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Feronia limonia Swingle
Feronia elephantum Correa
Limonia acidissima L.
Schinus limonia L.
       The wood-apple, Feronia limonia Swingle (syns. F. elephantum Correa; Limonia acidissima L.; Schinus limonia L.) is the only species of its genus, in the family Rutaceae. Besides wood-apple, it may be called elephant apple, monkey fruit, curd fruit, kath bel and other dialectal names in India. In Malaya it is gelinggai or belinggai; in Thailand, ma-khwit; in Cambodia, kramsang; in Laos, ma-fit. In French, it is pomme d' elephant, pomme de bois, or citron des mois.

In Hinduism, the Lord Shiva is said to live under the Bael tree. In India, the tree is often found in temple gardens and its leaves are used in religious celebrations.It is also popularly known as Bilva, Bilwa, Bel, Kuvalam, Koovalam, or Beli fruit, Bengal quince, stone apple, and wood apple.

The fruit is much used in India as a liver and cardiac tonic, and, when unripe, as an astringent means of halting diarrhea and dysentery and effective treatment for hiccough, sore throat and diseases of the gums. The pulp is poulticed onto bites and stings of venomous insects, as is the powdered rind.

Juice of young leaves is mixed with milk and sugar candy and given as a remedy for biliousness and intestinal troubles of children. The powdered gum, mixed with honey, is given to overcome dysentery and diarrhea in children.

Oil derived from the crushed leaves is applied on itch and the leaf decoction is given to children as an aid to digestion. Leaves, bark, roots and fruit pulp are all used against snakebite. The spines are crushed with those of other trees and an infusion taken as a remedy for menorrhagia. The bark is chewed with that of Barringtonia and applied on venomous wounds.

The unripe fruits contain 0.015% stigmasterol. Leaves contain stigmasterol (0.012%) and bergapten (0.01%). The bark contains 0.016% marmesin. Root bark contains aurapten, bergapten, isopimpinellin and other coumarins.

THE YAJUR VEDA mentions the bael tree, but the Charaka Samhita, an Ayurveda treatise from the 1st millennium BC, was the first book to describe its medicinal properties. Hindu scriptures abound in references to the bael tree and its leaves. The devotees of Lord Shiva commonly offer bael leaves to the deity, especially on Shivaratri; this probably explains why bael trees are so common near temples. Hindus also believe that goddess Lakshmi resides in bael leaves.

As food: Indonesians beat the pulp of the ripe fruit with palm sugar and eat the mixture at breakfast. The sweetened pulp is a source of sherbet in the subcontinent. Jam, pickle, marmalade, syrup, jelly, squash and toffee are some of the products of this versatile fruit. Young bael leaves are a salad green in Thailand.

Other uses: Bael fruit pulp has a soap-like action that made it a household cleaner for hundreds of years. The sticky layer around the unripe seeds is household glue that also finds use in jewellery-making. The glue, mixed with lime, waterproofs wells and cements walls. The glue also protects oil paintings when added as a coat on the canvas. The fruit rind yields oil that is popular as a fragrance for hair; it also produces a dye used to colour silks and calico.

Nutrition: A hundred gm of bael fruit pulp contains 31 gm of carbohydrate and two gm of protein, which adds up to nearly 140 calories. The ripe fruit is rich in beta-carotene, a precursor of Vitamin A; it also contains significant quantities of the B vitamins thiamine and riboflavin, and small amounts of Vitamin C. Wild bael fruit tends to have more tannin than the cultivated ones; tannin depletes the body of precious nutrients, and evidence suggests it can cause cancer.

Medicinal uses: The bael fruit is more popular as medicine than as food. The tannin in bael has an astringent effect that once led to its use as a general tonic and as a traditional cure for dysentery, diarrhoea, liver ailments, chronic cough and indigestion. In fact, Vasco da Gama's men, suffering from diarrhoea and dysentery in India, turned to the bael fruit for relief. The root juice was once popular as a remedy for snakebites.

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. 

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