Chewing the mixture of areca nut and betel leaf is a tradition or custom which dates back thousands of years in many Asian and Oceanic countries. It is not known when the areca nut and betel leaf was combined together in to one psychoactive drug. Archeological evidence from Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines suggests that they have been used for four thousand years or more. In the Indian sub continent chewing of betel and areca nut dates back to pre Vedic period to Harappan Empire. Chinese work “San-Hu-Sundan” supposed to have been written during 140-8 B.C. referred areca nut under the name of “pinlang”, a Malaysian word. Spanish mariner Alvaro de Mandena had reported how Solomon Islanders were chewing the areca nut with leaves of betel and caustic lime that stained their mouths red.
Products and Uses
The fruit of the Areca palm, commonly called as areca nut, is mainly used for chewing with betel leaf in almost all South Asian Countries and in Many South East Asian and Oceanic countries. It is a mild stimulant cause a mild hot sensation to the body. Nut is used both in fresh and dried forms. In Pakistan and India Fresh nut are cut and flavored to produce different products. In China and India Areca nut is used in the preparation of Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicines. In India powdered areca nut is used as a constituent in some tooth pastes. In some parts of India powdered areca nuts, decoctions or extracted alkaloids from areca are used in the veterinary medicine to remove tapeworms and other intestinal parasites of animals.
Areca leaves are used to produce many house hold items, for decorative purposes and the leaf sheath to make fast decomposing plates, packing materials etc. Traditionally, areca leaf sheaths have been used to pack cooked rice and to preserve treacle of “Fish Tail Palm”. Matured stems are used as a building material as well as for decoration of religious events by Hindus. Young plants are used as an ornamental plant.