The mid-sized wood apple tree (botanical name Aegle marmelos) is of immense religious significance to Hindus. Leaves and fruit are offered in worship to Shiva, one of the gods of the Hindu Trinity. Hindus believe that Shiva resides in the Bael tree. The trifoliate leaves of the species are said to represent the three eyes of Shiva.
The tree is mentioned in Yajur Veda. Varahamihira (505-587 AD), the ancient mathematician and author, mentions Aegle marmelos in his encyclopedic work, Brihat Samhita.
The species finds a mention in ancient Buddhist texts too. The tree is part of a fertility ritual in Nepal. Young girls, in devotion to God Shiva, tie a thread around the Bael tree, consummating a cosmic marriage with the Lord.
The juice from the leaves helps remove foul odor from the body when applied before taking a wash. Ancient literature has documented the medicinal properties of the leaves, bark, and roots. These benefit patients with gastroenterological ailments.
Research studies have shown the effectiveness of the plant against 21 disease-causing bacteria and fungi that include Staphylococcus sps, Salmonella sps, Bacillus sps, Aspergillus sps, Klebsiella sps, etc. (Pandey et al., 2011).