

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


Besides medicinal use, the plant and its leaves and fruit are of religious importance. For instance, in Hinduism, the leaves of the plant are being offered to Gods as part of prayers.[18][19] The tree is in fact regarded as one of the sacred trees of Indian heritage.[20] As such, the fruit is used in religious rituals. For instance, in Hinduism the tree is sacred,[citation needed] and many Hindus have bael trees in their gardens.[citation needed] It is used in the worship of Shiva, who is said to favour the leaves, where the tri-foliate form of leaves symbolize the trident that Shiva holds in his right hand.[citation needed] The fruits were used in place of coconuts before large-scale rail transportation became available, and is said to resemble a skull with a white, bone-like outer shell and a soft inner part, so it is sometimes called "seer phael" (head-fruit).[according to whom?][citation needed] However, it is quite likely that this term was coined from the Sanskrit term "ShreePhala,"[according to whom?][speculation?] which is a common name for this fruit.[citation needed] The Shree Suktam of the RigVeda refers to it as being the tree associated with Lakshmi,[citation needed] which could also be the reason why it is called 'ShreePhala'.[speculation?][citation needed] The RigVeda states:

...tava vrikshotha bilvah / tasya phalaani tapasaa nudantu maayaantraayaashcha baahyaa alakshmih.[this quote needs a citation] [...and your tree is bilva / may the fruits of that do away with poverty in me, spiritual and material, both within and without.][citation needed]

The hymn is in praise of Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, beauty and all things auspicious.[citation needed]

Traditional Newari practices[edit]

In the traditional practice of the HIndu and Buddhist religions by 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; as long as the fruit is kept safe and never cracks, the girl can never become widowed, even if her human husband dies. This is seen to be protection against the social disdain suffered by widows in the Newari community.[21]

Local names[edit]

    • 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. ^ "FOI search results". Retrieved 20 January 2016. 
  2. ^ Wilder, G.P. (1907), Fruits of the Hawaiian Islands, Hawaiian Gazette, ISBN 9781465583093 
  3. ^ a b "Taxonomy - GRIN-Global Web v". Retrieved 20 January 2016. 
  4. ^ "M.M.P.N.D. - Sorting Aegle names". Retrieved 20 January 2016. 
  5. ^ a b "Bael". Retrieved 20 January 2016. 
  6. ^ Boning, Charles (2006). Florida's Best Fruiting Plants: Native and Exotic Trees, Shrubs, and Vines. Sarasota, Florida: Pineapple Press, Inc. p. 35. 
  7. ^ Raamachandran, J. Herbs of Siddha Medicines, The First 3D Book on Herbs, p. 16, ISBN 978-8190612302
  8. ^ Pattnaik, S; Subramanyam VR; Kole C. (1996). "Antibacterial and antifungal activity of ten essential oils in vitro". Microbios 86 (349): 237–246. PMID 8893526. [non-primary source needed]
  9. ^ Riyanto, S; Sukari MA; Rahmani M; et al. (2001). "Alkaloids from Aegle marmelos (Rutacea).". Malaysian J Anal Sci. 7 2: 463–465. 
  10. ^ 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. 
  11. ^ Govindachari, TR; Premila MS (1983). "Some alkaloids from Aegle marmelos.". Phytochem. 22 3: 755–757. 
  12. ^ Sharma, BR; Rattan RK; Sharma P (1981). "Marmeline, an alkaloid, and other components of unripe fruits of Aegle marmelos". Phytochem. 20 11: 2606–2607. 
  13. ^ "FDA Investigation Summary: Acute Hepatitis Illnesses Linked to Certain OxyElite Pro Products". US Food and Drug Administration. July 30, 2014. Retrieved 19 November 2015. 
  14. ^ a b c "OxyElite Pro Supplements Recalled". US Food and Drug Administration. November 18, 2013. Retrieved 19 November 2015. 
  15. ^ 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. 
  16. ^ Daysong, Rick (January 28, 2014). "EXCLUSIVE: Months after recall, new OxyElite Pro illnesses reported". Hawaii News Now. Retrieved 19 November 2015. 
  17. ^ 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. 
  18. ^ Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam, ed. India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 79. 
  19. ^ Wilkins, W.J. (2003). Hindu Mythology. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld (P) Limited. p. 470. ISBN 81-246-0234-4. 
  20. ^ "Bilva (Aegle marmelos)". Retrieved 20 January 2016. 
  21. ^ Gutschow, Niels; Michaels, Axel & Bau, Christian (2008). "The Girl's Hindu Marriage to the Bel Fruit: Ihi and The Girl's Buddhist Marriage to the Bel Fruit: Ihi". Growing Up—Hindu and Buddhist Initiation Ritual among Newar Children in Bhaktapur, Nepal. Wiesbaden, GER: Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. pp. 93–173. ISBN 3447057521. 

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]