San: Bilva, Sriphal Hin, Ben, Ass: Bael Mal: Koovalam
Tam: Vilvam Mar,
Tel: Marendu, Bilvapondu
Importance: Bael or Bengal quince is a deciduous sacred tree, associated with Gods having useful medicinal properties, especially as a cooling agent. This tree is popular in ‘Shiva’ and ‘Vishnu’ temples and it can be grown in every house. Its leaves are trifoliate symbolizing the ‘Thrimurthies’-Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, with spear shaped leaflets resembling “Thrisoolam” the weapon of Lord Shiva. Many legends, stories and myths are associated with this tree. The leaflets are given to devotees as ‘prasadam’ in Shiva temples and as ‘Tulasi’ in Vishnu temples.
Every part of the tree is medicinal and useful. The roots are used in many Ayurvedic medicines for curing diabetes and leprosy. It is an ingredient of the ‘dasamoola’. The Bark is used to cure intestinal disorders. Leaves contain an alkaloid rutacin which is hypoglycaemic.
‘Two leaves before breakfast’ is said to keep diabetes under control. Leaves and fruits are useful in controlling diarrhoea and dysentery. Fruit pulp is used as ‘shampoo’ and cooling agent. It is also a rich source of carbohydrate, protein, fat, fibre, minerals and vitamin B and C. Fruit pulp is used to cure mouth ulcers as it is the richest natural source of riboflavin (1191 units/ 100 g). ‘Bael sharbat’ is prepared by mixing the fruit pulp with sugar, water and tamarind juice, which is very useful for stomach and intestinal disorders. The rind of the fruit is used for dyeing and tanning. The aromatic wood is used to make pestles in oil and sugar mills and also to make agricultural implements (Rajarajan, 1997).
Distribution: Bael tree is native to India and is found growing wild in Sub-Himalayan tracts from Jhelum eastwards to West Bengal, in central and south India. It is grown all over the country, especially in the premises of temples and houses.
Botany: Aegle marmelos (Linn.) Corr.ex Roxb. belongs to the citrus family Rutaceae. The golden coloured bael fruit resembles a golden apple and hence the generic name Aegle. The specific name marmelos is derived from marmelosin contained in the fruit (Nair, 1997). Aegle marmelos is a medium sized armed deciduous tree growing upto 8m in height with straight sharp axillary thorns and yellowish brown shallowly furrowed corky bark. Leaves are alternate, trifoliate and aromatic; leaflets ovate or ovate-lanceolate, crenate, pellucid- punctate, the laterals subsessile and the terminal long petioled. Flowers are greenish-white, sweet scented, borne on axillary panicles. Fruit is globose, woody berry with golden yellow rind when ripe. Seeds are numerous oblong, compressed and embedded in the orange brown sweet gummy pulp.
Agrotechnology: Bael comes up well in humid tropical and subtropical climate. It grows on a wide range of soils from sandy loam to clay loam. North Indian varieties are preferred to South Indian types for large scale cultivation. Twelve varieties are cultivated in North India for their fruits. Kacha, Ettawa, Seven Large, Mirsapuri and Deo Reo Large are varieties meant specially for ‘Sharbat’. The plant is propagated mainly by seeds and rarely by root cuttings. Seeds are freshly extracted from ripe fruits after removing the pulp and then dried in sun. Seeds are soaked in water for 6 hours and sown on seed beds which are covered with rotten straw and irrigated regularly. Seeds germinate within 15-20 days. One month old seedlings can be transplanted into polybags which can be planted in the field after 2 months. Budded or grafted plants as well as new saplings arising from injured roots can also be used for planting. Grafted plants start yielding from the 4th year while the trees raised from seeds bear fruits after 7-10 years. Planting is done in the main field with onset of monsoon in June-July at a spacing of 6-8m. Pits of size 50cm3 are dug. Pits are filled with a mixture of top soil and 10kg of well decomposed FYM and formed into a heap. Seedlings are transplanted in the middle of the heap and mulched. Chemical fertilisers are not usually applied. The dose of organic manure is increased every year till 50kg/tree of 5 years or more. Regular irrigation and weeding are required during early stages of growth. No serious pests and diseases are noted in the crop. Bael tree flowers during April. The flowers are aromatic with pleasant and heavenly odour. The fruits are set and slowly develop into mature fruits. Fruits are seen from October-March. A single tree bears 200-400 fruits each weighing 1-2 kg. Roots can be collected from mature trees of age 10 years or more. Tree is cut down about 1m from the ground. The underground roots are carefully dug out. Roots with the attached wood is then marketed (Rajarajan,1997).
Properties and activity: Bael is reported to contain a number of coumarins, alkaloids, sterols and essential oils. Roots and fruits contain coumarins such as scoparone, scopoletin, umbelliferone, marmesin and skimmin. Fruits, in addition, contain xanthotoxol, imperatorin and alloimperatorin and alkaloids like aegeline and marmeline identified as N-2-hydroxy-2- 4 – (3’,3’-dimethyl allyloxy) phenyl ethyl cinnamide. – sitosterol and its glycoside are also present in the fruits. Roots and stem barks contain a coumarin – aegelinol. Roots also contain psoralen, xanthotoxin, 6,7-dimethoxy coumarin, tembamide, mermin and skimmianine. Leaves contain the alkaloids – O-(3,3-dimethyl allyl)-halfordinol, N-2-ethoxy-2 (4-methoxy phenyl) ethyl cinnamide, N-2-methoxy-2-(4-3’,3’-dimethyl allyloxy) phenyl ethyl cinnamide, N- 2-4-(3’,3’-dimethyl allyloxy) phenyl ethyl cinnamide, N-2-hydroxy-2- 4-(3’,3’-dimethyl allyloxy) phenyl ethyl cinnamide, N-4-methoxy steryl cinnamide and N-2-hydroxy-2-(4- hydroxy phenyl) ethyl cinnamide. Mermesinin, rutin and -sitosterol – -D-glucoside are also present in the leaves (Husain et al, 1992).
Root, bark, leaves and fruits are hypoglycaemic, astringent and febrifuge. Root, stem and bark are antidiarrhoeal and antivenin. Leaf is antiinflammatory, expectorant, anticatarrhal, antiasthamatic, antiulcerous and ophthalmic. Flower is emetic. Unripe fruit is stomachic and demulcent. Ripe fruit is antigonorrhoeal, cardiotonic, restorative, laxative, antitubercular, antidysenteric and antiscorbutic. Seed is anthelmintic and antimicrobial (Warrier et al, 1993).