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The yellow, ball like fruit of bael (Aegle marmelos) belongs to the citrus family but is completely unlike the easily squeezable lemon. This fruit is hard. However, a ripe bael is filled with a sweet pulp inside. And just like lemonade, it can be made into a refreshing drink in summers. The pulp is perfect for hot summer months as it helps the body retain water for long.
The fruits can be preserved in the form of murabba, what is now commonly known as bael candy. This makes it possible to consume the highly nutritive fruits round the year. The fruit contains 31.8 per cent carbohydrates and 1.8 per cent is proteins. Other than these two major ingredients, the fruit is also rich in mineral and vitamins.
The tree is known more for its medicinal value. According to traditional systems of medicine such as ayurveda, all parts are of value. The unripe fruit is digestive and is prescribed for diarrhoea and dysentery. The ripe fruit is laxative. The root bark treats hypochondria and melancholia. The leaves are antidiabetic, antiasthmatic and good for treating jaundice. When made into a poultice, the leaves can reduce inflammation and eye diseases. Recently, the medicinal value of the leaves against diabetes was confirmed by modern research.
These leaves are quite characteristic. The three leaflets are said to represent the three prongs of the trishul that Lord Shiva holds in his right hand. The symbolism and easy availability makes the leaves a perfect offering. The tree can grow in a wide variety of climatic and soil conditions – from swampy to dry soil and from vey high to very low temperatures. The tree is planted near temples and wherever it occurs naturally, it indicates the presence of ground water.
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