Betel tree

Areca catechu (Arecaceae)

 

Characteristics

Medium-sized palm tree, growing straight, up to 20m. Trunk 10-15 cm in diameter. Leaves 2m long, pinnate, with numerous, crowded leaflets. Seeds of the fruit is a commercially important seed crop (Areca nut), mainly in India and SE-Asia. They contain intoxicating and slightly addictive alkaloids as well as carcinogenic tannins (oral cancer). Chewing Areca nuts is popular throughout many SE-Asian countries.

Distribution

Native to the Philippines. Today growing in much of the tropical Pacific, Asia and parts of East Africa.

Natural Medical Properties

Betel palm is an astringent, stimulant herb that relieves hunger, abdominal discomfort and weariness. It kills intestinal parasites and other pathogens, and also has diuretic and laxative effects.

It is used mainly in veterinary medicine to expel tapeworms.
The seed is used against anaemia, fits, leucoderma, leprosy, obesity and worms. It is also used in the treatment of dysentery and malaria.

In combination with other ingredients, it is also a purgative and an ointment for nasal ulcers.
Kernels of green and mature fruits are chewed as an astringent and stimulant, often with the leaves or fruit of betel pepper (Piper betel) and slaked lime.

The rind is also used as a laxative in cases of constipation with flatulence and bloating, as well as a diuretic in treating oedema.

 

The fruits are harvested when fully ripe and can be dried for later use.

The areca nut decoction as well as arecoline and its salts have been found to be effective on various parasitic helminth infections such as those caused by Taenia.

Did you know?

In English Areca catechu is called “Betel tree” because its fruit (Areca nut) is often chewed along with the leaf of “Betel” (Piper betle), a vine closely related (same genus) to Pepper (Piper nigrum) and Kava (Piper methysticum).

Further reading:

Literature

World Flora Online
WorldChecklist of Selected Plant Families
A working list of all plant species