Medically reviewed on June 7, 2018
What is Betel Nut?
The areca tree is a feathery palm that grows to approximately 1.5 m in height and is widely cultivated in tropical India, Bangladesh, Japan, Sri Lanka, south China, the East Indies, the Philippines, and parts of Africa. The tropical palm trees bear fruit all year. The nut may be used fresh, dried, or cured by boiling, baking, or roasting. The quid is a mixture of areca nut, tobacco, and lime wrapped in the leaf of the betel vine (Piper betel L. Family: Piperaceae).
Areca catechu L. Family: Palmaceae (palms)
Areca nut, paan, paan-gutkha pinlang, pinang, and supari.
What is it used for?
The chewing of betel nut quids dates to antiquity. In the 1st century AD, Sanskrit medical writings claimed that betel nut possessed 13 qualities found in the region of heaven. It is pungent, bitter, spicy, sweet, salty, and astringent. It was said to expel wind, kill worms, remove phlegm, subdue bad odors, beautify the mouth, induce purification, and kindle passion. Because of its CNS stimulating effects, betel nut is used in a manner similar to the western use of tobacco or caffeine. Arecoline is responsible for some of the effects of betel quid chewing, such as alertness, increased stamina, a sense of well-being, euphoria, and salivation. Chewing the nut stimulates the flow of saliva to aid digestion. Betel nut also has been used to stimulate the appetite.
Betel nut's medical use is limited, and long-term negative reactions to betel quid chewing are well known. A decrease in positive symptoms among men with schizophrenia was attributed to betel nut consumption.
What is the recommended dosage?
Limited clinical trials exist to guide dosage; limited clinical uses exist.
None well documented.
Documented adverse reactions, including DNA damage and damage to the fetus. Avoid use.
None well documented.
Betel nut consumption has been linked to the incidence of metabolic syndrome.
Areca nut and the betel leaf have caused DNA damage and cancer in cells and in animal experiments. There is a dose- and duration-dependent association of betel quid chewing with precancerous changes in the mouth as well as mouth, throat, laryngeal, and esophageal cancer.