The areca palm of the family of the palm trees (arecaceae) occurs in tropical countries of Asia and Oceania. Before the popularization of alcohol by the Europeans the areca nut was the most frequently used stimulant of these regions. Chewing of areca nuts was already mentioned in scriptures more than 2000 years ago and Lewin estimated in 1924, that there were around 200 million regular areca nut consumers. Today the chewing of areca nuts declines, the abuse of alcohol in contrast strongly increases. The western uncivilization, which only aims at profit, has once again succeeded in pushing away a traditional, comparatively mild intoxicant without known social risks. Use of alcohol, advertised with tremendous budgets, that causes in Asians not rarely a distinct aggressive behavior (since the everyday social control is much stronger than in the west, the disinhibiting effect of alcohol can set free more suppressed aggression), increases the social impoverishment.
Use: Several pieces of the crushed areca nut are, together with a bit (ca. 0.5 g) of slaked lime, wrapped into a betel leaf (Piper chavica betel). This betel preparation is chewed, some spit out the juice formed at the beginning, the juice formed later is swallowed. Betel is offered in the USA in the form of ready-made chewing mixtures, that suit more the western taste. Areca nuts can also be chewed without Betel leaves; the preparation of an effective alcoholic extract is also possible – the extract, however, has to stand for around three weeks. Areca nut powder can be used as follows: mix around two teaspoons of Areca nut powder into a mixture of milk and water, let it stand for around 6 to 10 hours, do not heat.
Active constituents: Arecoline is dissolved by the effect of the saliva and the lime out of the betel nut. The betel leaves contain, among others, chavicole.
Effects: Arecoline stimulates the central nervous system; the betel leaves have a mildly stimulating effect. The overall effect is mildly intoxicating, euphoriant and stimulating.
Side Effects: Excessive chewing of the areca nuts or the use of unripe nuts can cause dizziness, nausea and vomiting. Chewing betel colors the saliva and, in case of regular use, the teeth red.
Suppliers: Nuts and powdered nuts can be found in herbal stores. Sad to say, betel leaves are at this time in Europe not available; but the seeds of this plant might possibly be available in the near future.
Miscellaneous: A curiosity at the end: Elderly Filipinos claim that the chewing of the areca nut by itself (without lime und betel leaves) during youth strengthens the gums and teeth. The ones who told me this were over 60 years old. An examination, which I carried out myself, showed in all three cases a complete, perfect set of teeth without a single dental filling. One of the three, until today, opens his beer bottles only with his teeth. An experience report of an European living on the Salomon-Islands is found in the second part.