The bael is a large tree, 8 to 10 metres in height. It has a big stout trunk, unusual branches with long, straight outgrowth, aromatic leaves, sweet scented and greenish-white flowers. The fruit is woody and smooth,
5 to 15 cm in diameter. It has numerous seeds which are densely covered with fibrous hair and are embedded in a thick aromatic pulp. The flesh is eaten fresh or dried. Bad tree is held sacred by the Hindus. The history of this tree has been traced to Vedic period (2000 B.C. ?800 B.C.). The mention of bad fruit has been mad~ in Yajuroeda. The bael tree has great mythological significance and abounds in the vicinity of temples. The leaves of the tree are traditionally used as sacred offering to Lord Shiva, the God of. health. Lord Shiva is believed to live under the bael tree. The bad tree is indigenous to India and is grown throughout the sub-continent as well as most countries of South-east Asia.
An analysis of the bad fruit shows that it consists of moisture 61.5 per cent, protein 1.8 per cent, fat 0.3 per cent, minerals 1.7 per cent, fibre 2.9 per cent and carbohydrates 31.8 per cent per 100 grams of edible portion. Its mineral and vitamin contents include calcium, phosphorus, iron, carotene, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin C. Its calorific value is 137. Several chemical constituents have been isolated and identified from various parts of the bael tree. These include alkaloids, coumarins and steroids. The leaves contain skimianinc, sterol and aegelin. The active constituent of the fruit is marmorosin, which is identical to imperatorin. Other coumarins contained in the fruits are altoimperatorin and B sitosterol. Roots of the tree have been found to contain psoralin, xanthotoxin, scopoletin and tembamide.
The bael tree is one of the most useful medicinal plants of India. Its medicinal properties have been described in the ancient medical treatise in Sanskrit, Charaka Samhita. All parts of this tree-stem, bark, root, leaves and fruit at all stages of maturity -have medicinal virtues and have been used as medicine for a long time.
The fruit's medicinal value is very high when it just begins to ripen. The fruit is aromatic, cooling and laxative. It arrests secretion or bleeding. The unripe or half-ripe fruit is good for digestion. It is useful in ;preventing or curing scurvy. It also strengthens the stomach and promotes its action.
Ripe bael fruit is regarded as best of all laxatives. It cleans and tones up the intestines. Its regular use for 2 or 3 months throws out even the old accumulated faecal matter. For best results, it should be taken in the form of sherbet, which is prepared from the pulp of the ripe fruit. After breaking the shell, the seeds are removed, with the contents. spooned out and sieved. Milk and sugar are added to make it more palatable. The pulp of the ripe fruit can also be taken without the addition of milk or sugar. About 70 grams of the fruit will suffice for an adult.
The unripe or half-ripe fruit is perhaps the most effective remedy for chronic diarrhoea and dysentery where there is no fever. Best results are obtained by the use of dried bael or its powder. The bael fruit, when it is still green, is sliced and dried in the sun. The dried bael slices are powdered and preserved in airtight bottles. The unripe bael can also be baked and used with jaggery or brown sugar.
An infusion of bael leaves is regarded as an effective remedy for peptic ulcer. The leaves are soaked overnight in water. This water is strained and taken in the morning. The pain and discomfort are relieved when this treatment is continued for a few weeks. Bael leaves are rich in tannin which reduces inflammation and help in the healing of ulcers. Bael fruit taken in the form of a beverage also has great healing properties on account of its mucilage content. This forms a coating on the stomach mucosa and thus helps heal ulcers.
The root of this tree is used as a home remedy for curing ear problems. A stiff piece of the root is dipped in neem oil and lighted. The oil that drips from the burning end is a highly effective medicine for ear problems. The antiseptic properties of neem combined with the astringent extract of bael root helps in curing infection, chronic inflammation and disCharge.
A medicated oil prepared from bael leaves gives relief from recurrent colds and respiratory affections. The juice extracted from bael leaves is mixed with equal quantity of gingelly or sesame oil and heated thoroughly. A few seeds of black pepper and half a teaspoon of black cummin are added to the heated oil. It is then removed from the fire and stored for use when necessary. A teaspoon of this oil should be massaged into the scalp before a head bath. Its regular use builds up resistance to colds and coughs.
The ripe fruit should not be taken regularly at a stretch. When used without a break, it produces atony of the intestines or lack of normal elasticity and consequent flatulence in the abdomen. The bael fruit should also not be taken in excess at a time, as excessive intake may produce a sensation of heaviness in the stomach.
The sherbet made of bael must not be very thin. It should be viscous so that it can be thoroughly chewed. It may produce heaviness in the stomach, if taken hurriedly.