The health benefits of Bel Fruit or Wood Apple include relief from constipation, indigestion, peptic ulcer, piles, respiratory problems, diarrhea, and dysentery.It also boosts the immune system, fights off bacterial and viral infections, reduces inflammation and various inflammatory conditions, prevent cancer, increases milk production for nursing mothers, cures diabetes, increases ocular health, and helps prevent various sexual dysfunctions.
The Bel fruit, in actuality, is an herb with the botanical name of Limonia acidissima. Bel fruit has other names like wood apple, elephant apple and monkey fruit. In some parts of the world, this fruit is called elephant apple because it’s a favorite food of elephants, while in other areas, it gets the name wood apple because of its hard wooden shell. It is actually considered sacred by Hindus, and is widely cultivated and eaten in India.
The wood apple tree is native to India, but is also found in Sri Lanka, Thailand, and various other regions in the southern part of Asia. The tree can grow up to 30 feet in height, and the edible fruits are 5-9cm in diameter. Their shells are tough, and the inside is brownish pulp and small white seeds. The pulp can be eaten raw, but it is popularly scooped out and frozen, or made into jam. It can also be mixed with coconut milk for a delicious, health beverage, or frozen into ice cream!
Nutritional Value of Wood Apples
The vast array of health benefits that are attributed to wood apples are mainly due to their nutrients, vitamins, and organic compounds, including their tannins, calcium, phosphorous, fiber, protein, and iron.
Bel fruit also has great medicinal value for those who consume it, whether they are aware of these benefits or not! Let’s take a closer look at the extensive health benefits of this interesting fruit!
Good for Digestion: Bel fruit is great for digestion because it helps to destroy worms in the intestine, and is a good remedy for digestive disorders. It is also recommended as a remedy for chronic dysentery. The trunk and branches of bel trees contain a gum-like substance called ‘Feronia gum’. This is commonly used to curing diarrhea and dysentery. Bel fruit is also recommended for people with peptic ulcer or piles since bel leaves contain tannin, which is known to reduce inflammation. The laxative property of wood apple also helps to avoid constipation and the subsequent, pain, discomfort and associated health risks of that condition. This, combined with the antifungal and antiparisitic activities, make bel fruit ideal for increasing digestive health.
Blood Cleanser: As little as 50 mg of bel fruit juice mixed with warm water and sugar is recommended for blood purification and the removal of toxins that can cause extensive damage to the body. This reduces the strain on the liver and kidneys, which are the normal lines of defense against toxins.
Effective for Ear Aches: The root of the bel tree is integral in the management and treatment of ear conditions and pain.
Prevention of Scurvy: Deficiency of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) causes scurvy. Since Bel fruit is rich in vitamin C, it can guarantees that you do not develop scurvy, a potentially life-threatening condition. This high level of vitamin C also increases the strength and potency of the immune system, thereby protecting people who consume wood apples from a variety of microbial and viral infections.
Good for Diabetic Patients: The ‘Feronia gum’, contained in the trunk and branches of the bel tree, counteracts diabetes by reducing the severity of the condition and helps to manage the flow, secretion, and balance of sugars in the bloodstream. By managing the insulin and glucose levels, it is possible to prevent the spikes and plunges that can be so dangerous to diabetics.
Relief from Respiratory Problems: Leaves of the Bel fruit tree help people avoid chronic or recurring colds and related respiratory conditions. They also help in curing sore throat and treating chronic cough due to its function as an expectorant. It loosens phlegm and helps eliminate the buildup in the respiratory system.
Energy Booster: One hundred grams of Bel fruit pulp provides 140 calories, and the nutrients found in that amount boost organ activity and metabolic speed. This all results in additional energy and reserves in the body. The high protein content also means that the body can heal faster and the muscles can grow stronger, further boosting energy reserves.
Good for Kidney Conditions: Regular consumption of wood apple is recommended for people with kidney complaints. Considering the detoxifying powers of wood apples, the kidney and liver can be protected if the correct organic compounds from wood apples are kept at healthy levels.
Liver Health: As a good source of beta-carotene, wood apples also cure liver problems. They contain thiamine and riboflavin, both of which are known as liver health boosters, this fruit also functions as an ingredient in cardiac tonics.
Cure Snakebites: In Ayurvedic treatments, all parts of the wood apple plant are used to cure snakebites.
Protection Against Malaria: The pulp of bel fruit trees has also been used as a cosmetic component by women in Thai-Myanmar border area. This area is also frequently affected by dengue and malaria, but research studies have suggested that by applying the mixture of this pulp and repellents on the skin of pregnant women may be beneficial in protecting them against malaria.
Apart from the warming sensation upon application of this mix, the repellents are neutral and non-irritating. However, studies are underway to ascertain the mechanisms behind the benefits of this mixture on malaria.
Bel Fruit – How to Select and Consume
Bel fruits can be consumed as ripe fruits or in juice-form. The ripe bel fruit is sweet and can also be used for making a tasty drink known as wood apple milk. The ripe fruit is consumed as custard with sugar or honey in certain cultures. The raw bel fruit is sour to taste and is used to make chutney, while the leaves of the bel fruit tree are used as salad ingredients.
A Word of Caution
Like any other food/fruits, we have to take some precautions when consuming the Bel fruit. Excessive consumption of Bel fruit causes flatulence in the abdomen, so people with gastric troubles should be careful. Also, if you have never consumed bel fruit before, try a small amount and see how your body reacts. Anything can be an allergen, so it is better to start small and work your way up to larger portions once you know that your system handles it well.