Betel Nut (Areca catechu) Uses, Research, Medicines, Side Effects

Betel nut – Areca catechu is an Ayurveda herb mentioned for the treatment of mouth ulcers, leucorrhea, dental plaque, joint pain, diarrhea, intestinal worms and excessive urination. 

Latin name – Areca catechu Linn.
Family – Palmae/ Arecaceae

Introduction

Betel nut is from Cochin. It is widely found in china and Malaya. Its name Areca is translation from Malaya word. It was referred in many of our ancient books, mythologies and classics. It was considered as sacred nut offered while welcoming an guest.

Areca is said to be latinized form of the Malayan name. It has references in many of our ancient books, mythologies and classics. It was considered as a sacred nut offered while welcoming a guest.

Vernacular names

Names in different languages:
Hindi name – Puga, Supari
English name – Areca nut, Betel nut, Arecanut palm, Betel palm, Catechu palm, Fauselnut, Pinang, supari palm
Assamese name – Tambul
Bengali name – Gua, Supari
Gujarati name – Hopari, Sopari
Kannada name – Adike, Adake, Adaki, Adike, Bettadike
Marathi name – Pophali, Supari, Poog
Malayalam name – Atekka, Pugam, Chempalukka, Pakka, Kramukam, Ghonta, kamuka, kavunnu
Tamil name – Paaku, Kugagam, Pugam
Telugu name – Kramukamu, Pugamu
Urdu name – Supari, Feefal
Arabic name – fofal, feefal
Burmese name – Kun, Kunsi
Chinese name – ping lang
Italian name, Portuguese name – areca
German – areca palm
Dutch name – arecapalam boom, pinang
Russian name – areka, kapustnaya palma
Tulu name – Kangu
Read related: Tambul – Pan Chewing – Right Method And Benefits

Sanskrit Synonyms

Kashayaphalapushpaka  – betel nut fruid and flower are predominantly astringent in taste
Deergha Padapa – tall tree
Valkataru, Valkachikkana – shining bark

Chikka, Chataphala, Kramuka, Guvak, Valkataru, Rajaphala, Tambula, Udvega
Kramuka, Kebuka, Sramsi, Ghonta Phala, Khapura
Puga, Pugaphala, Poogaka, Poogi,
Chikkana , Chikka, Guvachika, Ghoranta, Drudhahvaya,  Munihvaya

Morphology

Morphology of Areca catechu:
Areca tree is found and cultivated for its commercial value in the southern states of Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and in North Eastern states of Assam. The tree grows to a height of 12 – 20 m. and has a diameter of 10 – 15 cm. It is tall slender & unbranched surmounted by a crown of pinnate leaves. The leaves are 4 – 6 feet long, fan type feather like dropping leaves often confluent & glabrous. Leaflets are numerous and 30 – 60 cm long. The female flowers are solitary or in groups or 2 or 3 at or near the base of each ramification of the spadix sessile, much larger than male, The fruits are 3.8 – 5 cm long, smooth, ovoid or oblong, green in unripe stage and nuts orange or reddish color in refined matured stage. Inside the fruit is a single seed. Endosperm is popularly called the areca nut, which is 2 – 4 cm in diameter greyish brown, with reddish brown lines.

Properties, part used, dosage

Properties:
Rasa (Taste) –Kashaya (Astringent), Madhura (Sweet)
Guna (Qualities) – Guru (Heavy for digestion), Ruksha (Dry in nature)
Vipaka – Katu (Undergoes pungent taste after digestion)
Veerya (Potency) – Sheeta (Cold)
Karma (Actions) – Kaphapitta shamaka (reduces vitiated kapha and pitta dosha)
Part used – Fruit

Dosage –
Powder or cut seed – 1 to 3 g
Decoction – 10 to 15 ml
Read related: Tender Arecanut Herbal Tea For Wound And Ulcer Care

Qualities as per Bhojana Kutuhalam

Rasa (Taste) – Astringent
Virya (Potency) – Cold
Guna – Rooksha (Dry)
Alleviates – Kapha and Pitta, intoxicating, stimulates digestive fire, improves taste perception, removes bad taste from the mouth.

Wet and boiled arecanut
The wet arecanut is heavy for digestion and blocks the channels, weakens the digestive fire and hampers the vision. Boiled arecanut destroys all the three doshas, The wet arecanut with the strong middle portion is said to be the best.


Chemical composition

Chemical composition of Areca catechu:
Areca nut contains tannin, a fixed oil, gummy substance, a volatile oil, lignin 15%, a red coloring substance areca red and several alkaloids. It has 31.31% moisture, 4.9% protein, 4.4% fat; 11.2% fibers, 47.2% carbohydrates and 1.0 g/100mg minerals. The mineral constituents present are 50% calcium, 130% phosphorous, 1.5% iron, 286.9% vitamin B6, 416.2 mg/100g of vitamin C. The carotene and calorific values are 3ug/100g and 249kcal/100g. The fatty acid constituents of oil are lauric 19.5, myristic 46.2, palmitic 12.7, stearic 1.6, decanoic 0.3, oleic 6.2. lenoleic 5.4, dodecenoic 0.3. The chief component glycerides are 56% fully saturated (trimyristin) 30% mono – unsaturated di saturated and 14% di unsaturated – mono saturated.

The alkaloids present are belonging to the pyridine group they are arecaidine, areolidine, guvacine, guvacoline, isoguvacine, norarecaidine and norarecoline. The amino acids present are traces of tryptophan, methionine and larger amounts of proline tyrosine, phenylalanine and arginine.

Leaf contains eugenol, hydroxy chaercol, carotene, vitamin C, vitamin B6, phenylalanine, bioactive polyphenolic components like NPF – 861A, NPF – 861B, catechin, epicatechin.

Uses of Puga

Decoction of Puga is used for gargling to treat cases of mouth ulcer, bleeding gums and dental plaque.
Fine powder of areca nut is used as dusting powder to treat wound and control bleeding.
The decoction of areca nut is given in a dose of 10 ml to treat intestinal worms and diarrhea.
The decoction of Areca catechu is pushed through vaginal route as a type of enema to treat condition of leucorrhea.
Sesame oil processed with areca nut is used for external application over joints affected with pain and inflammation.
Areca nut powder in a dose of 1 – 2 g is mixed with lime juice is given to treat anorexia and nausea.
The powder of Areca catechu is used as dental powder to whiten the teeth and remove dental plaque.
Regular intake of areca nut can cause decrease of sperm count.
Decoction of puga in a dose of 10 – 15 ml can treat inflammation of the uterus and decrease the urine output.
Ayurveda explains the use of tambula (mixture of betel leaf, areca nut and some spices) after meal to aid in digestion of food.
To treat syphilis, the paste of areca nut is applied over the affected area.
Boiling the areca nut will reduce the strength of the nut which can be later used for mouth freshners.

Uttara Basti (Vaginal douche) is administered in case of Leucorrhoea.
A dusting of powder is suggested for wounds and ulcers
The gargle of pugaphala is taken in diseases of mouth particularly stomatitis, throat infections the decoction of nut is used.

The oil prepared with puga is applied in backache, waist pain and vata vyadhi.
The powder of nut, mixed with lime juice / milk is good for anorexia, diarrhea, dysentery and worms.
Seed of areca together with lime, black catechu and leaves of betel useful in decay of teeth.
Powder of dried nuts in 10-15 grains along with equal part of sugar will cure diarrhea due to debility.

¼ th tola powder rubbed into a paste with 2 tola of fresh lemon juice makes an excellent vermifuge. About teaspoonful is administered after patient has fasted for 12-14 hrs either up to a bolus with a ghee / floating on milk. Useful in round worm and tapeworm, 4.6 grams of powder stirred with 2-3 ounces of milk is useful for expulsion of tapeworm.

Tincture forms an astringent gargle when freely diluted with water i.e. 1 gram of powder with 4 ounces of water, useful in bleeding gums. It is also used as injection for stopping watery discharges from the vagina and in checking pyrosis of pregnancy.

Sanskrit verse

Nut burnt to charcol and quarter part of cinnamon forms an tooth powder.
Juice of tender leaves mixed with oil is applied as an embrocation in cases of Lumbago.
Decoction of root is a repeated cure for sore lips.
In Rakta pitta, supari churna with chandana churna equal quantity should be taken with Thandulodaka and madhu
In Vata vyadhi, shalaki along with supari kwatha mixed with oil and given to drink.
In Upadamsha, supari is rubbed and crushed and lepa done.
In Rakta pitta, supari churna should be mixed with amlapeya because of usna, Thiksna, saraka guna, it does anulomana of basti.
Dusting of supari is done for quick wound healing. Being an astringent, it absorbs slough and wound liquids.
In Dysuria, water boiled with areca
In cough, betel nut chewed along with leaves of betel climber.
1 g powder of areca along with 1 cup tepid warm milk, brings back ability to sexual pleasure.
Boiling 4 g of nut; 3 cups of water and then it is reduced to 1 cup; 2 part of it are taken daily twice in blood dysentery and indigestion.

Traditional uses, Indications

Traditional uses as per Ayurveda:
Unripe arecanut – Ama Pooga –

Kashaya – astringent
Mukha mala shamana – cleanses oral cavity and feces
Kanthashuddhi – cleanses throat
Useful in Rakta, Kapha and Pitta disorders.
Sara – induces mobility, causes diarrhea, purgation, relieves constipation
Indicated in
Udara – ascites, enlargement of the abdomen
Adhmana – bloating, gaseous distension of abdomen

Dry Arecanut –
Rooksha – dry
Guru – heavy to digest
Sara – induces mobility, causes diarrhea, purgation, relieves constipation
Rochana – improves taste, relieves anorexia
Mohana – causes relaxation
Hrudya – acts as cardiac tonic, congenial for heart
Hima – coolant
Balances Kapha and Pitta Dosha
Deepana – improves digestion strength

Indicated in –
Vaktra Vairasya – bad breath. foul smell
Mala Daurgandhya – foul smelling feces

Wet, fresh arecanut –
Guru – heavy to digest
Abhishyandi – sticks to the inner channels
Drusthimandya krut – causes eye disorders
Agnimandyakrut – causes weak digestion
Dry arecanut slightly increases Vata, but Tridoshahara – Balances all the three Doshas

Swinna Pooga – boiled arecanut –
Tridoshaghna – balances all the three Doshas
Ripe and dry fruit increases Vata Dosha.
The betel nut that is hard in the middle and has shine, is very good for consumption.

Pooga niryasa – exudate from the betelnut plant –
Hima – coolant
Ushna – hot
Kshara – alkaline
Amla – sour
Balances Vata, increases Pitta

Ideal betel nut

Ideal betel nut for making pan:
As per Ayurveda Mahodadhi, the arecanut used for the purpose of tambula should be atleast 3 months old. The nut that which exceeds the third month will have the constituents of arecanut in their fullest form and is considered to be cardiac and pleasant to mind.

Ideal betel nut size:
The stout variety of arecanut is considered to increase the kapha doSha and manifest the worms in the intestines.
Whereas the white variety of the arecanut though increases the kapha doSha is considered to eradicate the intestinal worms.

Adverse effect

Increased intake of puga can cause giddiness, nausea and unconsciousness. Intake of water or oily substance like butter or ghee can reduce the adverse effect.

Interaction with medicines, supplements

Can this be used while taking Homeopathic medicine?
Yes. This product does not react with homeopathic medicine.

Can this medicine be continued while taking supplements like multivitamin tablets, Omega 3 fatty acids etc?
Yes. Generally, this product goes well with most of the dietary supplements. However, if you are taking more than one product per day, please consult your doctor for an opinion.

With western medicines
Seek your doctor’s advice if you are taking this product along with other western (allopathic / modern) medicines. Some Ayurvedic herbs can interact with modern medicine.
If both Ayurvedic and allopathic medicines are advised together, then it is best to take Allopathic medicine first, wait for 30 minutes and then take the Ayurvedic medicine.

Ayurveda medicines

Ayurveda medicines containing Puga:
Phuga khanda: It is used in the treatment of vomiting, gastritis, dyspepsia, abdominal colic pain, dizziness, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, obesity, splenic disorders, rectal bleeding, anemia.

Balanth khada No.3: It is a proprietary ayurvedic medicine which is administered from 21st day delivery to the 60th day post – delivery, to the nursing mother. It strengthens the abdominal muscles and ligaments attached to uterus and Pelvis.

Dashan samskar churna: It is an Ayurvedic medicine in herbal powder form. It is used as tooth powder. It helps to strengthen teeth, improves shine and whiteness.

Research

Research articles related to Areca cathechu:
Anti – microbial study: Varying concentrations of Areca catechu L.nut ethanol extract were tested for antimicrobial activity against 0.5 McFarland of mixed – oral flora and eight gram – negative clinical isolates (E. coli, K. pneumonia, P. vulgaris, P. aeruginosa, S. non – typhi, S. typhi, S. flexneri and V. cholera) by agar well diffusion method. All concentrations were shown to inhibit growth in all mixed – oral flora models with zones of inhibition ranging from 7 mm to 18 mm. Susceptible patterns were also seen in all gram – negative clinical isolates with the smallest mean of zones of inhibition seen in Escherichia coli which is 8 mm at 30 % concentration and Klebsiella pneumoniae with no zone of inhibition in both 30% and 50% concentration.

Anti – fungal activity: The purpose of this investigation was to study the antifungal activity of hot water extract of Areca Catechu nuts collected from coastal region of Kerala. The Arecanut extract did not inhibit the growth of mycelial fungal forms such as Mucor sp, Aspergillus niger and Cladosporium sp but the growth of unicellular fungus Candida albicans was inhibited.

Anti – oxidant activity: The seed of Areca catechu contains higher proportions of polyphenolic compounds mainly tannins. Results shows that the methanol extract (ME) obtained from successive extraction has highest tannin content (TC), total phenolic content (TPC) and exhibited higher reducing power and hydrogen peroxide scavenging ability in comparison to petroleum ether, ethyl acetate and water extract (WE).

Anti – ovulatory and abortifaciant activity: For antiovulatory effect, ethanolic extract of A. catechu at 100 and 300 mg/kg doses was administered orally for 15 days. The extract of A. catechu showed a significant decrease in the duration of estrus at 100 mg/kg (P = 0.015) and 300 mg/kg doses (P = 0.002) as compared with control. Metestrus phase was also significantly reduced at 100 mg/kg (P = 0.024) and 300 mg/kg doses (P = 0.002). There was a significant increase in proestrus (P < 0.001) phase. However, diestrus phase was unchanged.

Classical categorization

Bhavaprakasha – Amradi phala varga
Kaiyyadeva Nighantu – Oushadhi varga
Raja Nighantu – Amradi phala varga
Priya Nighantu – Hareetakyadi varga

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Arecales
Family: Arecaceae
Genus: Areca
Species: A. catechu 

Types

Types of Areca according to processing –
White Supari Prepared by harvesting fully ripe areca nut and by sun drying for 40 – 50 days. After drying the nut, the shell of the has to be removed by hand machine and called as Supari

Red Supari Prepared by harvesting tender green areca nut and peeling the husk, boiled in water and dried and known as Chikni Supari.

Types of Arecanut as per region:
Sreevardhan type – Grown in coastal Maharastra
Mangala type – Grown in Dakshina Kannada
Sumangala type – Selection from Indonesia Average yield is 17.5 kg / palm at 10 years
Sreemangala – Selection from Singapore Average yield is 15.63kg/palm at 10th year
Mettupulayam – Grown in Coimbatore district of Tamilnadu
Mohitnagar – Largely grown in north eastern region like west Bengal
Kahikuchi – Grown in north eastern regions like Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripur

Types Of Supari as per market:
Mora
Moti
Vachras
Jamnagar
Jini
Lindi

History and Ayurveda reference

Although Vedic texts mentioned Yajurveda kramuka tree as the personification of agni and said to be the product of agni. It is also told as crown of leaves looking like an arrow stuck in the ground. It also emboised the bow kramuka was applied as samidha and homadravya in sacrifices. It was said in Kaushika Sutra that it removes the poison caused by serpent bites. The Shatapata Brahmana mentioned that when soaked in ghee and burnt Puga does not live ashes thus people of ancient India were aware of medicinal value of Puga.

Sushrutha told that it cures diseases of Kapha and acts on pitta and also useful in cleaning mouth in normal dose. In Brihattrayi, Charaka, Astanga Hradaya is only place there is mentioned about Puga. Charaka also said it cures diseases of blood. In 4th century, Vagbhata told the uses of areca nut in cases of Kusta, Kasa, Krimi.

In 11th century Chakradutta, told external application of Puga in small pox and chicken pox. In Kalpasutra, Panini’s Astha adhyayi, Vaarthika Vishnu shasma’s Hetopadesh also there is mentioned about Puga. There is mentioned of Puga during Mughal period. It is also mentioned in Raja Nighantu and Dhanwantari Nighantu varities of Areca.

Author: Dr.B.K.Prashanth M.D (Ayu), Ph.D
E mail: [email protected]
Click to consult Dr Prashanth BK

8 thoughts on “Betel Nut (Areca catechu) Uses, Research, Medicines, Side Effects”

  1. The information is very good. But I would like to inform you that chewing areca nut in any form causes debilitating disease called oral Submucous Fibrosis and hence should discourage its use.
    Thanking you

    Reply
  2. Dear Doctor Hebbar, the general tamil name used for Areca Nut is “Paakku”. the names you have listed at the best, may be ancient names (which many won’t even know) or at the worst may be the wrong terms. Kindly amend your web page pls.

    Reply
  3. Thank you sir for the wonderful info on Puga…Can u kindly illustrate the point of its anti-helmentic property

    Reply
    • The decoction of areca nut is given in a dose of 10 ml to treat intestinal worms and diarrhea.

      Vagbhata told the uses of areca nut in cases of Kusta, Kasa, Krimi.

      Reply

Write Your Comment Below

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

error: Alert: Content is protected !!