Betel Leaves (Paan)

Botanical Name: Piper betel (LINN.)
Family: Piperaceae
Genus: Piper
Species: P. betle
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Piperales

–:-Chavica Betel. Artanthe Hixagona

Common Name: Paan
Part Used-:–The leaves.
Habitat: The Betel plant originated in Malaysia and now grows in India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, Malaya and Java.

The plant is evergreen and perennial, with glossy heart-shaped leaves and white catkins, and grows to a height of about 1 metre. . The best Betel leaf is the “Magahi” variety (literally from the Magadha region) grown near Patna in Bihar, India. The plant is known by a series of different names in the regions in which it is consumed – among these are Vetrilai (Tamil).

The Betel plant is indigenous throughout the Indian Malay region and also cultivated in Madagascar, Bourbon and the West Indies. It is a climbing shrub and is trained on poles or trellis in a hot but shady situation. The leaves are pressed together and dried, sometimes being sewn up together in packets for commerce.

-Constituents–-The chief constituent of the leaves is a volatile oil varying in the leaves from different countries and known as Betel oil. It contains two phenols, betel-phenol (chavibetol) and chavicol. Cadinene has also been found. The best oil is a clear yellow colour obtained from the fresh leaves. The Indians use the leaves as a masticatory (the taste being warm, aromatic and bitter), together with scraped areca nut and lime.

Chew as Mouth freshner:In India and parts of Southeast Asia, the leaves are chewed together with the mineral slaked lime (calcium hydroxide) and the areca nut which, by association, is sometimes inaccurately called the “betel nut“. The lime acts to keep the active ingredient in its freebase or alkaline form, thus enabling it to enter the bloodstream via sublingual absorption. The areca nut contains the alkaloid arecoline, which promotes salivation (the saliva is stained red), and is itself a stimulant. This combination, known as a “betel quid”, has been used for several thousand years. Tobacco is sometimes added…...CLICK &  SEE

Paan is the Hindi word (in Hindi: from Sanskrit parna ‘feather) for betel’, which is used for a stimulating and psychoactive preparation combined with areca nut and/or cured tobacco. Paan is chewed and finally spat out or swallowed. Paan has many variations. Slaked lime (chunnam) paste is commonly added to bind the leaves. Some South Asian preparations include katha paste or mukhwas  to freshen the breath.

(Katha is also known as cutch, black cutch, cachou, cashoo, khoyer, terra Japonica, or Japan earth, and also katha in Hindi, kaath in Marathi, khoyer in Assamese and Bengali, and kachu in Malay (hence the Latinized Acacia catechu chosen as the Linnaean taxonomy name of the type-species Acacia plant which provides the extract).

In India, the betel and areca play an important role in Indian culture especially among Hindus. All the traditional ceremonies governing the lives of Hindus use betel and areca. For example to pay money to the priest, they keep money in the betel leaves and place it beside the priest.

The betel and areca also play an important role in Vietnamese culture. In Vietnamese there is a saying that “the betel begins the conversation”, referring to the practice of people chewing betel in formal occasions or “to break the ice” in awkward situational conversations. The betel leaves and areca nuts are used ceremonially in traditional Vietnamese weddings. Based on a folk tale about the origins of these plants, the groom traditionally offer the bride’s parents betel leaves and areca nuts (among other things) in exchange for the bride. The betel and areca are such important symbols of love and marriage such that in Vietnamese the phrase “matters of betel and areca” (chuyện trầu cau) is synonymous with marriage.


-Medicinal Action and Uses:

Betel leaves are chiefly used as a gently stimulant, apparently inducing a mild sensation of well-being.  They also affect the digestive system, stimulating salivary secretions, relieving gas, and preventing worm infestation.  In many Asian traditions, including Ayurvedic medicine, betel leaves are thought to have aphrodisiac and nerve tonic properties.  In Chinese herbal medicine, betel root, leaves, and fruit are sometimes used as a mild tonic and stomach-settling herb.  The root has been used with black pepper or jequirity to produce sterility in women.

-The Betel (Piper betle) is a spice whose leaves have medicinal properties.The leaves are stimulant antiseptic and sialogogue; the oil is an active local stimulant used in the treatment of respiratory catarrhs as a local application or gargle, also as an inhalant in diphtheria. In India the leaves are used as a counter-irritant to suppress the secretion of milk in mammary abscesses. The juice of 4 leaves is equivalent in power to one drop of the oil.

In India, they use betel to cast out (cure) worms.

Betel leaves are used as a stimulant, an antiseptic and a breath-freshener Paan. In Ayurvedic medicine, they are used as an aphrodisiac. In Malaysia they are used to treat headaches, arthritis and joint pain. In Thailand and China they are used to relieve toothache. In Indonesia they are drunk as an infusion and used as an antibiotic. They are also used in an infusion to cure indigestion, as a topical cure for constipation, as a decongestant and as an aid to lactation.

In Papua New Guinea, betel is prepared with a mustard stick dipped in lime powder and acts as a stimulant to suppress hunger, reduce stress and heighten the senses.

Known Hazards: In an extensive scientific research monograph, the World Health Organization expert group for research on cancer reported in 2004 that the percentage of oral cancer among all cancers diagnosed in hospitals in Asia has always been much higher than that usually found in western countries, where the habit of chewing betel quid, with or without tobacco, is virtually unknown. In many descriptive studies, investigators have obtained histories of chewing betel quid with tobacco from series of patients with oral cancer; and in all these studies the percentage of patients who practice betel leaf chewing was found to be extremely large. Researchers also noted that the cancer generally develops at the place where the betel quid is kept. ……....CLICK & READ

The high rate of oral cancer in South Asia is thought to be due to the chewing of betel preparations; the inclusion of tobacco may worsen the risk, but there is also evidence that the areca nut, alone or as part of a betel quid, may cause cancer even without tobacco.[23] See its article for more discussion of this point.   ...CLICK & SEE

Effects of chewing paan during pregnancy:   Scientific teams from Taiwan, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea have reported that women who chew areca nut formulations, such as paan, during pregnancy significantly increase adverse outcomes for the baby. The effects were similar to those reported for women who consume alcohol or tobacco during pregnancy. Lower birth weights, reduced birth length and early term were found to be significantly higher

Some reports may suggest that betel leaf by itself has adverse health effects, in part because of tannins delivered by the leaf and for reasons currently not fully understood.   For example, one research paper studied chromosome damaging effect of betel leaf in human leukocyte cultures. These researchers report an increase in the frequency of chromatid aberrations when the leaf extract was added to cultures. Another scientific study from Japan    indicates that the lab rats who ate a mixture of betel leaf and areca nuts all had severe thickening of the upper digestive tract whereas after undergoing a diet of betel leaves alone, only one laboratory rat ended up having a forestomach papilloma.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

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