Betelnut (Areca catechu)
Usage / Preparation
This product is not sold or intended for the purpose of human consumption or cosmetic use. Any information provided about this product on this website, including any links to external websites, are solely intended for historical, scientific and educational purposes and must not be interpreted as a recommendation for a specific use of the product. The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and the product is not intended to "diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease." The use and application of this product, based on the historical and scientific context provided in the product descriptions and articles, is solely at the customer's risk. This product is a botanical specimen of ethnographic value and interest only and is delivered with no express or implied fitness for any purpose. The product descriptions are compiled from sources we deemed to be reliable up to the date it was written but may contain omissions or errors in fact, or become outdated. It outlines the documented history of uses but should no way be construed to make any medical claims about the ability or efficacy of any of these plants to treat, prevent or mitigate any disease or condition. Although a plant may have a long history of being used for a particular purpose, scientific evidence proving its efficacy for that purpose may be lacking.
Bettlenut, Paaku, Pinang, Areca nut, Cau (Vietnamese), Supari (Bengali)
Areca Nut contains a large quantity of tannin, also gallic acid, a fixed oil gum, a little volatile oil, lignin, and various saline substances. Four alkaloids have been found in Areca Nut - Arecoline, Arecain, Guracine, and a fourth existing in very small quantity. Arecoline is the primary active ingredient responsible for the central nervous system effects which are roughly comparable to those of nicotine, which has a similar chemical structure. Arecoline is known to be an agonist of muscarinic acetylcholine M1, M2 and M3 receptors.(3)
Betelnuts have been used for thousands of years. The practice is thought to have started in south-east Asia and there is archaeological evidence to support this view. The Spirit Cave site in Thailand yielded palaeobotanical remains of Areca catechu and Piper betel (traditional consumption is a combination of Areca catechu, Piper betel, and edible lime), since found at the same location, it is circumstantial evidence for the practice of Betel chewing in prehistoric times. These remains are between 7,500 and 9,000 years old. If the dating is accurate, this would make Betel one of the earliest known psychoactive substances to be used in the world.
Printed references related to Betelnut chewing go back to hundreds of years before the common era. In Pali, a story dating from about 500 BCE describes a princess giving a present of Betel to her lover. Somewhere around 430 BCE, Theophrastus described use of the nuts as a component of the Betel morsel. Areca catechu is mentioned in Sanskrit under the name "Guvaka", and in Chinese texts dating from 150 BCE it was called "Pinlang" (a Malayan name). In Persia there were 30,000 shops that sold Betelnut in the capital town during the reign of Khosrau II (King of Persia from 590 to 628). Arabs and Persians who visited the Hindustan area of India in the 8th and 9th centuries found the habit deeply rooted. Ali al-Masudi, an Arab historian who travelled through India in 916, described the chewing of Betelnut as a national custom. There were even those who voluntarily ascended the funeral pyre comforted by Betelnut. People who did not use betel nut were socially isolated.(1)
Today, chewing betel nut is an important and popular cultural activity in many Asian countries. Betelnuts are also used as an offering in Hinduism. In India (the worlds largest consumer of Betelnut), the nuts are cut into small pieces with a special instrument. The practice of using Betelnut is often called Betelnut chewing, but the nuts are not just placed in the mouth and chewed. They are usually dried and broken down into smaller pieces (sometimes into a powder) and mixed with edible lime to aid in the absorption of their active ingredients, arecaine and arecoline. Rather than being chewed, the mixture is put between the cheek and tongue and left there, sometimes overnight.(1)
In addition to the well known stimulant properties, the seed is used medicinally in numerous internal and external preparations. The husks, shoots, buds, leaves, and roots also have local medicinal uses. The fibrous fruit husks stripped from the seed have many uses, including as a home fuel source. The trunks of culled trees are used for crude construction; the fallen fronds are used in making alcohol; the spathes and leaf sheaths are used in wrapping, packing, and as hats and sandals. The inflorescences and flowers are used ceremonially in diverse cultures.(2)
Betel Nut and chemicals in Betel leaves may cause skin color changes, dilated pupils, blurred vision, wheezing/difficulty breathing, and increased breathing rate. Tremors, slow movements, and stiffness have been reported in people also taking anti-psychotic medications. Worsening of spasmodic movements has occurred in patients with Huntington's disease. Seizure has been reported with high doses. "Cholinergic" toxicity symptoms from Betel use may include salivation, increased tearing, lack of urinary control (incontinence), sweating, diarrhea, and fever. Other problems may include confusion, problems with eye movement, psychosis, amnesia, stimulant effects, and a feeling of euphoria. Long-term users may form a dependence on the effects of Betel, and discontinuing use may cause signs of withdrawal, such as anxiety or memory lapse. Betel chewing has been shown to have a harmful effect on the gums. The nut may cause the teeth, mouth, lips, and stool to become red stained. Burning and dryness of mouth may occur. Regular Betel use may increase the risk of cancers of the liver, mouth, stomach, prostate, cervix, and lung, and type 2 diabetes.(4)
Areca catechu is a medium-sized and graceful palm tree growing straight to 20 m tall, with a trunk 20-30 cm in diameter. The leaves are 1.5-2 m long, pinnate, with numerous, crowded leaflets. Yellowish-red fruits the size of a hen's egg, containing the seed about the size of an acorn, conical shape with flattened base and brownish in colour externally; internally mottled like a nutmeg.(5)
This product is illegal or somehow problematic to send to the following countries. Click on the country link for further information.
(1) Betel Nut Information, a1b2c3.com
(2) Document: Areca catechu (betel nut palm), Speciesâ€‚Profilesâ€‚forâ€‚Pacificâ€‚Islandâ€‚Agroforestry, George W. Staples and Robert F. Bevacqua
(3) Arecoline, Wikipedia
(4) Betel nut (Areca catechu L.), MedlinePlus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institude of Health
(5) Areca catechu, Wikipedia
Any information provided about products on this website, including any links to external websites, is purely intended for historical, scientific and educational purposes and should never be interpreted as a recommendation for a specific use of the products.
|A handsome tree cultivated in all the warmer parts of Asia for its yellowish-red fruits the size of a hen's egg, containing the seed about the size of an acorn. For a long time, Betel chewing has been the preferred drug in large parts of Asia, but nowadays, the smoking of Tobacco is becoming increasingly popular among the indigenous populations. A Betel quid traditionally consists of at least three ingredients. The nuts of the Betel palm, together with Lime (Calcium hydroxide) and possibly other ingredients are wrapped in the aromatic leaves of Piper betel, the Betel-pepper.|