BETEL NUT, Areca catechu

BETEL NUT

Latin name:            Areca catechu

English name: Betel nut Palm, Areca Palm

Sanskrit name: Puga, Gubak, Poogiphalam, Tantusara

Indian name: Supari

Medicinal parts used: Seeds

Supari is a palm tree grown extensively in India, mainly for the production of betel nut and for the purpose of the wood for specific building purposes. Areca nut is chewed with betel leaves, a piece of tobacco and some lime for a stimulating effect. The mixture turns dark red by chewing and stains the mouth. The practice of betel nut chewing is not as regular as it had once been. The practice is addictive and can pose health risks including chances of cancer.

It is a medium-sized and graceful palm tree growing straight to 20 m tall, with a trunk 10-15cm in diameter. The leaves are 1.5-2 m long, pinnate, with numerous, crowded leaflets. It is grown for its commercially important seed crop, the areca nut. The seed contains alkaloids such as arecaine and arecoline, which when chewed is intoxicating and is also slightly addictive. Areca palms are grown in India, Malaysia, Taiwan and many other Asian countries for their seeds.

Therapeutic use:

  • In China, Areca nut has been used as de-worming.
  • Areca nut contains antioxidant polyphenols — catechin, quercetin, flavonoids, leukocytes and hexahydroflavans. Catechin and quercetin are the good compounds also found in tea. However, Areca nut yields a number of alkaloids that are extremely harmful agents.
  • In Ayurvedic medicine, the nut of the areca palm is used as a remedy against bad breath.
  • Some people also tout it as being useful for those suffering from schizophrenia; although no good studies exist that validate this view.
  • The nuts of the areca palm are wrapped in the leaves of the betel vine, and chewed as a stimulant.
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