Aegle marmelos

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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: Aurantieae
Subtribe: Balsamocitrinae
Genus: Aegle
Species: A. marmelos
Binomial name
Aegle marmelos
(L.) Corrêa[2]
  • Belou marmelos (L.) A.Lyons
  • Crateva marmelos L.

Aegle marmelos, commonly known as bael (or bili[3] or bhel[4]), also Bengal quince,[2] golden apple,[2] Japanese bitter orange,[5] stone apple[6][7] or wood apple,[5] is a species of tree native to India, Nepal, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Myanmar.[2] It is present in Sri Lanka, Thailand and Malesia as a naturalized species.[2][8] 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] The common name "wood apple" may also refer to Limonia acidissima.

Botanical information

Phylogeny and anatomy

Bili tree

Bael is the only member of the monotypic genus Aegle.[8] It is a deciduous shrub or small to medium-sized tree, up to 13m tall with slender drooping branches and rather shabby crown.[9]


The bark is pale brown or grayish, smooth or finely fissured and flaking, armed with long straight spines, 1.2-2.5 cm singly or in pairs, often with slimy sap oozing out from cut parts. The gum is also described as a clear, gummy sap, resembling gum arabic, which exudes from wounded branches and hangs down in long strands, becoming gradually solid. It is sweet at first taste and then irritating to the throat.[7]


The leaf is trifoliate, alternate, each leaflet 5-14 x 2–6 cm, ovate with tapering or pointed tip and rounded base, untoothed or with shallow rounded teeth. Young leaves are pale green or pinkish, finely hairy while mature leaves are dark green and completely smooth. Each leaf has 4-12 pairs of side veins which are joined at margin. The end leaflet features a long stalk, 0.5–3 cm while side stalks are typically shorter than 0.2 cm.[citation needed]


The flowers are 1.5 to 2 cm, pale green or yellowish, sweetly scented, bisexual, in short drooping unbranched clusters at the end of twigs and leaf axils. They usually appear with young leaves. The calyx is flat with 4(5) small teeth. The four or five petals of 6–8 mm overlap in the bud. Many stamens have short filaments and pale brown, short style anthers. The ovary is bright green with inconspicuous disc.


A ripe bael fruit in India
Bael fruit

The bael fruit typically has a diameter of between 5 and 12 cm. It is globose or slightly pear-shaped with a thick, hard rind and does not split upon ripening. The woody shell is smooth and green, gray until it is fully ripe when it turns yellow. Inside are 8 to 15 or 20 sections filled with aromatic orange pulp, each section with 6 (8) to 10 (15) flattened-oblong seeds each about 1 cm long, bearing woolly hairs and each enclosed in a sac of adhesive, transparent mucilage that solidifies on drying. The exact number of seeds varies in different publications.

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

Range and ecology

Bael is a native of India, Nepal, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Myanmar. It is cultivated in Sri Lanka, Thailand and Malesia.[2] It is widely found in Indian Siva temples.[citation needed] It occurs in dry, open forests on hills and plains.[citation needed] at altitudes from sea level to around 1200m with mean annual rainfall of 570-2,000 mm.[7] 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.

Aegle marmelos plant

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

The fruits can be eaten either freshly from trees or after being dried. 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), a very popular summer drink in almost every household. The Drink is especially significant on the Odiya New Year (Pana Sankranti) which is in April. Bela Pana made in Odisha has fresh cheese, milk, water, fruit pulp, sugar, crushed black pepper, and ice. Bæl pana (Bengali: বেল পানা), a drink made of the pulp with water, sugar, and citron juice, mixed, left to stand a few hours, strained, and put on ice. One large bæl 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.

Chemical compounds

The bael tree contains furocoumarins, including xanthotoxol and the methyl ester of alloimperatorin, as well as flavonoids, rutin and marmesin; a number of essential oils; and, among its alkaloids, á-fargarine(=allocryptopine), O-isopentenylhalfordinol, O-methylhafordinol.[11]


Aeglemarmelosine, molecular formula C16H15NO2 [α]27D+7.89° (c 0.20, CHCl3), has been isolated as an orange viscous oil.[12]

Aegeline and nonviral hepatitis

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.[13][14][15][16] 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.[17] 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.[18] USPlabs subsequently reformulated this product and another product called VERSA-1 by replacing DMAA with aegeline, without informing FDA or submitting the required safety data for a new dietary ingredient.[18]

Doctors at the Liver Center at The Queen's Medical Center investigating the first cases in Hawai'i reported that between May and September 2013, eight previously healthy individuals presented themselves at their center suffering with drug-induced liver injury.[19] All of these patients had been using the reformulated OxyELITE Pro, which they had purchased from a variety of sources, and which had different lot numbers and expiration dates, at doses within the manufacturer's recommendation.[19] Three of these patients developed fulminant liver failure, two underwent urgent liver transplantation, and one died.[19] The number of such cases would ultimately rise to 43 in Hawai'i.[18][19] In January 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.[20]

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.[21] 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.[21] 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.[21] 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.[21] The research on this topic is still not conclusive though as traditional medicine sciences suggest that its alleviates High blood pressure and helps in improving heart conditions. More research is still being done.

Religious significance

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.[22][23] The tree is in fact regarded as one of the sacred trees of Indian heritage.[24] 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

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.[25]


  1. ^ "genus Aegle". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) online database. Retrieved 20 June 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Aegle marmelos". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 20 June 2017. 
  3. ^ "FOI search results". Retrieved 20 January 2016. 
  4. ^ Wilder, G.P. (1907), Fruits of the Hawaiian Islands, Hawaiian Gazette, ISBN 9781465583093 
  5. ^ a b "M.M.P.N.D. - Sorting Aegle names". Retrieved 20 January 2016. 
  6. ^ "Bael: Aegle marmelos (L.) Correa". Philippine Medicinal Plants. 
  7. ^ a b c Orwa, C (2009). "Aegle marmelos" (PDF). Agroforestree Database:a tree reference and selection guide version 4.0. Archived (PDF) from the original on 9 May 2016. 
  8. ^ a b "Bael". Retrieved 20 January 2016. 
  9. ^ Gardner, Simon (2007). Field guide to forest trees of Northern Thailand. Bangkok: Kobfai Publishing Project. p. 102. ISBN 978-974-8367-29-3. 
  10. ^ Boning, Charles (2006). Florida's Best Fruiting Plants: Native and Exotic Trees, Shrubs, and Vines. Sarasota, Florida: Pineapple Press, Inc. p. 35. 
  11. ^ Rasadah Mat Ali; Zainon Abu Samah; Nik Musaadah Mustapha; Norhara Hussein (2010). ASEAN Herbal and Medicinal Plants (PDF). Jakarta, Indonesia: Association of Southeast Asian Nations. p. 43. ISBN 978-979-3496-92-4. Archived (PDF) from the original on 12 June 2017. 
  12. ^ Laphookhieo, Surat (2011). "Chemical constituents from Aegle marmelos". J. Braz. Chem. Soc. [online]. 22: 176–178. 
  13. ^ Riyanto, S; Sukari MA; Rahmani M; et al. (2001). "Alkaloids from Aegle marmelos (Rutacea).". Malaysian J Anal Sci. 7. 2: 463–465. 
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ Govindachari, TR; Premila MS (1983). "Some alkaloids from Aegle marmelos.". Phytochem. 22. 3: 755–757. 
  16. ^ Sharma, BR; Rattan RK; Sharma P (1981). "Marmeline, an alkaloid, and other components of unripe fruits of Aegle marmelos". Phytochem. 20. 11: 2606–2607. 
  17. ^ "FDA Investigation Summary: Acute Hepatitis Illnesses Linked to Certain OxyElite Pro Products". US Food and Drug Administration. July 30, 2014. Retrieved 19 November 2015. 
  18. ^ a b c "OxyElite Pro Supplements Recalled". US Food and Drug Administration. November 18, 2013. Retrieved 19 November 2015. 
  19. ^ 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. PMID 25091255. doi:10.1038/ajg.2014.159. 
  20. ^ Daysong, Rick (January 28, 2014). "EXCLUSIVE: Months after recall, new OxyElite Pro illnesses reported". Hawaii News Now. Retrieved 19 November 2015. 
  21. ^ 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. 
  22. ^ Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam, ed. India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 79. 
  23. ^ Wilkins, W.J. (2003). Hindu Mythology. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld (P) Limited. p. 470. ISBN 81-246-0234-4. 
  24. ^ "Bilva (Aegle marmelos)". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 20 January 2016. 
  25. ^ 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

H.K.Bakhru (1997). Foods that Heal. The Natural Way to Good Health. Orient Paperbacks. ISBN 81-222-0033-8. 

External links

  • Wikisource-logo.svg Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bael Fruit". Encyclopædia Britannica. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  • Picture Gallery of dried bael fruits
  • Caldecott, Todd (2006). Ayurveda: The Divine Science of Life. Elsevier/Mosby. ISBN 0-7234-3410-7.  Contains a detailed monograph on Aegle marmelos (Bilwa) as well as a discussion of health benefits and usage in clinical practice.
  • God shiva Bel patra leaves (Scripture reference)
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