Betel Nut

The seed of areca palm (Areca catechu) is called a betel nut . It’s usually sliced or shredded for use like snuff or chewing tobacco, and often mixed with burnt lime and spices, and wrapped in a betel vine leaf (Piper betle, related to black pepper). Or just mixed with local spices or tobacco to improve the incredibly bitter flavor. Yes, both the nut and leaf, from different kinds of plants, are called “betel”. Confusing, but here we are.

However it’s had, when chewed or held between teeth and cheek, it releases arecoline, a mild stimulant that produces a buzz or “high.” Like most stimulants, especially those that induce some kind of euphoria, people have used it as an aphrodisiac. A better mood helps one get in the mood, certainly, though it’s more an adjunct to the subject than anything.

Even though the central nervous stimulant has generally moderate effects, it is both possible and not too difficult to overdose on it, causing dizziness, vomiting and convulsions. Long-term effects might include such joys as cancer.

And just to top it off, frequent use over a long time causes one’s teeth to turn red or black.

Although arecoline is unquestionably a mood-enhancer, it isn’t necessarily an aphrodisiac, and from the point of view of others, it’s almost the opposite of sexy.

Join the conversation (new commenters may not appear immediately)

Stranger, here you will do well to tarry; here our highest good is pleasure.