1.1 What is a betel nut?
The betel nut is the seed of the areca palm (botanical name: Areca catechu; Chinese Pinyin: Bing Lang, Simplified Chinese: 槟榔). The plant is a species of evergreen, perennial, flowering, fruit-bearing palm in genus Areca in the palmae family, Arecaceae. The flowers are yellow to orange, 1.2 – 1.5 cm long. The edible fruit is olive shape, medium in size between 3-5 cm long with orange to reddish skin when ripe. The plant can grow up to 30 m tall. Native to Philippines and extensively cultivated in Asia, many of the islands in the Pacific Ocean, and also in the West Indies, habitats of Areca catechu include hills and low mountains, valley, flatlands, stream banks and tropical and seasonal forest (usually found from between 0 to 1,000 meters in elevation).
Other names for the Areca catechu include: areca nut palm, betel palm, Indian nut, Pinang palm.
Other simplified Chinese names for betel nuts include: 槟榔子, 大腹子, 宾门, 橄榄子, 青仔, 榔玉.
1.2 How does betel nut taste?
Fresh betel nuts have a firmed and dense texture with a taste that is acrid, bitter, hot. The betel nuts bring about invigorating and awakening effect like a strong early morning coffee.
1.3 Is betel nut addictive?
Yes, betel nut contains arecoline which acts on the same receptor proteins in the brain as nicotine and keep the brain awake. Studies show that small doses of betel nuts can provide stimulant and euphoric effects, and betel nut chewing is popular because of these effects.
1.4 How do I tell if my betel nuts are ripe?
Betel nuts start to ripen when the fruit skin turn bright red or yellow or orange (depending on different regions). Most ripe betel nuts are found in July to December, depending on the weather conditions.
1.5 How is betel nut used in traditional Chinese medicine?
Dried betel nut is considered to have bitter, pungent and warm properties and to be associated with the stomach and large intestine meridians. It is used as intestinal worm killing drug, digestion aid, Qi (vital energy) circulation promoter and diuretic in traditional Chinese medicine (CTM) and widely adopted in treating different diseases and health problems, such as human intestinal worm and beriberi.
2. Uses, Health Benefits of Betel Nuts & Medical Formulas
2.1 Reduce Phlegm
[CTM Formula] Powdered betel nuts is taken orally to get rid of excess mucus.
2.2 Relieve Stomachache
[CTM Formula] A decoction of betel nuts, galangal and old rice is taken orally to relieve stomachache.
[CTM Formula] Pyrrosia lingua and betel nut are powdered and taken orally with ginger soup to treat lung-heat caused coughing.
[CTM Formula] A decoction of Lycopodium japonicum, chaff, betel nut is used in treating edema.
[CTM Formula] A decoction of zedoary rhizome, agastache rugosus, soapstone, betel nut, Mangnolia officinalis and onion is taken orally to treat severe cholera.
2.6 The Excretory System
[CTM Formula] A decoction of cynanchum paniculatum, couch grass rhizome, akebia stem, chingma abutilon seed, soapstone, betel nut, dianthus superbus and sodium sulfate can be used to treat difficulty with urination.
[CTM Formula] Powdered betel nuts is taken orally with warm ginger wine to treat beriberi
2.8 Intestinal Worms
[CTM Formula] Powdered betel nuts is taken orally with onion soup to kill intestinal worms.
2.9 Ear Discharge (Otorrhea)
[CTM Formula] Betel nut powder is used externally to treat ear discharge (otorrhea).
3. Contraindication, Side-effects & Cautions
Long term use of betel nuts may significantly increase the risk of some cancers (oral cancer in particular), and immediate effects can include worsening of asthma, high or low blood pressure, and abnormal heart rate.
The Ben Cao Medical Book (also known as Compendium of Materia Medica or Ben Cao Gang Mu; Chinese: 本草纲目) is the most famous and comprehensive medical book ever written in the history of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Compiled and written by Li Shi-zhen (1518~1593), a medical expert of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) over 27 years.
The Ben Cao Medical Book records and describes all the plants, animals, minerals, and other objects that were believed to have medicinal properties in TCM. The book reflects the pharmaceutical achievements and developments of East Asia before the 16th century. On the basis of his predecessors’ achievements in the pharmacological studies, Li contributed further by supplementing and rectifying many past mistakes and misconception in relate to nature of many medicinal substances and causes of various illnesses. Charles Darwin, originator of the biological theory of evolution, regards the book as the “ancient Chinese encyclopedia”.
Disclaimer: The Ben Cao Medical Book is translated by ChinaAbout.net. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of CTM knowledge and information from the research and experience from the author Li Shi-zhen. Kindly be alert that the CTM knowledge and ancient formulas given above are likely NOT medically proven and may contain misconceptions.