Betel Palm (Areca catechu)
is a species of palm which grows in much of the tropical Pacific, Asia, and parts of east Africa. The palm is believed to have originated in the Philippines, but is widespread in cultivation and is considered naturalized in southern China, Taiwan, India, Bangladesh, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, New Guinea, many of the islands in the Pacific Ocean, and also in the West Indies.
This is the palm which produces to popular betel-nut or supari, which is an essential ingradient of paan. It is a medium-sized tree growing to 20 m tall, with a trunk 20-30 cm in diameter. The leaves are 1.5-2 m long, pinnate, with numerous, crowded leaflets. It is grown for its economically important seed crop, the Betel nut. The seed contains alkaloids such as arecaine and arecoline, which when chewed is intoxicating and is also slightly addictive. Flowers are unisexual, with both male and female flowers borne in the same inflorescence. Inflorescences are crowded, much-branched panicles borne below the leaves. Each terminal branch has a few female flowers borne at the base and numerous male flowers extending from there out to the branch tip. Flowers of both sexes have six tepals, are stalkless, creamy-white, fragrant; male flowers are minute, deciduous, have six stamens, arrowhead-shaped anthers, rudimentary ovary; female flowers are larger (1.2–2 cm long), with six small sterile stamens and a three-celled ovary bearing a triangular stigma with three points at the apex. Fibrous, ovoid fruits, yellow to orange or red when ripe, contain the betel nut. Betel palm is native to Philippines, widely cultivated in India and SE Asia.
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.
The nut is used to make medicine. Areca is used for treatment of a mental disorder called schizophernia and an eye disorder called glaucoma; as a mild stimulant; and as a digestive aid. Some people use areca as a recreational drug because it speeds up the central nervous system. In veterinary medicine, an extract of areca is used for expelling tapeworms in cattle, dogs, and horses; to empty animals' bowels; and for treating intestinal colic in horses.