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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Bilva - Lord Shiva's Sacred Tree

                           
     
Bilva is an ancient tree with spiritual and medicinal importance in ayurveda. It is extensively described in Indian literature, since Vedic period. Its botanical name is Aegle marmelos and belongs to Rutaceae family.

Bilva is a large tree growing to a maximum height of around 18 meters. Its natural habitat includes the dry forests in India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.  The Bael tree has a gray colored bark with thorny branches and aromatic leaves.

The tree is regarded as sacred in Hindu mythology. It is said that the tree is dear to Lord Shiva who sits under the tree to meditate hence it’s called as Sivadruma. The leaves of this tree are offered to Lord Shiva during religious rituals. The most important part of his tree is its fruit. It is a small, woody-skinned structure with a diameter of around 5 to 15 centimeters. . The fruit is green, when raw, and appears pale brown upon ripening. On opening it, one finds many seeds embedded in a thick, mucus-like pulp.

In the Atharva Veda it is described as being so sacred that its wood may not be burned for fuel. It is one among Dashamoola herbs (Group of ten roots).

Synonyms
Various names used to describe bilva are commonly known as bael, Bengal quince, golden apple, stone apple, wood apple, bili.
Sanskrit Synonyms: Maaloora, Shandilya, Shailusha, Shriphala, Gandhagarbha, Sadaaphala, Mahakapittha, Kantaki, Granthila.
Classical categorization:
Charaka:
Shothahara – Group of herbs with anti inflammatory property
Arshoghna – Group of herbs useful in haemorrhoids
Asthapanopaga – Group of herbs useful in Basti treatment.
Sushruta included bael in Varunadi gana, Ambashtadi gana, Brihat panchamoola, Dashamoola.

Availability of Bilva in India
Bael grows in the subtropical hills and plains of India. It thrives in dry forests and has a reputation for surviving in conditions unsuitable for other fruits. Given its ancient history and evolution, it is no doubt craftier and more adaptable than modern strains and hybrids of various new crops.

Season of Bilva
Bael season is February through May. It’s difficult to find fresh bael outside of these months, though some suppliers store unripe fruits and gas them into ripeness at several points in the year for a higher price.

Checking for Ripeness in Bilva fruit
Unripe bael skin is grayish green until it changes to a yellowish tinge as it ripens. Distributors pick the fruit while it’s still greenish yellow with the expectation that in 8 to 10 days, bael will ripen. Another indicator of ripeness is when the stem falls off readily from the fruit.

Storing Bilva
Bael does not have to be refrigerated and can be kept on the kitchen counter at temperatures up to appx 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Bael also keeps for quite a long time, with the range of acceptability lasting from 2 weeks to 4 months if kept in cool storage. However, keep an eye on bael, as it may become overripe. This is indicated by cracks and mold at the stem end.

Taste of Bilva
Bael’s orangey flesh tastes like a combination of sweet and sour, with the ratio varying on the ripeness and particular cultivar. Bael may irritate the throat of some who try its resinous, pasty orange flesh. The texture of a ripe bael fruit ranges from sticky, slimy and creamy.

Bilva Phala
Unripe bael fruit
Kapha anila hara – balances Vata and kapha.
Teekshna (piercing)
Snigdha (unctuous, oilyness)
Sangrahi – Absorbant
Deepana – improves digestion
Katu, Tikta, Kashaya – has pungent, bitter and astringent taste
Ushna – hot
It is quite similar to unripe fruit in qualities but
Madhura anurasa – It has sweet after taste
Guru (heavy to digest)
Vidahi – causes slight burning sensation
Vishtambhakara – causes constipation. Useful in diarrhoea and dysentery
Doshakrut – may cause imbalance of Tridosha, especially Vata.(Ripe Bael fruit)

Unique to other fruits, Bael Fruit takes nearly 11 months to ripen and is about the size of a grapefruit.  Cracking the shell is not an easy task – and many doing the harvesting use a machete to complete this effort.  The fruit is described as having a taste similar to marmalade and a scent similar to roses. Oil derived from bael fruit pulp is hot in nature, and relieves Vata

Bilva fruit Appearance
Dimension of Fruit: shape: round or oval; diameter: 5 – 12.5 cm; weight 1-2.5 kg.
Rind/Pulp: thin, hard, woody rind. When unripe the rind color is grayish green and yellow when ripe.

Bilva root
Tridoshaghna – balances Tridosha
Chardighna – relieves vomiting
Shulaghna – relieves abdominal colic pain
Madhura – sweet
Laghu – light to digest
The unripe fruit of Bael is
Tuvara – Astringent
Grahi – absorbant
Ruksha – Dry
Agni Pittakrut – improves digestion and Pitta.
Vatashleshmahara – balances Vata and Kapha

Bilva leaf
Sangrahi – Absorbant
Vatajit – Balances Vata

Bilva Pith
Kaphavataghna – balances Kapha and Vata
Amaghna – relieves state of indigestion at the level of digestive tract and tissues
Shulaghna – relieves abdominal colic pain
Grahini – Absorbant

Bilva Stem
Kasaghna – relieves cough, cold
Amavataghna – useful in rheumatoid arthritis
Hrudya – good for heart
Agnivardhana – improves digestion power – Carminative
Katu – pungent
Kashaya – astringent
Ushna – hot
Tikta – Bitter
Deepana, Pachana - Digestive, improves digestive enzymes
Snigdha (unctuous, oilyness)
Teekshna (piercing)

Bilva leaves
Bael leaves are used in dyspepsia, gastritis indigestion, cold and sinusitis.

Bilva Flower
Atisarahara – Relieves dysentery and diarrhoea
Trushahara – relieves thirst
Vamihara – anti emetic – relieves vomiting.

Medicinal uses
Digestive
As the bael fruit bears strong digestive properties, its regular use gives relief from any kind of digestive discomfort. In case of disease like diarrhea and dysenteries it is found very useful as it cleans up and promotes normal intestinal functioning. It tones up the digestive track and alimentary canal to allow proper bowel movements. Reap bael fruit is natural laxative and removes constipation complaints.
This fruit consists of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, Vitamin C and minerals like Iron, Phosphorus, Carotene and thiamin. The presence of such nutrients including fibers makes it useful in the treatment of digestive and gastrointestinal disorders.
The fruit is excellent in treating various digestion problems. The fruit is also rich in Vitamin C. Half ripe fruits are taken; the pulp is removed, dried and powdered. It is better to consume 3 to 10 grams 2 to three times per day. The fruit is very effective in curing diseases like constipation, dysentery, diarrhea, worms, peptic ulcer, etc. Bilva root bark, unripe fruit are useful in loss of appetite, diarrhea, dysentery, sprue, pain in abdomen.
Laxative
Ripe bael fruit is one of the best known natural laxatives. It's excellent for cleansing and toning the intestines and helps in evacuating old collected fecal contents from the bowels. Taking ripe fruit everyday for about 2-3 months can eliminate acute and sub-chronic constipation.
Eye and ear disorders
Fresh juice of leaves is used to treat eye infections. Roots of the young tree are used to treat ear infections. A small, stiff piece of root is dipped in neem oil and lighted. The oil that drips from the burning end is collected. This is an excellent medicine for treating ear infections.
Haemorrhoids
A mixture of the unripe fruit along with some ginger and fennel is a supposed cure for haemorrhoids.
Diarrhoea and Dysentery
The specialty of bilva is such that it can be used to cure both constipation and loose motion. Bilva unripe fruits work as appetizer, digestive and astringent opposite to this ripened fruits are sweet and mild laxative. According to Ayurveda, diarrhea and dysentery without fever can be treated with bael fruit. The fruit can be dried and mixed with jaggery or brown sugar.
The pulp of raw fruits is effective in treating bleeding piles and bacillary dysentery.
Liver Protective
Bilva leaves powder is liver stimulant so perfects the normal functions of the liver. Bilva leaf powder mixed with black pepper is  used in jaundice
Haemostatic
Bilva is haemostatic it is also used in hemorrhoids and in other diseases with tendency of bleeding. Bilva unripe fruit ground to paste and cooked with sugar known as  Bilvavleha is very beneficial in bleeding piles.
Peptic Ulcer
Those having peptic ulcer can extract the juice from the leaves of this tree and consume it. It is better to consume it in the morning. When taken regularly for a few weeks, the ulcers get cured. Soaking bael leaves overnight and drinking the strained water supposedly helps peptic ulcers. Bael leaves are rich in tannins which reduce inflammation and help healing of ulcers. The bael fruit taken in the form of beverage has also great viscous content. This substance forms a coating on the stomach mucosa and thus helps in the healing of ulcer.
Gastroprotection properties
Gastroduodenal ulcers are the most common form of gastric ulcers. Such ulcers develop when there is an imbalance in the acid mucosa levels, or due to oxidative stress along the gastric tract. Experiments gave positive results in gastric ulcer inhibition. The phenolic compounds found in bael extracts possessed potent antioxidants which helped in reducing gastric ulcers.
The leaves contain large amounts of aromatic oils and infusion of leaves is considered a potent medicine for peptic ulcers.
Cholesterol control
Bael leaf extracts were studied for their cholesterol control. They were effective in decreasing blood cholesterol levels comparable to modern drugs. Bael leaf extracts controlled not just blood cholesterol levels but also triglycerides and serum and tissue lipid profiles.
Antimicrobial properties
 Bael leaves, roots and fruit extracts have been studied for their antimicrobial properties. The extracts showed inhibition of many bacterial strains. Apart from bacteria, bael extracts were also effective in controlling fungal and viral infections. The antimicrobial properties are due to the presence of biochemicals such as cuminaldehyde and eugenol.
Anti-Inflammatory
Bael extracts possess anti-inflammatory properties which help in reducing histamine induced contractions and induce positive relaxant effect in the inflamed regions or organs. The leaves are used as a hot poultice to soothe inflammations. Bilva  leaves powder is used  for fomentation in disease condition like swelling pain in ribs.
The anti-inflammatory property of bael fruit is due to the element naming tannins which heals the chronic inflammation. It is also works well in case of gynecological problems and gives relief from related pain.
Respiratory Infections
Medicated oil made up of bael leaf cures cold and respiratory disorders due to certain infections. The equal mixture of juice of bael leaf and sesame oil is the best remedy to get rid of cold, cough and asthma.
The leaf juice, mixed in warm water with a little pepper, is give as a drink to bring relief from wheezing and respiratory spasm
Anti-Pyretic
They are diaphoretic (producing more perspiration), thus reducing temperature and lowering fevers, and an aphrodisiac. A decoction of leaves is a favorite remedy for ailments that often occur during seasonal changes, such as fever, flu and fatigue. The bael fruit also bears anti-fungal and anti–malarial properties, good to use in the treatment of malaria. The seed oil is a purgative, and the leaf juice mixed with honey is a folk remedy for fever. The tannin-rich and alkaloid-rich bark decoction is a folk cure for malaria.
Controls Emesis
The root is the most important part of the tree medicinally, after removing the outer skin. A preparation made from the root with ginger and toasted rice cures vomiting.
Aphrodisiac
The gum of the inside pulp of the fruit is an aphrodisiac (kama-vardhani).
Scurvy
We know that Scurvy is caused due to the deficiency of vitamin C. As bael fruits are rich source of the same vitamin so it helps to recover from the deficiency and cures scurvy.
Snake Bites
The root and leaves of bael are used in the treatment of snake bites from ancient times and found very effective.The pulp is poulticed onto bites and stings of venomous insects, as is the powdered rind.
It has the ability to heal small ulcers inside the bowel which are produced by infection or inflammation.
Heart diseases
Bilva fruit powder works as a cardiac tonic, haemostaic and alleviates swelling, hence is root used in cardiac dedillity and palpitation.Mix the juice of ripe bael fruit with some ghee. Include this mixture in your daily diet to prevent heart related diseases like heart strokes and attacks.
Cooler
Drink bael fruit juice with honey to cure acidity. You can also apply this on your tongue to cure mouth ulcers. Drink bael juice before lunch or dinner to reduce heat and thirst from body. This can be the best drink during the scorching summers!
Skin rash
Mix 30ml of bay leaf juice, cumin with bael juice and drink it twice a day to cure urticaria. This can also be beneficial for skin rash and its symptoms like pale red, raised, itchy bumps.
Anti-Cancer
Consume this juice regularly to prevent or cure cancer.
Control diabetes
Bael juice contains laxatives that are helpful to control the blood sugar levels. It stimulates the pancreas and helps them in enough production of insulin that controls sugar level in the blood.

Culinary Uses
Dried fruit products are achieved by slicing and sun drying the slivers of fruit.  Later, they may be simmered in water.  Leaves from the tree are sometimes eaten as part of a salad.The pulp of ripe fruits is also used to make candies, toffees, squash and nectar.
It can be eaten fresh; also prepared as sun-dried slices, pickled, sherbet, marmalade and syrup. The young leaves and shoots are eaten as a vegetable in Thailand and used to season food in Indonesia.
Bael fruits may be cut in half, or the soft type’s broken open, and the pulp, dressed with palm sugar, eaten for breakfast, as is a common practice in Indonesia. The pulp is often processed as nectar or "squash" (diluted nectar). A popular drink (called "sherbet" in India) is made by beating the seeded pulp together with milk and sugar. A beverage is also made by combining bael fruit pulp with that of tamarind. These drinks are consumed perhaps less as food or refreshment than for their medicinal effects.
Mature but still unripe fruits are made into jam, with the addition of citric acid. The pulp is also converted into marmalade or syrup, likewise for both food and therapeutic use, the marmalade being eaten at breakfast by those convalescing from diarrhea and dysentery. A firm jelly is made from the pulp alone, or, better still, combined with guava to modify the astringent flavor. The pulp is also pickled.
A confection, bael fruit toffee, is prepared by combining the pulp with sugar, glucose, skim milk powder and hydrogenated fat. Indian food technologists view the prospects for expanded bael fruit processing as highly promising. An infusion of the flowers is a cooling drink.

Other Uses
The fruit pulp has detergent action and has been used for washing clothes. Quisumbing  says that bael fruit is employed to eliminate scum in vinegar-making.
The gum enveloping the seeds is most abundant in wild fruits and especially when they are unripe. It is commonly used as household glue and is employed as an adhesive by jewelers. Sometimes it is resorted to as a soap-substitute.
The limonene-rich oil has been distilled from the rind for scenting hair oil. The shell of hard fruits has been fashioned into pill- and snuff boxes, sometimes decorated with gold and silver. The rind of the unripe fruit is employed in tanning and also yields a yellow dye for calico and silk fabrics
 In the Hindu culture, the  bael leaves are indispensable offerings to the 'Lord Shiva'. The leaves and twigs are lopped for fodder.
From the bael flowers, cologne is obtained by distillation.
Artists add fruit pulp to their water color, and it may be applied as a protective coating on paintings.
In rural areas, the fruit, which has binding qualities, is mixed with lime plaster for water proofing wells and is added to cement for building walls in villages.

Precautions
Bael leaves are said to cause abortion and sterility in women
Large quantities may result in digestive disorders and constipation.
Always keep in mind though you want to enjoy bael health benefits, that ripe bael should not be taken at a stretch. Give a short break and then start taking it to get the more efficiency.
Again excessive quantity of bael pulp is hard to digest. As a result you can feel the problem of constant fullness of stomach.
There goes a proverb too regarding the intake of bael leaves that they should not be taken by the young males and females, for the leaves have the power to curb the urge of sex
                                                                          

Mythological importance

Bilva or Aegle Marmelos is the embodiment of Lord Shiva himself and is one of the sacred tree symbols of Hinduism.
Maha Shivaratri is considered the most auspicious time to please Lord Shiva to gain his blessings. What is the simplest way of appeasing Lord Shiva? Offer him Bilva leaves.
The most terrible karma is destroyed when a Bilva leaf is offered to Lord Shiva. The unbelievable merits one receives on offering a single Bilva leaf to Lord Shiva are described in the 9 verses of the sacred hymn known as Bilvashtakam.
Just like Tulsi plant is sacred to Lord Krishna and Durva grass is sacred to Lord Ganesha, Bilva tree is sacred to Lord Shiva. Since the Bilva leaf has such significance in the worship of Lord Shiva, it is common to find Bilva trees cultivated in the vicinity of Shiva temples. The fruits were used in place of coconuts before large-scale rail transportation became available.

The Bilva tree in the Shiva Purana
According to the Shiva Purana (7 AD) the Bilva tree is the manifest form of Lord Shiva himself, while all the great tirthas (pilgrimage places) are said to reside at its base. One who worships the shivalingam while sitting under the Bilva, claims this great epic, and attains the state of Shiva. Washing the head by this tree is said to be the equivalent of bathing in all the sacred rivers. One who performs Bilva pooja with flowers and incense achieves Shiva loka, the abode of pure consciousness, and has happiness and prosperity bestowed upon them. The lighting of the deepak (lamp) before this tree bestows knowledge and enables the devotee to merge in Lord Shiva. The Shiva Purana also claims that if the devotee removes the new leaves from one of the branches of that tree and worships the tree with them, they will be freed from vice, while one who feeds a devotee under the Bilva will grow in virtue.

From the Hindu pantheism point of view this tree is the symbolic representation of Shiva, Parvati, Surya and Lakshmi- the Goddess of Wealth. It is said that no worship of Shiva is complete without offering Bel patra or Bilva leaf. These leaves on the lingam cool and refresh the heated deity. Its trifoliate leaf or tripatra symbolises the three functions-creation, preservation and destruction(Brahma,Vishnu and Mahesh )of the Lord as well as His three eyes.” The tri-foliate form of leaves symbolize the trident that Shiva holds in his right hand.

Quoting the Skanda Purana and explained the origin of Bilva tree, “One day while Parvati was resting some drops of sweat fell from her forehead on the mountain Mandara, from which grew the bel tree, Girija lives on the root of the tree, Maheswari on its shoulder, Dukshayani on its branches, Parvati among its leaves, Katyayani in its fruit, Gauri in its flowers while in thorns the numerous Saktis find a home. It is also believed that Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth, also lives in the bel tree.” Those who perform the puja of Shiva and Parvati devoutly, using the leaves, will be endowed with spiritual powers. The bilva leaves are-symbols of three Gunasaar –Sattva, Raja and Tama.

Really speaking Bilva is medicinally and religiously very powerful. On the one hand it acts as a boost to health and cure for many ailments; on the other hand it has great spiritual significance which permeates the Hindu way of life.

May the next tree you plant be a Bilva Tree! It will not only show your commitment towards greening the environment, but also display your concern for humanity, given such divine merits and medicinal value of the Bilva Tree.A bilva sapling must be tenderly nurtured and protected until it has reached a certain height right for transplanting. Quite like a fragile baby bird that must be carefully tended until such time it leaves the nest to flourish independently.

May the almighty Lord Shiva bless you all with perfect health.

Happy Mahashivratri!

21 comments:

Terapias Complementarias / Alternativas said...

I love what you write Dr.Vaishali Kamat!! thanks!

Vaishali Kamat said...

Thanks for loving my post....
Such complements give me inspiration to explore more n more interesting topics in Ayurveda.

ANTHONY MONTEIRO said...

It is a blessing that there is someone like Vaishali can give us this information so selflessly. Please keep up the good work. God bless you.

ANTHONY MONTEIRO said...

It is a blessing that there is someone like Vaishali can give us this information so selflessly. Please keep up the good work. God bless you.

Vaishali Kamat said...

Thanks Anthony...

A Bhamra said...

Exceptional good reading. Well done!

Vaishali Kamat said...

Thanks...

Archana said...

That was a nice article Vaisahali...Will definitely try for my 4 year old son for wheezing.

Rajesh Timane said...

May Lord Shiva Bless You !

Vaishali Kamat said...

Thanks....

Supramani Apana said...

Vaisali madam, can we plant this bilva tree in our house compound.? Please advise. Thanks.

Vaishali Kamat said...

Yes you can plant it for sure but please take advise of local gardening expert nearby you..

Dr. Animesh Das said...

Nice post Doctor.

Vaishali Kamat said...

Thanks Dr.Das

RAJANIKANTA MOHANTY said...

Thanks a lot Dr. Vaishali for sharing the valuable information.

May I ask you a small advice ! Recently I have suffered from gastritis due to stress/irregular food habits and being advised by some elders to take 4-5 Bilva leaves and cumin (jeera) in the morning. Will it be advisable for healing my stomach gas.

Thanks again in advance for your valuable time.

Rajanikanta Mohanty
Bangalore

Unknown said...

THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR ENLIGHTING US. VIJAY

Dr.Vaishali Gautam Kamat said...

Thanks!!

alienwise said...

please drop me a line about Bel Patra tree English our Urdu name at dralbertroy@gmail.com Thank you.

Lady said...

Thank you Dr. Vaishali Gautam Kamat, for this wonderful post. I have a Bilva tree that I purchased a year ago as a sapling. It has grown unbelievably large in one year. Can you tell me, please, what size does it need to be before I transplant it into the ground? Currently, it is growing in a ceramic pot and is about 1 meter in height. Blessings.

Akami Ayurveda said...

Thanks for sharing the valuable information.
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Vani said...

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