Areca spp.



Betel Nut. Most Areca palms contain arecoline in the seeds which is a stimulant similar to nicotine. Betel nut was once the most widely consumed stimulant, but is now restricted to certain parts of asia and the pacific region.
These plants can`t be sent outside of Australia !!

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Areca spp.

Plants available within Australia only.

Botanical information

Areca catechu is an evergreen palm, that grows to a height of 30m with a spread of 5m. The stem is slender and erect; the leaves are dark green, pinnate fronds, up to 2m long, with the leaflets irregularly serrate at the tip; the flowers are on a branching spadix -- the female occurs solitarily at the base, and the male is small, white and fragrant and surrounds the solitary female; the fruit are yellow to orange, ovoid berries, containing brownish, conical seeds.

Indigenous to Indonesia, it prefers rich, moist soils in a protected, shaded position, and is drought and frost tender.

Propagation is by seed (viability is only a couple of weeks).


Areca triandra is an evergreen palm, that grows to a height of 5m with a spread of 4m. The stem is slender and erect, often in clusters; the leaves are dark green, pinnate fronds, up to 2m long; the lemon scented flowers are on a branching spadix; the fruit are bright red, ovoid berries, containing brownish, conical seeds.

Indigenous to India and Malaysia, it prefers rich, moist soils in a protected, semi shaded position, and is drought and frost tender. Aeca triandra is much smaller and hardier than Areca catechu.

Propagation is by seed (viability is only a couple of weeks).


Areca vestiara is very variable species depending on location and altitude. An evergreen palm, that grows to a height of 10m with a spread of 5m. The stem is slender and erect; the leaves are dark green, pinnate fronds, up to 2m long, with the leaflets irregularly serrate at the tip; the flowers are on a branching spadix -- the female and male flowers occur together and intermixed along the spadix; the fruit are orange, ovoid berries, containing brownish, conical seeds.

Indigenous to Indonesia, it prefers rich, moist soils in a protected, shaded position, and is drought and frost tender.

Propagation is by seed (viability is only a couple of weeks) and sometimes by suckers.


Traditional uses

All species of Areca are used as betel nuts in their region. Some are preferred over others on the basis of potency and taste. Betel nut is used medicinally in the treatment for intestinal worms. But by far the most common use is in the social and ritual chewing of the betel-quid. This habit is very widespread throughout Asia, India and the Pacific, making it one of the most popular stimulants in the world. Generally the the betel-quid is a small morsel consisting of a quarter betel seed (cushed), a pinch of lime, spices like cardamom or nutmeg for flavour all wrapped in a betel leaf (Piper betle). On some Pacific Islands it is traditional for the men to also add tobacco into the package. This quid is chewed slowly over several hours, causing mild stimulation and a feeling of wellbeing.

In India and throughout much of Asia betel nuts are peeled, dried and often undergo a pickling process. They are then distributed in the markets and consumed as desired. The dry nuts are extremely hard and are processed by cracking, slicing or shredding. Cracked nuts (supari) are often ground to a fine powder just before consumption in a chewing quid. Sliced nuts are chewed as they are. Shredded nuts are added to tobacco to make gutkha, or to fennel seeds to make paan masala. On the island around Australia Betel nuts are usually consumed fresh (straight out of the shell) with a little lime added to the mouth by dipping a moistened Piper sarmentosum flower into the lime container and then chewing it together with the nut.

The active constituent of betel nut (arecoline) is most effectively absorbed via the mucous membranes in the mouth. Swallowing extracts or nuts appears to produce little stimulating effect at all.


Pharmacology

The active alkaloid in Areca catechu and the other betel nuts species is arecoline. This is a very potent alkaloid and should only be consumed in small quantities at a time. 2 mg of the pure alkaloid is a strongly stimulating dose and it is recommended not to exceed 5 mg at once. The maximum dosage of the nuts should in any case be less than 4 g, while 8 g can already be fatal. The alkaloid content ranges between 0.3 and 0.6%. Nicotine has a synergistic effect with arecoline, which explains the popular combination of betel nuts with tobacco.

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