Botanical name: Aegle marmelos Family: Rutaceae (Lemon family)
Synonyms: Crateva marmelos, Aegle marmelos var. mahurensis
Bel is a fruit-bearing tree which is cultivated throughout India, as well as in Sri Lanka, northern Malaya, Java and in the Philippines. The tree, grows up to 15 meters tall and bears thorns and fragrant flowers. Leaves are alternate, pale green, trifoliate; terminal leaflet, 5.7 cm long, 2.8 cm broad, having a long petiole; the two lateral leaflets, almost stalkless, 4.1 cm long, 2.2 cm wide, ovate to lanceolate, leaf-stallk 3.2 cm long. Flowers are greenish white, sweetly scented, bisexual, stalked; stalk 8 mm long; diameter of a fully open flower is 3 cm. Flowers are borne in lateral panicles of about 10 flowers, in leaf axils. The fruit is woody-skinned, 5-15 cm in diameter. The skin of some forms of the fruit is so hard it must be cracked open with a hammer. It has numerous seeds, which are densely covered with fibrous hairs and are embedded in a thick, gluey, aromatic pulp. The fruit is eaten fresh or dried. The juice is strained and sweetened to make a drink.
Medicinal uses: All parts of the bael plant consist of immense medicinal properties. The herbal medicinal preparations of bael are used to treat chronic diarrhea, dysentery, peptic ulcers, laxative for astringency, and respiratory ailment.
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