Understanding Betel Nut: Cultural Practice, Health Effects, and Risks

BETEL NUT

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. Some people from these
regions who have settled in other countries have continued their cultural practice of
chewing betel nut.

Betel nut is a seed of the Areca catechu, a type of palm tree. It’s commonly
chewed after being ground up or sliced and wrapped in leaves of the Piper betle vine
that have been coated with lime. This is known as a betel quid. Tobacco or flavorful
spices may also be added
It is one of the most popular psychoactive substances in the world, in fourth
place after nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine. Many people chew betel nut for the
energy boost it produces. This is likely due to the nut’s natural alkaloids, which
release adrenaline. It may also result in feelings of euphoria and well-being.
The WHO classifies betel nut as a carcinogen. Regular, heavy use of betel nut
may eventually cause:

  •  Discolouration of teeth and gums, sometimes turning them reddish-brown
  • Mouth ulcers and gum disease
  • Oral cancers
  • Sub mucous fibrosis (a pre-cancer condition) ( incurable condition can cause
    stiffness in the mouth and eventually the loss of jaw movement.)
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Heart disease
  • Worsening of Asthma
  • Increase the risk of seizures
  • Needing to use more to get the same effect
  • Dependence on betel nut
  • Financial, work and social problems

Betel nut may interact with other drugs or herbal supplements. It could cause
toxic reactions in the body or reduce the effects of medications.Regular betel nut
use may also lead to dependency and withdrawal symptoms.

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