Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Secret of the betel (Areca) nut

Abe V Rotor

Areca or betel nut (Areca cathechu) is a solitary
palm that grows up to 10 meters, bearing nuts year
round. It lives to as long as fifty years.

Areca nut is indigenous in south and southeast Asia,
mainly in India, southern China, Thailand, Indochina,
Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia and
the Philippines.

Nuts may be gathered while still soft and juicy.
C0mmercially the nuts are allowed to mature,
or ripened.
They are dehusked and sliced thinly
or in cubes, and made into nganga (mama' Ilk)
snugly wrapped with betel leaf (ikmo) with a paste
of lime (calcium hydroxide) added.
(lower photo)

A nganga stand typical in areca nut producing countries.
The component of nganga has not changed for centuries,
perhaps since 4,000 years ago as found in archeological

Chemical constituents and properties

Alkaloids - arecaine, 0.1%, arecoline, 0.2%, arecaidine, arecolidine, guvacoline, guvacine, isoguvacine; tannin, 15%; red fat, 14%; resin; choline; catechu.

• Fruit flesh on seed contains the alkaloid arecoline with psychoactive properties and chewing produces euphoria, increased alertness, sweating, salivation.

• Contains a large quantity of tannin. Also contains gallic acid, a fixed oil gum, a little volatile oil and lignin.

• The tanin is located almost entirely in the kernel which decreases as the nut ripens.

• Arecoline resembles pilocarpine and muscarine in its effect. Also contains phenolic compounds: hydroxychavicol and saffrole 12, tannin, resin, cholic and catechu.

Folkloric Uses

  • Purgative, aromatic, astringent, antifungal, antibacterial, anti inflammatory, antioxidant.
  • Young seeds are laxative, mature seeds are for expelling tapeworms (vermifuge).
  • Sprains, bruises, contusions - Crush leaves, mix with a little coconut oil, warm and apply on affected area.
  • Tooth whitener: Carbonize and powder a kernel and rub on teeth.
  • ·Tapeworm infestation, and other parasites.
  • Fruit in decoction considered abortifacient.· In excess, nuts can cause vomiting and diarrhea; intoxicating to some.
  • The nut is used for headaches, fever and rheumatism.


alechi91 said...

Sir, I'd like to contact you, I have several questions regarding areca nut.


Abe V. Rotor said...

please refer to Useful Plants of the Phil by WH Brown; Medicinal Plants of the Philippines E Quisumbing; internet references. There's not much I can add scientifically. Thanks for your interest. AVR