Did you know that the fruit Bel or Bilwa works on Diabetes like a charm?
Bel (Aegle marmelos) known as Bilwa in Sanskrit has both spiritual and medicinal properties. It is known as Lord Shiva’s favourite and is believed that worshipping this tree will bring prosperity in life. Hence it is also known as Shreephala (Shree– God of wealth and prosperity). All the parts (leaves, fruits, roots and bark) of this tree are endowed with medicinal properties and are used to treat various ailments.
It is a medium to fairly large sized tree with woody fruits found throughout India. Hence Bilwa fruits are also called wood apple or stone apple.
Bilwa roots are one of the Dashamoola (group of ten roots) that are used in the ailments of Vata and Kapha. The bel fruit has a smooth, woody shell with a green, gray, or yellow peel. It takes about 11 months to ripen on the tree. Ripe fruit acts as laxative whereas unripe one binds the stools and hence treats diarrhoea/ dysentery. Fruits are edible but the effect of fruits differs based on its ripening.
Unripe fruit is predominantly acrid and bitter in taste. It is light to digest and causes dryness. It is hot in potency and pungent after taste. It is mainly indicated in diarrhoea, dysentery, indigestion, diabetes, and oedema.
The ripened fruit is described as having a taste similar to marmalade and a scent similar to roses. It is sweet and cooling in nature. It is eaten fresh or dried. Fresh fruit can be made in to juice form, strained and sweetened with jaggery. It is considered as one of the best laxatives and has the ability to tone and clean the intestines. It is also used for deworming.
Bilwa for Diabetes
Bilwa has been used as a herbal medicine for the management of Diabetes mellitus in Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha systems of medicine.
The bitter pungent Bilwa fruit is full of antioxidants and helps to stimulate the pancreas to secrete insulin, which leads to lowering of blood sugar. By managing the insulin and glucose levels, it prevents the spikes and plunges that can be dangerous to diabetics. The leaves also can be used against diabetes. Decoction made of either leaves/ unripe fruits of Bilwa if consumed regularly, help in reducing blood sugar.
Its leaf extract has been used in Ayurveda as a medicine for diabetes. It enhances the ability to utilise the external glucose load in the body by stimulation of glucose uptake similar to insulin. Consuming about 20 ml juice extracted from bel leaves is valuable in managing diabetes and reducing excess urination.
Bel Sharbat (Bel Fruit Sweet Drink)
3 medium-sized bel fruits
3 cups chilled water
8 tbsp jaggery or gud (optional, use only for non-diabetics)
1/2 tsp cardamom or elaichi powder
1/2 tsp roasted cumin or jeera powder
1/2 tsp black salt
- Hit the bel fruit with a rolling pin to crack it open. Scoop out the soft, brown pulp from inside, and put it in a bowl.
- Add a cup of water to the bel pulp, and let it soak for half an hour.
- Mash the bel thoroughly, and add the rest of the water. Strain the mix well to get a filtered juice. Shift the juice into a large jar.
- Add the jaggery, cardamom powder, cumin powder and salt. Stir well, and serve the sharbat.
Other Medicinal Uses
For Constipation: Fresh ripen fruit juice mixed with jaggery to be taken at bed time.
For Indigestion: Unripe fruit pulp, mixed with little ginger paste and rock salt improves digestion.
For Dysentery/ Diarrhoea: Unripe fruit pulp, grinded and mixed with skimmed buttermilk to be consumed along with thin rice gruel.
The dried powder of the bel pulp crushed along with an equal amount of ginger, rock salt, roasted jeera and nagarmotha, if taken in the dose of one to two gms. twice a day with buttermilk or water, is very helpful in mucous diarrhoea
Sweet drinks (Sharbats) prepared from the pulp of the fruits are useful as soothing agents for intestines of patients who have just recovered from bacillary dysentery.
For Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Consumption of unripe fruit pulp of bel along with ginger and jaggery. Fresh buttermilk diet has to be followed during this course.
Fever: During fever, intake of ripe bilwa fruit juice along with jaggery acts as cooling, refreshing drink and also acts as appetizer if taken along with jeera and ginger.
Jaundice: Leaf juice of Bilwa with Trikatu powder (ginger, Piper longum, and black pepper powder) is helpful in jaundice.
Obesity: Regular chewing of bilva leaves improves metabolism and decoction of the roots helps in reducing the weight.
Peptic ulcers: Leaves are boiled in hot water and after cooling it is consumed. Regular consumption of this helps in healing ulcers.
Oedema/ swelling of the joints: External hot application of paste of root/bark powder will help to reduce the pain and inflammation. Leaves of Bilva to be cut in to small pieces and to be roasted in a pan with little sesame oil. Then it should be tied in a cloth to make potali. This can be used for fomenting on painful and swollen joints. This gives good relief from pain.
External wounds and ulcers: Decoction made of bark or roots is useful in cleaning the wound and also helps in healing.
These are some of the important uses of Bilwa. No wonder it is given a sacred place in our country as it is endowed with tremendous medicinal values.
Dr.Poornima Devkumar is Physician and Scientist E, Institute of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, The University of Trans-Disciplinary Health Sciences and Technology