[Daily News: Features:  02 August, 1998]

Belli: A fruit which keeps disease at bay

By Elmo Leonard

The green belli fruit with a hard shell that turns yellow when ripe, is commonplace in Sri Lanka and India and has been used by people over centuries for keeping healthy and well. In this country, belli can be picked up at every village fair. However, the belli fruit is often overlooked by a generation dependent on over-the-counter prescriptions to stay healthy.

In Hindu mythology the belli tree (Aegle Memelos), is the favourite tree of Lord Shankar. Traditionally, in India the belli tree is believed to possess genuine healing properties. In ayurveda parlance the belli fruit is known as a fruit which keeps disease at bay.

Ayurvedic literature advises the planting of a belli tree or trees in the home garden. The leaves are so rich in chlorophyll they absorb foul gases, and enrich the air you breathe.

All parts of the belli tree possess medicinal qualities. The flowers are boiled and the liquid drunk. Besides the health giving qualities of drinking this liquid, it is also an excellent beauty aid. The dark colour of water in which belli flowers are boiled with belli flowers remains in the pigment of those who drink it.

When this liquid is drunk everyday for over a period of weeks it imparts a good complexion benefitting even those with dark skin.

The blood of those who drink the water in which belli flowers have been boiled turns deep crimson. Poems of yore, composed in Sanskrit says that the habit of drinking water in which the flowers of "Ranawala" have been boiled ensures healthy blood and seminal fluid pure white. Drinking water in which belli flowers are boiled gives much better results, the poems say.

Charaka, the renowned physician who wrote the famous book on ayurveda in the vedic era, analysed the fruit and found it soft and warm. The essence of its fruits, leaves and seed has an evaporating oil which is said to be good for the human system. It is believed that if you eat belli often you will live long.

The raw fruit is heat-producing and has a purgative effect. When the fruit is ripe it becomes cool and constipative. For ailments such as arthritis and gout you need more heat, so eat raw belli. In hot weather eat the ripe pulp and feel a sweet coolness permeate your body.

Belli, is the only fruit which when ripe will again turn green with the arrival of the rainy season. It is like an old person becoming young again, according to ayurvedic literature.

Belli, they say is especially good for the sharpening of intellect. Almond, ghee and other rich fat-possessing foods are credited with strengthening the mind; however it is only belli that helps you concentrate better and sharpen your intellect.

In India, even today, belli is eaten by students during examinations and this is based on the belief that if you eat belli often you will have a healthy body and mind and you could devote more time to your work.

An average size fruit contains: 1.8 gms protein, 137 calories, 50 gms phosphate, 1.7 gms mineral salts, 31.8 gms carbohydrates. Besides it is rich in vitamins B1, B2 and C. It also has an abundance of fats.

What enhances the medicinal value of the belli fruit is the presence of an evaporating substance called tanin. The rind of the fruit comprises 20 percent tanin, and the pulp only 9 percent. This substance can cure diabetes, ayurvedic literature claims.

When the fruit is raw, it should be boiled it and the water should be drunk. Immature belli fruits are collected under trees, cut into pieces and dried. It is available at every ayurvedic store. Boil the dried belli fruit and drink the water. Drunk often, it will, to a lesser effect change the colour of the blood and complexion, besides being good for the stomach. Don't throw away the rind of belli fruit, but boil it and drink the water. The belli root is also boiled, and the water drunk, being good for the stomach.

There are many books on ayurveda available in local bookshops. Modern versions are written by persons who know little English, and many Hindi words are substituted. Where the Hindi word is used to name a raw material it becomes almost impossible for the Lankan reader to identify what is being written about.

ASTHMA. For immediate relief make a decoction of the leaves of belli and when cool drink with honey, both morning and evening. For permanent relief, a remedy is given in the same book, but it cannot be understood by the Lankan reader.

For a burning sensation in the chest - take the pulp of raw belli, mix with 25 gms of sugarcandy, powdered and whip with 100 gms of water. Strain the water and mix again vigorously. Add a little rose water and sip gradually. It will induce urination, and the burning sensation will stop.

CONSTIPATION. Ripe belli pulp added to tamarind and water is a strong purgative. For very bad constipated add a little curd to the ripe belli. Sugarcandy can be added as sweetener. Go slow when you try remedies taken from books. It will take three hours for the dose to act, a little book says.

Copyright © 1996 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited