Bael (Aegle Marmelos) is indigenous to India and has been in use since 5000 years. It is an Indian medicinal plant with the presence of various bioactive compounds that protects and fights against various diseases. Bael fruit, leaves, roots, bark and seeds are used as a folk medicine in Ayurveda for the treatment of various ailments. Besides having medicinal properties, bael (Bel or Bilva) fruit is widely used for the preparation of puddings, juices and Murabba (Bel Murabba). Bael is a gut-friendly fruit and is extensively used in the treatment of various gut problems such as diarrhea, dysentery, peptic ulcer. It also works as a mild laxative. In addition to this, bael fruit possesses various other therapeutic effects such as anti-diabetic, heart-protective, gut-protective, anti-diarrheal, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, liver-protective, antioxidants, inhibition of degradation of lipids, and scavenges free radicals.
Health Benefits of Bael
Bael and its other plant parts are a very significant source of traditional medicine. They have been in use in Ayurveda since a very long time. They strengthen the immune system and fight a variety of infections, diseases and disorders. The presence of various antioxidants, nutrients, phytochemicals, phenolic compounds and flavonoids in bael makes it very healthy. Many studies have observed that bael works similar to drugs and does not cause any side effects. Let’s have a look at nutrient composition of bael (Aegle Marmelos).
Nutrients in Bael
Bael fruit is a good source of many important minerals, which are essential for human health. Studies have reported that bael fruit contains high amount of potassium and low amount of sodium and thus, it is beneficial for individuals with hypertension. Calcium is the second highest mineral present in bael fruit that is necessary for strong bones, teeth and for nerve impulse transmission. Besides this, other minerals present were iron, copper, zinc and manganese. It is also a decent source of vitamins such as vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin) and vitamin C. The presence of so many nutrients makes it extremely healthy for human consumption.
Rich in Antioxidants
Research has shown that antioxidants present in bael inactivates the free radicals or makes them less reactive and thus guards against reactive oxygen species. Health-promoting compounds present in bael include STEROIDS, TERPENOIDS, FLAVONOIDS, PHENOLIC COMPOUNDS, TANNINS, ALKALOIDS and SAPONINS. Out of all these, tannins have a very strong free radical scavenging property and act as a primary antioxidant. The antioxidative characteristics of bael fruit is attributed to the presence of phenolic compounds and phytochemicals such as flavonoids. These flavonoids are responsible for radical scavenging activity of bael. In addition to this, the reducing capacity of a compound is an important indicator of its potential antioxidant activity.
Studies have reported that the reducing power of bael extract was high and it further increased with an increase in the concentration of the extract. Superoxide anion is harmful reactive oxygen species that causes severe damage to the cells. It was found that bael extract had a great ability to scavenge superoxide anion and protect the cells against damage. In simple words, bael fruit pulp is a great source of antioxidant and it can successfully combat oxidative stress.
Abundant in Phytochemicals
It is very well known that bael fruit and its other plant parts are highly valued for its medicinal properties. Bael is used for the treatment of various diseases and disorders due to the presence of phytochemicals in it. More than 100 phytochemical compounds have been isolated from different parts of bael plant. Some of them include-
- CARDIAC GLYCOSIDES
These compounds possess pharmacological (medicine-like) and biological effects against various chronic diseases such as
- Gastrointestinal disorders (gut-related)
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus
- High cholesterol levels
- Peptic ulcers
- Cardiovascular diseases
Bael possesses various pharmacologic properties and plays an important role in the treatment of various diseases. Besides providing a sweet taste, it also protects the body and improves overall health. Here are some amazing therapeutic advantages of bael:
Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
Since many years, Bael fruit is widely used in Indian ayurvedic medicine for the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Treatment with bael fruit extract has significantly shown to reduce high plasma glucose level, urine glucose level and oxidative stress. Oxidative stress causes damage to the pancreatic beta cell (producer of insulin) and thus, leads to hyperglycemia or high plasma glucose level. Research has shown that bael fruit reduces the load of free radicals and increases the plasma level of antioxidants. A significant elevation was observed in reduced glutathione and vitamin C levels. It is very well known that reduced glutathione and vitamin C are potent antioxidants that scavenges the free radicals and combats oxidative stress. High dosage of bael fruit extract was even more effective than anti-diabetic drug. Therefore, it can be said that bael fruit possesses hypoglycemic properties and it can be included safely in a diabetic diet.
High Cholesterol & Triglyceride Levels
Bael fruit has hypolipidemic activity. Studies have shown that it significantly inhibits elevation in serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Furthermore, it was found that bael fruit even increased the level of HDL- high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (good and healthy cholesterol). Such a rise in HDL cholesterol protects the heart and keeps cardiovascular diseases at bay. Bael leaf extract has also shown to have lipid-lowering property. It suppresses the production of cholesterol, increases its excretion, thus lowering the level of LDL- low I density lipoprotein cholesterol (bad and unhealthy), and total cholesterol. It also increases the transport of cholesterol from tissues to the liver and this in turn slows down the accumulation of lipids in artery wall and reduces the risk of heart diseases. It regulates lipid metabolism and increases the breakdown of fat.
Research has shown that bael fruit is used as herbal drug and it plays a vital role in the treatment of aspirin-induced gastric ulcers. This is possible due to presence of antioxidants in it. It is found that bael fruit extract increases the protective factors and reduces the aggressive factors that cause ulcers. It elevates the activity of antioxidants such as GLUTATHIONE, CATALASE and SUPEROXIDE DISMUTASE in the stomach and duodenum (part of small intestine) tissues. Such an increase in antioxidants makes the inner lining of stomach and duodenum resistant to harmful actions of irritants. During gastric ulcer, the activity of these antioxidants decreases drastically. Therefore, it becomes essential to consume antioxidant-rich fruit such as bael to restore the action of antioxidants. Furthermore, phenolic compounds present in bael also possess anti-ulcer activities by scavenging free radicals. A decrease in oxidative stress increases the supply of blood, nutrients and oxygen to stomach tissues and thus restores the lost nutrition.
Scientific studies have thrown some light up on anti-diarrheal effect of unripe bael fruits. It has been reported that bael fruit plays a protective role against infectious forms of diarrhea. Bael fruit extract reduced the adherence of bacteria and inhibited the activity of rotavirus and giardia (pathogens that cause stomach infection and diarrhea). Furthermore, it also lowers the colonization of bacteria to inner lining of gut and limits the production of toxins. Thus, bael fruit can be used in the treatment of chronic diarrhea.
It is found that bael leaves have excellent liver-protective effect. Liver diseases are usually caused due to over exposure to toxins or due to infections. Research has showed that bael has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and anti-viral properties that protect the liver against infections and injury. Toxic agents cause damage to the liver cells, which in turn leads to injury and elevates the level of liver enzymes in the bloodstream. Furthermore, formation of reactive oxygen species and oxidative stress plays an important role in the development of alcoholic liver disease and causes damage to the liver. Bael increased the level of antioxidants in the bloodstream such as glutathione and superoxide dismutase and inhibited the action of toxic agents. It further restored the normal structure and function of liver cells. Treatment with bael extract reduces the level of elevated liver enzymes, which is an important indicator of restoring normal liver function.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease is an intestinal inflammatory disorder and herbal remedies play a wide role in the treatment of such disorders. Bael is a gut-friendly fruit and it is very well known for its anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and antioxidant properties. Research has shown that treatment with bael extract reduces the severity of intestinal inflammation. Such an effect is seen due to the inhibition of inflammatory markers such as IL1, IL6, IL8, and TNF-α. The anti-inflammatory effect may even be possible due to the presence of phytochemical constituents such as phenolic compounds, steroids and flavonoids.
In addition to this, bael extract also increased the antioxidant activity of superoxide dismutase. Such an increase is attributed to the presence of antioxidants such as carotenoids, vitamin C, thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2) and niacin (vitamin B3). These antioxidants further protected the inner intestinal lining against damage and inflammation. Furthermore, the effect of bael fruit extract on inflammatory bowel disease was similar to that of PREDNISOLONE (a drug used in the treatment of inflammatory conditions).
Diuretic is a drug that increases the output of urine. This drug is usually given to individuals with increased water retention. Research has found that roots and leaves of bael have natural diuretic activity and it increases the passage of urine. Scientific studies have found that treatment with bael leaves and roots enhanced urine volume and increased the excretion of electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. They work by decreasing the re-absorption of sodium and fluid in the body. Studies even found that diuretic activity of bael roots was higher than that of leaves. Such an activity of bael makes it important in the treatment of congestive heart failure, kidney failure and high blood pressure where water retention is common.
Research has found that bael fruit is effective in lowering the systolic blood pressure. Such an effect is attributed to the presence of potassium that causes widening of the blood vessels and ensures smooth blood flow. Furthermore, it was reported that bael fruit has low sodium content and thus, it keeps constriction of blood vessels at bay. Its high antioxidant content reduces oxidative stress in kidney and blood vessels and thus helps in keeping the blood pressure within normal range. In addition to this, studies have found no side effects when treated with bael fruit.
Research has showed that bael fruit extract stimulates the immune mechanisms and strengthens the immune system. Treatment with bael fruit extract stimulates the immune cells and antibodies, which in turn fight against infections. Such an effect keeps infectious diseases and disorders at bay.
Different ways to consume bael
- Dried pulp (without the seeds) or its powder is a great remedy for diarrhea and dysentery
- Grind 5 grams of bael leaves and mix it with one teaspoon of honey- a great treatment for asthma
- Make bael juice at home by grinding equal amount of bael leaf, pulp, roots and rind. Add two teaspoons of honey to this juice and mix well. This juice hastens the process of wound healing.
- People with hypertension or high blood pressure should consume bael leaves early in the morning or you can even extract bael leaf juice, add honey, mix well and drink it every day early in the morning.
- Consuming one teaspoon of raw bael fruit pulp twice a day helps to stop vomiting during pregnancy.
- To improve your concentration, consume a mixture of ripe bael fruit with unsalted butter or white butter and sugar.
- Dried and powdered pulp of bael fruit when taken with cow’s milk helps in the treatment of anemia.
- Non-diabetic patients can also eat Bel (Bael) Murabba.
Bael fruit recipes
- Enjoy the flesh of ripe bael fruit
- Make your own refreshing bael fruit milkshake
- You can also make bael fruit smoothie
- Bael fruit can even be added to ice-creams
- You can also prepare bael squash at home
- Bael juice is a refreshing beverage
- You can even make your own bael Murabba
- Make a hot cup of bael fruit tea
- Replace your traditional chutneys with some tasty bael fruit chutney
- Bael fruit can be combined with other fruits to make healthy fruit salad
Plant Description, History & Origin
Bael fruit tree is a moderate-sized tree that belongs to the family Rutaceae. It is a slender, aromatic tree, which is 6 to 7.5 meters tall. Bael is native to India and is in use since the Vedic period. In India, bael fruit tree is often considered as a sacred tree and its leaves are offered to God. It is very popular in India and is found in sub-Himalayan region, West Bengal, central and South India, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
The outer covering (peel/ skin) of bael fruit is a very hard shell and is green to brown in color depending on the stage of maturity or ripening. Unripe bael fruit is grey-green in color but as the fruit ripens the color changes to beautiful golden yellow. Bael fruit is round, oval or oblong in shape and it has a diameter of 15 to 20 centimeter. The color of the inner pulp is orange. It has a slightly sweet taste, pleasant flavor and is somewhat similar to cooked pumpkin. Bael fruit has a hard inner core with triangular segments and dark orange walls. 10 to 15 seeds are embedded in the pulp. It grows best on rich, well-drained soil. Besides this, it also grows well on alkaline or stony soil, which has pH ranging from 5 to 8. It grows very well in summer and its growth declines during winter.