Wood apple, with other names being Aegle marmelos, bilva or bel, is a very common tree that is found throughout our country. This tree is native to India. The Yajur Veda makes a reference to the bel fruit. Almost all the ancient Ayurvedic treatises like Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita etc., recognized its medicinal potential. Hindus worship the wood apple tree before they attempt any new venture as it is considered to be a tree auspicious to Lord Shiva and Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth. It is believed that success in the venture will be assured by doing so. It is one of the important items in the Ganesh pooja.
It is thorny tree with edible ripe fruits. Leaves are trifoliate (arranged in a set of three). Flowers are greenish-white, sweet-scented and in small bunches. Fruit looks large and round with greenish-grey woody shell. Pulp inside is orange in color, aromatic and with many seeds covered with fibrous hairs. It grows wild throughout the low hills. The fruits of the wild trees are, however, considerably smaller than those-of the cultivated types grown in the plains. People usually eat the fruits. These protein-rich fruits are also used in making a very good drink. They can also make a good jam. The fruits are also used in making paints in Burma. They are also used as a substitute for soap, as source of essential oils and perfumes.
The mucilage of the seed is a good cementing material. The wood of the bel tree takes a fine polish and is used in building houses, constructing carts, agricultural implements, in oil-mills and sugar-mills, in making pestles, handles of tools, in making combs, etc., and for carving, but the tree is too valuable to be felled for its timber. A yellow dye is obtained from the rind of the unripe fruits and is used in calico-printing. An essential oil is distilled from the rind. The dried fruits, after their pulp separated from the rind, are used as pill-boxes for keeping valuable medicines, sacred ashes and snuff.
It acts as a potent anthelmintic, hypoglycaemic, cardiac stimulant, antidiarrhoeal and antiviral agent. Its bark and roots, leaves, unripe and ripe fruits are used for various medicinal purposes. In experimental studies, wood-apple tree was found to possess significant antihookworm property. The alcoholic extract of fruit exhibited antidiarrhoeal property. The water extract of leaves and fruits exhibited reduction of blood sugar levels in experimental animals. It takes part as one of the ingredients in the preparation of Ayurvedic medicines such as: Bilva taila, Dasamoolaarishta, Gangaadhara choorna, Amritaarishta, Mahaanaaraayana taila, Chyawana praasa, Pushyaarvuga choorna.
Its bark and roots, leaves, unripe and ripe fruits are used for various medicinal purposes.
• Diarrhea: Soak the fruit in fresh water for a couple of hours; mash, and drink along with the pulp. Alternately, steam both wood apple fruits and jujube fruits, and take along with jaggery and ghee.
• Dysentery (bloody stools): Take tender fruits of bel tree together with liquid jaggery, honey, and oil. The dietary preparation made of tender wood apple fruits, equal quantity of sesame paste, supernatant layer of curd and little quantity of ghee checks dysentery.
• Vomiting and diarrhea: Drink half cup of the decoction made of bilva and mango seeds, along with honey and sugar. Dried ginger powder (sonth) can also be used instead of mango seeds.
• Jaundice: Juice the tender leaves of wood apple, add trikatu powder (combination of dried ginger, black pepper and long pepper) and drink. (Charaka Samhita)
• Inflammatory bowel disease: Eat the pulp of tender fruit with sonth (dried ginger powder) and jaggery. Remember to stay on bland diet and butter milk.
• Bleeding piles: Eat tender fruits of wood apple on regular basis.
• Edema (swelling): Juice the tender leaves of wood-apple, add trikatu powder (combination of dried ginger, black pepper and long pepper) and drink.
• Body odor in obesity: Juice the tender leaves of wood apple and take them with honey. Alternately, fruit pulp of wood apple and Chebulic myrobalan (harad), in equal quantities can be used for similar purpose.
• Appetite loss: A sweet preparation made of tender wood apple, cardamom, sugar and parched paddy can be used.
• Skin pigmentation: Pound fist full of coriander seeds and leaves of wood apple and apply on skin patches.
Excess intake of wood apple pulp produces flaccidity of the intestines causing flatulence and a sensation of heaviness. Wood apple pulp should be chewed thoroughly and it should not be gulped down. If taken hurriedly, it may cause a sensation of heaviness and dryness.