Botanical Name—Aegel marmelos
Species: A. marmelos
Bilva is a fruit-bearing tree indigenous to dry forests on hills and plains of central and southern India, Myanmar, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. It is cultivated throughout India, as well as in Sri Lanka, northern Malaya, Java and in the Philippines. It is also popularly known as Bilva, Bilwa, Bel, or Beli fruit, Bengal quince, stone apple, and wood apple. The tree, which is the only species in the genus Aegle, grows up to 18 meters tall .
Bilva is extensively described and used in the Vedic literature. Bilva Mani dhãrana is considered as Duhsvapan nãana, Raksoghna, Rasayana, Prajãsthapana, Visghna etc. It is also used for rituals, marriages etc. Its cosmetic properties were also documented by the ancient texts.
Bilva is a very good source of protein which is 5.12 per cent of the edible portion. Fresh half-ripe Bilva fruit is mildly astringent and is used for dysentery and diarrhea. The pulp may be eaten or the decoction administered. Bilva is said to cure without creating any tendency to constipation. Bilva leaves, fruits and root can be used as tonic and coolant with antibiotic properties
This tree is a larval foodplant for the following two Indian Swallowtail butterflies, the Lime Butterfly Papilio demoleus and the Common Mormon Papilio polytes.
Bilva is considered to be the best Saiigrahika and Dipaniya drug being vãta kapha hara (C.S.Su.25). Bilva Patra is however vãtahara only (C.S.S.27). Suruta quoted Bilva as Rasãyana (S.S.Ci.27). Bilva is also called Siva Druma (Lord Siva’s favourite tree) is held sacred by Hindus, the leaves being offered in prayers to iva & Pãrvati. As Chopra aptly puts it, “No drug has been longer better known, more appreciated by the inhabitants of India than bael fruits”. Different parts of the tree are used in ancient medicine viz, root (vãtakaraj; stem (Hridroga hara or Jvara hara), leaves (Madhumeha hara), Apakva phala (sangrahi) and pakva phala (laxative).
Botanical Description — It is a medium to fairly large sized deciduous and glabrous tree up to 6-7.5 m high and 90-120 cm in girth. Branches armed with straight sharp, axillary 2.5 cm long spines. Bark soft, corky, light grey.
Leaves alternate, trifoliate, occasionally digitately five foliate. Leaflets ovate or ovate Ianceolate, crenate, acuminate, lateral sessile, terminal long petioled.
Flowers large, greenish white, sweet scented in short axillary panicles.
Fruits glabose, grey or yellow, rind woody. Seeds-numerous, oblong, compressed, em-bedded in sacs covered with thick orange coloured sweet pulp. Fruit 2 1/2 to 3 1/4 inches in diameter, globular or ovoid in shape, colour greyish brown, outside surface hard and nearly smooth. Rind about 1/8 inch thick and adherent to a light red pulp, in which are ten to fifteen cells, each containing several woolly seeds. It has a faint aromatic odour and mucilagenous taste