What is a Betel Nut?
The Betel nut, well known as Areca, is a plant. The nozzle is used for medicinal products. Areca nuts are enjoyed by many men just in their original form or taken as quid, which is usually a mixture of sliced or powdered areca nuts, a stance of tobacco, and a pinch of slaked lime covered nicely, sometimes in different shapes, in the leaf of the “betel” vine (Piper betel).
The medication is used as a mild stimulant and as a digestive aid as well as in the treatment of a mental condition called schizophrenia and an eye disorder called glaucoma. Areca is used by some people for fun as it stimulates the central nervous system.
An extract of areca is used in veterinary medicine to remove tapeworms in cattle, dogs, and horses, to empty animals’ bowels, and to treat intestinal colic in horses.
History of a Habit
In south and southeast Asia, as well as the pacific basin, the betel nut has a long history. It has been used in Guam and other Pacific islands for over 2,000 years. Chewing betel nuts has been a time-honored tradition for 10–20 percent of the world’s population for decades. The world health organization (WHO) reports that 600 million people use betel nuts in some or the other form today. It ranks fourth among the most widely used psychoactive drugs in the world, behind nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine. While betel nut has an important cultural and social practice in many countries, growing evidence suggests that regular use may have serious health consequences.
A Burst of Energy
Because of the increased energy it produces, many people chew betel nuts. The natural alkaloids in the nut, which produce adrenaline, are most likely to blame. It may also trigger feelings of euphoria and happiness.
According to certain common beliefs, it can cause anything from dry mouth to digestive issues. However, the drug hasn’t been thoroughly studied in clinical trials, and there’s no evidence of any health benefits.
However, on the other side, Betel nuts have cancer fighting properties as stated in a cancer prevention research journal. It can help with cardiovascular and digestive problems, as well as possess anti-inflammatory and wound-healing properties, according to an Indian report. Nevertheless, more research is also needed to confirm the advantages of betel nuts. According to a medical review of the nut’s effects published in the Indian journal of medical and paediatric oncology, it’s an addictive substance with far more negative than positive effects.
Oral Cancer and Other Dangers
Betel nuts have been linked to a number of serious health risks, according to research. Betel nut is classified as a carcinogen by the world health organization. Many studies have found a strong link between betel nut use and mouth and esophageal cancer. Such an incurable condition may lead to rigidity in the mouth and loss of jaw movement.
Chewing betel nuts regularly can also lead to gum and tooth decay. Teeth can be deep red or even black, permanently stained.
Betel nuts are linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and obesity in an early study published in the American Society for clinical nutrition.
Other drugs or herbal supplements may interact with betel nuts. It has the potential to cause toxic reactions in the body or to reduce the effectiveness of medications. More tests are necessary to assess the effect of betel nuts on other medicines. Regular use of betel nuts can also lead to symptoms of addiction.
The US FDA does not consider betel nuts to be safe to chew or eat. The US administration of food and drugs (FDA) has added the nut into its database of poisonous plants. A fact sheet issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns about the following medical conditions associated with using betel nut with cigarettes and tobacco:
- Oral submucous fibrosis
- Oral cancer
- Reproductive issues, including low birth weight in newborns
Special Precautions and Warnings
Taking betel nuts for a longer duration is unsafe. Also for people with the following conditions, betel nut is particularly dangerous:
- Pregnancy And Breast-feeding: Betel nuts are not safe. Betel’s nut may affect the central nervous system and may jeopardise a pregnancy. Betel nut chemicals may enter breast milk and damage an infant. Prevent the use of betel nuts if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Asthma: Asthma can be worsened by Betel nuts.
- Slow Heart Rate (Bradycardia): Betel nuts can slow down the heartbeat rate. For people who already have a slow heart rate, this might be a problem.
- Heart Disease: If people with cardiac illness use betel nuts, they are at the high risk of heart attack. Don’t use betel nuts if you have heart disease.
- Gastrointestinal Tract Blockage: Betel nuts have the potential to cause “congestion” in the intestines.
- Stomach Ulcers: Betel nut has the potential to increase secretions in the stomach and intestines. There is concern that this will aggravate ulcers.
- Lung Conditions: Betel nuts may increase fluid secretions in the lungs. This may worsen lung conditions, like asthma or emphysema.
- Seizures: Betel nuts can increase the risk of seizures.
- Urinary Tract Obstruction: Betel nuts may increase urinary tract secretions. This may worsen urinary obstruction.
If chewing a betel nut is safe in small doses or for a short time or not, there is not enough reliable information. However, the betel nut is likely to be unsafe when taken at high or long dose levels. Some of the betel nut chemicals were linked to cancer and additional chemicals are toxic. It may lead to death if one eats 8-30 g betel nuts on the daily basis.
Chewing betel nuts can turn your mouth, lips, and stool red. It can cause similar stimulant effects to caffeine and tobacco consumption. This traditional drug can cause further severe effects, including vomiting, diarrhoea, gum problems, increased saliva, kidney disease, heartbeat, abnormal heart beat, low blood pressure, respiratory failure and rapid breathing.
The history of chewing betel nuts goes back 2,000 years, and some cultures claim that it has beneficial properties. However, many health risks associated with the practice are evident in modern research. Betel nuts regular chewing can lead to mouth and oesophagus cancer, oral submucous fibrosis and tooth decay. The WHO has categorised betel nut as a carcinogen and initiated a reduction action plan. Both the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) issued health warnings related to betel-nut-chewing.