Betel nut facts
Please note: The information given on this page is not medical advice and should not be relied on in this way. Individuals wanting medical advice on this issue should consult a health professional.
Betel nut is the seed of the fruit of the areca palm. It is also known as Areca nut. The common names, preparations and specific ingredients vary by cultural group and individuals who use it.
How is it used?
The seed is separated from the outer layer of the fruit and may be used fresh, dried, boiled, baked, roasted or cured.1
The most common method of using betel nut is to slice it into thin strips and roll it in a betel leaf with slaked lime (powder) or crushed seashells. This leaf package is known as a betel quid, betel nut chew, betel chew, betel pan or betel paan (India).2
Betel quids may also contain tobacco and other additives such as cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, aniseed, coconut, sugar, syrups and fruit extracts, to enhance the flavour.2
Sometimes areca nuts are rolled in leaves other than betel leaf, such as a leaf from the rubiaceous plant (Mitrogyna speciosa), nutmeg tree (Myristica fragrans), or the pepper plant used in kava (Piper methysticum).
Betel nut chewing is an important cultural practice in some regions in south and south-east Asia and the Asia Pacific. It has traditionally played an important role in social customs, religious practices and cultural rituals.2
Some people from these regions who have settled in other countries have continued their cultural practice of chewing betel nut.2
There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk. It’s important to be careful when taking any type of drug.
Betel nut affects everyone differently, based on:
The effects of betel nut are not fully understood and further research is needed. However, people who have used the drug have reported the following effects:
People who use betel nut for the first time, and people who have used it before who take a large amount or a strong batch, may experience the following:
Regular, heavy use of betel nut may eventually cause:
Using betel nut with other drugs
The effects of taking betel nut with other drugs – including over-the-counter or prescribed medications – can be unpredictable and dangerous, and could cause:
If your use of betel nut is affecting your health, family, relationships, work, school, financial or other life situations, you should seek help and support.
Reducing the risks
ADF SEARCH—Find further credible research and information on betel nut.
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1. Gupta, P. & Ray, C. (2004). Epidemiology of betel quid usage.
2. World Health Organization. (2012). Review of areca (betel) nut and tobacco use in the Pacific: a technical report.
3. Lingappa, A., Nappalli, D., Sujatha, G., & Prasad, S. (2011). Areca Nut: To chew or not to chew?
4. Hafeman, D., Hibibul, A., Islam, T., & Louis, E. (2005). Betel quid: Its tremor-producing effects in residents of Araihazar, Bangladesh.
5. Huang, Z., Xioa, B., Wan, X., Li, Y., & Deng, H. (2003). Betel nut indulgence as a cause of epilepsy.
6. Shrihari, J., Blank, M., Balaster, R., Nichter, M., & Nichter, M. (2010.) Areca nut dependence among chewers in a South Indian community who do not also use tobacco.
Last updated: 5 May 2016