Betel nuts are the seeds or kernel of tree Areca catechu, a species of palm tree. This tree is native to Malaysia. In India, it is cultivated along the coasts of Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam and Maharashtra.
Betel nut is one of the oldest known masticatories that is used either alone or with many other ingredients. These can be used as fresh, dried, boiled, roasted or fermented. In India, it is commonly known as Supari and added to pan with other ingredients like slaked lime, catechu, gulkand etc. The chewing of Paan is very common in India.
Chewing of betel nuts for prolonged period is hazardous for health. It can cause diabetes, high blood pressure and heart diseases.
But in Ayurveda, the dried ripe seeds, known as Puga are used for treatment of diseases like leucorrhoea, tastelessness, oral diseases etc. One of the famous drug containing betel nut as ingredient is Puga Khanda.
Latin name: Areca catechu Linn.
- Sanskrit: Kramuka, Ghona, Puga
- Assamese: Tamol, Tamul
- Bengali: Supari
- English: Areca nut, Betel nut
- Gujrati: Sopari
- Hindi: Supari, Chr alia
- Kannada: Adiks
- Kashmiri: Supari, Spari
- Malayalam: Adakku, Pakku
- Marathi: Supari, Pophal
- Oriya: Gua
- Punjabi: Supari, Spari
- Siddha/Tamil: Kottai Pakku, Kamugu, Pakku, Pakhumaram
- Telugu: Paka chekka, Vakka
- Urdu: Fufal, Choalia, Supari
- Trade names: Areca nut, Betel nut, Supari
Cultivated in the coastal regions of India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and other tropical and subtropical countries.
Tall, slender, unbranched palm with a crown of leaves; stem annulate; leaves pinnate with a conspicuous sheet;flowers in spadix, male many at the upper portion, female much longer and a few at the base;fruits are singleseeded berries with flesh and fibrous pericarp and a stony seed, 3.8-5 em long, smooth, orange or scarlet when ripe. Flowering: August-January;Fruiting: about a year later.
Ayurvedic properties and action of Puga or Supari
- Rasa (Taste): kashaya/Astringent,
- Guna (Characteristics): Guru/Heavy, Ruksha/Dry
- Virya (Potency): Sheet/ Cool,
- Vipaka (Post Digestive Effect): Katu/Pungent
- Effects on Tridoshas (Humor): Balances kapha and pitta.
Betel nuts contain catechin, tannins (15%), Gallic acid fat, gum and alkaloids like arecoline (0.07%), arecaine (1%). Arecaidine and guvacoline, guvacine and choline are present in trace amount.
Medicinal uses of Betel nut or Supari
The use of Areca nuts for therapeutic purpose is mentioned in many Ayurvedic treatise such as Charaka Samhita (useful in the diseases caused by bile), Sushruta Samhita (beneficial in the diseases caused by phlegm, but overuse may distort voice), Brahmavaivarta Purana (brushing the teeth with twig), Vagbhata and Bhavamista. It is traditionally used to treat several diseases such as leucoderma, leprosy, anaemia, and obesity. The dried nuts are stimulant, astringent and increases salivation. Here is given few traditional medicinal uses of pooga or betel nuts.
Add 1 teaspoon betel nut powder in 500 ml water. Use this as vaginal douche.
- Take one nut and burn it to obtain its ash. This should be mixed with 2 spoon clove powder and katha (1/4 cup). This preparation should be mixed with water and used for rinsing mouth.
- Boil one nut in water and use the water for gargling.
Char few nuts and pulverise them. This powder should be rubbed on the teeth.
Take 2 teaspoon powdered nut and fry in ghee. Add ajwain, Kattha and sendha namak in equal amount. Mix and ground them. Mix some water and apply on inflammed areas.
Side-effects and Contraindications
- Betel nuts regular use is harmful for health. It should be used in recommended dose only for medicinal purpose.
- Its excessive chewing is harmful for teeth.
- Use of betel nut is contraindicated in asthma (due to bronchoconstrictive effects of the alkaloid arecoline) and pregnancy (Abortifacient).
- Due to increased incidence of oral cancer associated with betel chewing, it must not be used as masticatory.
- The seeds are fatally toxic at 8-10 g, fluid extract at 3.5ml.
Ayurvedic Pharmacopeia recommends it safe dose as 1-2 grams in dried powder form for medicinal purpose.