Aegle marmelos

This article is about the bael tree. For the Biblical demon, see Baal (demon). For the professional wrestler, see Bael (wrestler).
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Sapindales
Family: Rutaceae
Subfamily: Aurantioideae
Tribe: Aurantieae
Genus: Aegle
Species: A. marmelos
Binomial name
Aegle marmelos
(L.) Corrêa

Aegle marmelos, commonly known as bael (or bili[1] or bhel[2]), also Bengal quince,[3] golden apple,[3] Japanese bitter orange,[4] stone apple, or wood apple, is a species of tree native to Bangladesh and India. It is present throughout Southeast Asia as a naturalized species.[5] The tree is considered to be sacred by Hindus. Its fruits are used in traditional medicine and as a food throughout its range.

Vernacular names

The tree is called "bael" (বেল) in Bengali, "belpatthar ka paid" और "बेल पत्र का पेड़"in Hindi "ಬಿಲ್ಪತ್ರೆ ಮರ" and the religious tree "ಬಿಲ್ವ" or "ಬಿಲ್ಪತ್ರೆ" in Kannada, "vilvamaram" (வில்வமரம்) in Tamil, "beli" (බෙලි) in Sinhala. The fruits are known as ಬೇಲದ ಹಣ್ಣು (edible variety), ಬಿಲ್ವ (sacred variety) in Kannada, "bela" (ବେଲ) in Odia, and bilva and maredu (మారేడు) in Telugu. Billu (બિલ્લુ ) in Gujarati. It is called Sivadruma by the Hindus and is considered as a sacred herb.

Botanical information

Phylogeny and anatomy

Bili tree

Bael is the only member of the monotypic genus Aegle.[5] It is a mid-sized, slender, aromatic, armed, gum-bearing tree growing up to 18 meters tall. It has a leaf with three leaflets.


A ripe bael fruit in India
Bael fruit

The bael fruit has a smooth, woody shell with a green, gray, or yellow peel. 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."[6] Numerous hairy seeds are encapsulated in a slimy mucilage.

Range and ecology

Bael is a native of India and is found widely in Asia, in northern, central, eastern and southern parts of India, as well as in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, southern Nepal, Sri Lanka, Burma, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. It is widely found in Indian Siva temples. It occurs in dry forests on hills and plains. It is cultivated throughout India, as well as in Sri Lanka, the northern Malay Peninsula, Java, Timor Leste, the Philippines, and Fiji. 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.

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, ice or 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.

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.[7][8][9][10] 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.[11] 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.[12] 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.[12]

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.[13] 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.[13] Three of these patients developed fulminant liver failure, two underwent urgent liver transplantation, and one died.[13] The number of such cases would ultimately rise to 43 in Hawai'i.[12][13] 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.[14]

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.[15] 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.[15] 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.[15] 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.[15]

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.[16][17] The tree is in fact regarded as one of the sacred trees of Indian heritage.[18] As such, the fruit is used in religious rituals. For instance, in Hinduism the tree is sacred, and many Hindus have bael trees in their gardens. 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. 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). However, it is quite likely that this term was coined from the Sanskrit term "ShreePhala", which is a common name for this fruit. The Shree Suktam of the RigVeda refers to it as being the tree associated with Lakshmi, which could also be the reason why it is called 'ShreePhala'. The RigVeda states:

... tava vrikshotha bilvah / tasya phalaani tapasaa nudantu maayaantraayaashcha baahyaa alakshmih. [... and your tree is bilva / may the fruits of that do away with poverty in me, spiritual and material, both within and without.]

The hymn is in praise of Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, beauty and all things auspicious.

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.[19]

Local names

  • South-East Asia
    • Burmese: ဥ သွ ် စ္‌ သီး /ou' shi'/ or /oʊʔ ʃiʔ/
    • Indonesian: Maja
    • Khmer: ព្នៅ /pnɨv/
    • Lao: ໝາກຕູມ IPA: [ma᷆ːk.tùːm]
    • Malay: pokok maja batu (tree)
    • Thai: มะตูม: rtgs: matum, IPA: [ma.tūːm] (tree: ต้นมะตูม IPA: [tôūːm]; fruit ลูกมะตูม IPA: [lûːūːm] )
    • Tetum (Timor Leste): Aidila tuku/Aidila fatuk
  • South Asia
    • Assamese: বেল
    • Bengali: বেল (Bell)
    • Bhojpuri: बेल (Bel), सिलफर (Silphar)
    • Hindi: बेल (Bel)
    • Gujarati: બીલી
    • Nepali: बेल: (Bel or Wood Apple)
    • Kannada: ಬೇಲದ ಹಣ್ಣು ('belada hannu', edible variety)
    • Kannada: ಬಿಲ್ವಪತ್ರೆ ಮರ ('bilvapatre mara', the sacred variety tree)
    • Konkani: gorakamli
    • Malayalam: കൂവളം (koo-valam)
    • Marathi: बेल (Bel)
    • Odia: Baela ବେଲ
    • Punjabi: ਬਿਲ (Bil)
    • Sanskrit : बिल्व (Bilva), Shreephala, shaandilya, shailoosha, maaloora
    • Sindhi: ڪاٺ گدرو
    • Sinhalese: බෙලි (Beli)
    • Tamil: வில்வம் (Vilvam)
    • Telugu: మారేడు (maredu)
    • Sir Phal (old Hindi)
    • Urdu: (Bael)بیل, (Sirphal) سری پھل


  1. "FOI search results". Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  2. Wilder, G.P. (1907), Fruits of the Hawaiian Islands, Hawaiian Gazette, ISBN 9781465583093
  3. 1 2 "Taxonomy - GRIN-Global Web v". Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  4. "M.M.P.N.D. - Sorting Aegle names". Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  5. 1 2 "Bael". Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  6. Boning, Charles (2006). Florida's Best Fruiting Plants: Native and Exotic Trees, Shrubs, and Vines. Sarasota, Florida: Pineapple Press, Inc. p. 35.
  7. Riyanto, S; Sukari MA; Rahmani M; et al. (2001). "Alkaloids from Aegle marmelos (Rutacea).". Malaysian J Anal Sci. 7. 2: 463–465.
  8. 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.
  9. Govindachari, TR; Premila MS (1983). "Some alkaloids from Aegle marmelos.". Phytochem. 22. 3: 755–757.
  10. Sharma, BR; Rattan RK; Sharma P (1981). "Marmeline, an alkaloid, and other components of unripe fruits of Aegle marmelos". Phytochem. 20. 11: 2606–2607.
  11. "FDA Investigation Summary: Acute Hepatitis Illnesses Linked to Certain OxyElite Pro Products". US Food and Drug Administration. July 30, 2014. Retrieved 19 November 2015.
  12. 1 2 3 "OxyElite Pro Supplements Recalled". US Food and Drug Administration. November 18, 2013. Retrieved 19 November 2015.
  13. 1 2 3 4 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. doi:10.1038/ajg.2014.159. PMID 25091255.
  14. Daysong, Rick (January 28, 2014). "EXCLUSIVE: Months after recall, new OxyElite Pro illnesses reported". Hawaii News Now. Retrieved 19 November 2015.
  15. 1 2 3 4 "FDA takes action to protect consumers from potentially dangerous dietary supplements". US Food and Drug Administration. November 17, 2015. Retrieved 19 November 2015.
  16. Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam, ed. India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 79.
  17. Wilkins, W.J. (2003). Hindu Mythology. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld (P) Limited. p. 470. ISBN 81-246-0234-4.
  18. "Bilva (Aegle marmelos)". Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  19. 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

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