This section is from the book "A Text Book Of Materia Medica, Being An Account Of The More Important Crude Drugs Of Vegetable And Animal Origin", by Henry G. Greenish. Also available from Amazon: A Text Book of Materia Medica : Being an Account of the More Important Crude Drugs of Vegetable and Animal Origin.
Indian bael is the fruit of Ęgle Marmelos, Correa (N.O. Rutaceoe), a tree attaining a height of 12 metres and growing both wild and cultivated throughout the entire Indian peninsula. Being a sacred tree the Hindus plant it near their temples. It became known to the Portuguese as a remedy for dysentery when they occupied the eastern shores of India, the pulp of the half ripe fruit being eaten while fresh. It was introduced into European medicine about the middle of the last century, but the dried fruit appears to be much less efficacious than the fresh.
The fruit is ovoid or rounded, and about the size of an orange, although sometimes rather larger. Externally it is yellowish brown, smooth, or slightly granular and hard, and bears a circular scar at the point of attachment of the peduncle. The entire fruit is too hard to cut with a knife, but may be sawn across, and will then be found to consist of a reddish woody rind about 1.5 mm. thick, enclosing from ten to fifteen carpels, each containing several hairy seeds embedded in a transparent yellowish or red mucilage. The dried pulp, which is mucilaginous and aromatic when fresh, is hard, and varies in colour from pale to dark red; it frequently breaks away from the rind during the drying, leaving only a thin layer attached to it. Even the dried fruit has an agreeable odour and mucilaginous, sometimes also aromatic, taste.
The fruit is frequently imported in dried quarters or in transverse slices. The latter have an appearance similar to that of the transverse section of the entire fruit, but the pulp usually adheres firmly to the rind and has a darker colour externally, being paler within. Preference should be given to unripe fruits, or the slices cut from them, and these may be recognised by the small undeveloped seeds they contain; they are also less aromatic than the ripe fruits. In this respect the entire fruits are often inferior to the slices.
Fig. 52. - Bael fruit. Transverse section of a small specimen. Natural size. (Holmes).
The student should observe
(a) The comparatively smooth hard rind to which (in the sliced fruit) the reddish pulp firmly adheres,
(b) The numerous carpels,
(c) The hairy seeds embedded in mucilage.
As far as is known the principal constituent of bael fruit is mucilage. Traces of tannin are present in the ripe but not in the unripe fruit.
Several substitutes for bael have been met with, viz.:
Mangosteen fruits (Garcinia Magnostana, Linne, N.O. Guttiferoe); these may be distinguished by the darker rind to which the pulp does not firmly adhere, and by the wedge-shaped, radiate stigmas; they contain crystalline mangostine, tannin, and resin.
Wood apple (Feronia elephantum, Correa, N.O. Rutaceoe). - The fruit is five-lobed but one-celled, and has a rough exterior.
Pomegranate rind may be distinguished by its astringent taste and the triangular impressions of the seeds.
In the fresh state Indian bael is a pleasant refreshing fruit with astringent, refrigerant properties which render it valuable in the treatment of diarrhoea and dysentery. As imported it is probably useless, but a liquid extract from the fresh fruit appears to possess its specific effects.