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Aegle marmelos

bhel natural herb

English: Bengal quince
Hindi: Bael, Bel, Beli
Sanskrit : Bilva

Bael is considered to be an auspicious tree by the Hindus and has been called 'shivadruma' (the tree of Shiva). It is often planted near temples and the leaves and wood of the plant have been used for worshipping Lord Shiva and Parvati since time immemorial. All parts, but especially the fruits, are commonly used in traditional medicine and the drug has been described as a rasayana.


Habitat

It is commonly found in the sub-Himalayan tract up to an altitude of 1200 m, in the dry deciduous forests of central and southern India, the Andaman islands, Myanmar, south-east Asia and Baluchistan.


Botanical description

A medium-sized, deciduous tree, up to 7.5 m in height; the branches are armed with sharp spines about 2.5 mm long (Plate 5). Leaves glabrous, attenuate and trifoliate; flowers large, greenish-white and sweet scented, with numerous seeds, oblong, compressed, embedded in sacs and covered with thick orange-coloured sweet pulp. The ripe fruits are large and subspherical, greenish-white with a tough, woody outer coat. The roots are woody, fairly large and often curved. The bark is corky and light grey in colour.


Parts used

Fruit, pulp, unripe fruit, ripe fruit, rind of ripe fruit, bark, root and root bark.


Traditional and modern use

The ripe bad fruit is usually eaten fresh. The pulp is often combined with sugar and tamarind to prepare a refreshing drink in Indian homes, as well as squash, jam and nectar. The green fruits have digestive, stomachic and astringent properties and are used to make the preparation murabbas. Ripe fruits are used in chronic diarrhoea and dysentery and act as a tonic for the heart and brain. They are also useful in adjuvant treatment of bacillary dysentery, assisting the healing of the ulcerated mucosa of the intestines. The roots, in the form of a decoction, are used to treat melancholia, intermittent fevers and heart palpitations and also form a component of a popular Ayurvedic medicine dashmool. The bitter tasting leaves are used as a febrifuge and a poultice made of them is used for ophthalmic disorders and ulcers. Fresh leaves have been used to treat weakness of the heart, dropsy and beri-beri. Bengal quince has also been used for stomach ache, snakebite, cholera, convulsions, dyspepsia, malaria, nausea, spasms, thirst, tumours, sores, itches and proctitis and as an abortifacient. It also finds use as an anodyne, astringent, dentifrice, digestive, piscicide, refrigerant, restorative and laxative.


Ethnoveterinary usage

Bark, flower, fruit, leaf, root and stem are all used in the treatment of diarrhoea and dehydration of ruminants.' The fruit pulp (both ripe and unripe), leaves, roots and bark (also the 'powdery mildew' on the bark) are used in folk veterinary medicine to treat wounds, burns, poisoning and disorders of the digestive systems including dysentery, enteritis and intestinal lesions, tympanitis and for flat and thread worms. It also finds use in ailments of the reproductive system such as miscarriage, retention of the placenta, repeated oestrus in cows and buffaloes, vaginal haemorrhage, orchiditis, and in addition, milk fever, tachycardia, bradycardia, swelling of the throat, haemorrhagic septicaemia, pneumonia, polyurea, lumbar fracture and others.


Major chemical constituents
Alkaloids

The leaves contain alkaloids including aegelenine and aegeline. The roots and aerial parts contain skimmianine.


Anthraquinones

7,8-Dimethoxy-1-hydroxy-2-methyl anthraquinone and 6-hydroxy-1-methoxy-3-methyl anthraquinone.


Coumarins

The fruit contains marmelosin, allo?imperatorin, marmelide and psoralen and the roots umbelliferone, psoralen, xanthotoxin, dimethoxy coumarin, scopoletin: The heartwood yields a-xanthotoxol-8-0-?-D-glucoside and the seeds contain luvangetin.


Tannins

The fruit contains tannic acid. The tannin content of the fruit and rind is 7-9% and 18-22% respectively. The leaves also contain condensed tannins.


Triterpenes

The roots contain ?-sitosterol and lupeo.


Medicinal and pharmacological activities

Antiulcer activity: Luvangetin, at a dosage of 25 mg/kg by oral administration, showed significant protection against pylorus-ligated and aspirin-induced gastric ulcers in rats and cold restraint stress-induced gastric ulcers in rats and guinea pigs. The mechanism of action appeared to be due to mucosal defensive factors.


Antimicrobial activity: The essential oil isolated from the leaves was evaluated in a spore germination assay and variable efficacy observed against different fungal isolates. Complete inhibition of germination of all fungal spores was observed at 500 ppm, except for the most resistant, Fusarium udum, which was inhibited 80% at 400 ppm. It also inhibited the growth of 21 bacteria including Gram-positive (cocci and rods), Gram?negative (rods) and 12 fungi including three yeast-like and nine filamentous. The seed oil was also antibacterial and an ethanolic extract of the roots showed appreciable activity against Vibrio cholerae, Salmonella typhimurium, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Candida albicans, Aspergillus fumigatus and Trichophyton mentagrophytes. An ethanolic extract was effective against Curvularia lanata, Aspergillus niger and Rhizopus nodulens.


Hypoglycaemic activity: The aqueous extract of the leaves exhibited significant hypoglycaemic activity in both normoglycaemic and streptozotocin-diabetic rats, assessed as a stimulation of the surviving cells to release more insulin and substantiated by elevated levels of plasma insulin. The extract was found to be as effective as insulin in restoring blood glucose levels and body weight to normal. 9 In streptozotocin.,induced diabetic rats, histopathological changes in the acinar cells and hepatocytes, liver fibrosis and decrease in glycogen content and changes in kidney glomeruli were restored to near normal. The extract also appeared to help in the regeneration of the damaged pancreas.'o In an alloxan-induced animal model, the oral administration of a leaf extract (1 glkg) prior to the experiment resulted in a significant increase in glucose tolerance. Administration to diabetic rats resulted in the decrease of liver glycogen, blood urea and a reduction of elevated serum cholesterol levels, once again exhibiting a similar action to that of insulin.


Antidiarrhoeal activity, Irritable Bowel Syndrome: An Ayurvedic preparation consisting of Aegle marmelos (3 g) and Bacopa monnieri (1 g) was compared with a standard therapy (clidinium bromide with. chlordiazepoxide and ispaghula) and a matching placebo, in a randomised trial for 6 weeks. In 57 patients (33.7%) improvement was seen with the Ayurvedic preparation, in 60 patients (35.5%) an effect was observed with the standard therapy and in 52 patients (30.8%) an effect was observed with the placebo. The Ayurvedic preparation was the most useful in the diarrhoea-predominant form as compared to the placebo. Long-term therapy (longer than 6 months) showed that neither was better than placebo in limiting relapse."


Antiinflammatory activity: An aqueous extract of the root (5 mg/kg) exhibited significant antiinflammatory activity against both acute and chronic inflammation. The acute experimental model was carrageenan-induced rat paw oedema and a 'dead-space' wound model was used to monitor chronic inflammation. Marmin also showed an antiinflammatory effect in carrageenan-induced paw oedema in rats. Effects on the cardiovascular system: A methanolic extract of root bark (100 /lg/ml) inhibited the spontaneous beating rate of cultured mouse myocardial cells by approximately 50%. Aurapten, a pure compound isolated from the same, was found to be the most potent with ICso of 0.6 /lg/ml. complement activation and of luminal enhanced chemiluminescence by zymosan-activated polymorphonuclear leucocytes. It had no effect on the alternative pathway of complement activation.


Safety profile

The fruits are generally regarded as safe, although feeding large amounts to rats produced hepatic lesions, including vein abnormalities. The maximum tolerated dose of the 50% ethanolic extract of roots was 1000 mg/kg in adult albino mice.'


Dosage

  • Fruit Powder: 2-12 g Infusion: 12-20 ml
  • Decoction: 28-56 ml

Ayurvedic properties

  • Rasa: Tikta (bitter), kashaya (astringent) Guna: Laghu (light), ruksha (dry)
  • Vipaka: Katu (pungent)
  • Veerya: Ushna (hot)
  • Dosha: Pacifies kapha and vata and promotes pitta