We have grown up drinking bael sharbats that not only taste good but also have a host of health benefits. Bael (Aegle marmelos, fam. Rutaceae), Sanskrit name bilvais an important tree in the Indian culture. It is a tree about which sages had a very deep knowledge and it is believed to be known to Indians since the time the Vedas were composed.
WHAT DO THE TEXTS SAY?
Sri BilvaShtakam (v. 6–7) and Shiv Purana (7 AD) have described the sacredness of bilva tree.The bael leaf is known as bilva patra in Sanskrit. Trifoliate shape of the bael leaf symbolises the three functions of creation, preservation and destruction, the three gunas of Rajas, Tamas and Sattva as well as Lord Shiv’s three eyes. The leaves are offered in prayers to Lord Shiva and Parvati and thus the tree is also known by the name Shivaduma (the tree of Shiva). According to shastras Goddess Lakshmi resides in bael leaves. It is therefore widely cultivated and commonly found in the vicinity of temples. In the Atharva Veda it is described as being so sacred that its wood may not be burned for fuel.
This mystical tree has a reputation for being able to grow in places that other trees cannot. It copes with a wide range of soil conditions (pH range 5 to 10), is tolerant to water logging and has an unusually wide temperature tolerance (from -7°C to 48°C). It requires a pronounced dry season to give fruit. All parts such as ripe, half-ripe and unripe fruits, leaves, bark, roots, seeds and hard wood of tree have medicinal uses.
GOOD FOR HEALTH
Unripe fruit is used for making the powder, half ripe fruit and ripe fruits are used for making the morabba and sharbat. Ayurvedic dasmool and kwath are prepared from the skin of the roots. Consumption of bael fruit and leaves is known for maintaining a healthy digestive tract. Bael fruit is usually used for conditions associated with the abdominal region and illnesses of gastrointestinal system (GIT). Bael leaves also have some soothing effects on bowel and reduce the unnecessary movement of the intestine. According to ayurveda bael leaves juice has anti-dysentery, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-pyretic, anti-diabetic and anti-asthmatic properties. The bael leaves are astringent and act as a digestive when dried, or laxative and febrifuge when fresh; they are useful in opthalmia, deafness, catarrh, weakness of heart and inflammations.
According to modern science, bael is a good source of natural anti-oxidants and bioactive compounds. Detail phytochemical studies on various parts of tree have been done and more than 100 compounds have been isolated. Some of them have been reported biologically active against various diseases such as anthelmintic, antihyperlipidemic, anti-neoplasic effects as well as anti-hyperlipidic, thyroid-inhibiting, antibacterial, antifungal and nitric oxide scavenging activities. Bael is also known to have the and cancer activity against breast and ovarian cancer.
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