Belae Fructus.—Bael Fruit.
The unripe or half-ripe fruit of Aegle Marmelos, Correa.
COMMON NAMES: Bèl, Bael fruit, Indian quince, Indian bael, Bengal quince.
Botanical Source.—A large, erect, thorny tree, with a few spreading branches. The leaves are ternate, with crenulate, lance-oblong leaflets, which are dotted to some extent. The terminal leaflet is the largest. The flowers are borne in both small, axillary and terminal panicles, and are quite large and of a white color. The fruit is a hard-shelled, subglobular berry.
History.—This tree abounds in Farther India and Hindustan. It is regarded as a sacred tree by the Hindus, who cultivate it largely in their gardens, and employ the leaves in enormous quantities in Siva worship. Sanskrit poems allude to it as an emblem of fruitfulness and increase, and to destroy it is sacrilege (Dymock). Several parts of the plant are used by the natives, but in England only the partially-ripe fruit is employed. It is official in both the Pharmacopoeia of India and the British Pharmacopoeia. From the ripe fruit a kind of thick sherbet is prepared, which, in India, is much esteemed as a laxative. Bael fruit, or Indian quince, is known in Indian vernacular as bèl, bhel, and bela. The fruit resembles the orange in appearance, has a delicious flavor and pleasant odor when ripe. The thick rind of the unripe fruit is astringent, and is used in India for dysentery, diarrhoea, and other bowel complaints. A yellow dye is prepared from the rind when the fruit is ripe.
Description.—The fruit, which has a hard, ligneous, almost smooth rind, is about the size of an orange, and is subglobular in shape. It is divided into from 10 to 15 cells, containing from 5 to 10 wooly seeds, immersed in a tenacious, transparent mucus. In commerce it appears as dried slices, more or less twisted, or in dried fragments of the pulp and seeds, with portions of the rind adherent. The rind is hard, nearly smooth, light-brown or gray in color; the pulp is brittle, yet firm, externally orange-brown or bright red, but on fracture exhibits a nearly colorless interior. It is without odor, and to the taste is mucilaginous, slightly astringent, and scarcely acid. When fresh, however, the fruit has a pleasant flavor, and the rind is aromatic.
Mangosteen, the fruit of Garcinia Mangostana, has been substituted in England as an adulterant.
Chemical Composition.—Bael fruit yields its properties to water, either by decoction or maceration. The chemical properties of this substance do not seem to be definitely understood. The pulp yields mucilage and pectin to cold water. Pollock reports tannin in the fruit, and according to Collas about 5 per cent of tannin may be obtained from the ripe fruit. Prof. Flückiger, however, states that neither the higher nor lower salts of iron show any appreciable amount of tannin in the infusion of the fruit. Warden, on the contrary, observes that when both the unripe and ripe fruits are moistened with ferric chloride solution a marked reaction takes place, showing the presence of tannic acid in considerable quantity. This change was most noticeable in the pulpy portions nearest the rind. He also found that acid properties were possessed by the mucilage around the seeds, and that the same also contained calcium (Dymock).
Medical Properties and Uses.—In Malabar the root, bark, and leaves of this plant have refrigerant properties attributed to them, and are considered of great value in hypochondria, melancholia, palpitation of the heart, and in asthma. The ripe fruit is very agreeable to the taste, and is used for the removal of habitual constipation. A fluid extract of the rind of the unripe fruit may be given in diarrhoea and in dysentery in doses of from 30 minims to 2 fluid drachms every 2 or 3 hours.
Related Drug.—Feronia elephantum, Correa. Wood apple, Elephant apple. India. Used like bael for diarrhoea and dysentery. The ripe fruit is employed in gum and throat affections. The leaves have an odor like anise and are carminative. Externally a plied the pulp and dried rind are employed for the bites of poisonous insects. A gum obtained from it is substituted for gum Arabic in India, and is used in intestinal diseases to overcome tenesmus. The ripe fruit is edible (Dymock). Citric acid in considerable amount may be obtained from the dried fruit.