Benefits and Risks Chewing Betel Nut

Betel Nut

What is Betel Nut?

Betel Nut is a type of monocot plant belonging to the Palma family, which can reach 12–30 m in height, has white, fibrous roots, vertical stems 15–20 cm in diameter, unbranched, and has loose leaves that are clearly visible.  The formation of new stems occurs after 2 years and bear fruit at the age of 5-8 years depending on soil conditions, good humidity and a pH range of 5-8 is very fertile soil.

Leaves about 1.5 – 2 m long, leaves are one-sided, deeply dissected, grow in clusters from the tip of the stem, forming a rosette of stems. Betel nut is a monoecious plant with unisexual inflorescences where the male and female flowers are on the same inflorescence.

The male flower clusters are located at the top (end) of the inflorescence which are small and fall off easily, while the female flowers are located at the base which are larger with a length of approximately 1.2-2 cm. The male and female flowers have six sepals which are sessile, white and fragrant. Betel nut plants are widespread in various Asian countries, such as India, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia.

Bettel nut classification is as follows:
Kingdom      : Plantae
Division        : Magnoliophyta
Classis         : Liliopsida
Order            : Betelles
Family          : Betelceae
Genus          : Betel
Species       : Betel catechu L.

Ingredients or compounds found in betel nut

The chemical composition of Betel nut has been known since the 18th century: many of the main components of Betel nut include carbohydrates, fats, fiber, polyphenols including flavonoids and tannins, alkaloids and minerals. Polyphenols and alkaloids from the pyridine group have received more attention than many chemical compounds found in Betel nut because these substances are known to have important health effects. Betel nut has a bitter, spicy and hot taste and contains 0.3-0.6% alkaloids and contains 15% red tannins, 14% fat (palmit, oleic, stearic, caproic, caprylic, lauric, myristic acid), starch and resins.

Betel nut contains alkaloids such as arecoline (C8H13NO2), arecoline, Beteline, guavacoline, guavasine and isoguavasine. Betel nut ethanol extract contains condensed tannins, hydrolyzed tannins, flavans and phenolic compounds, gallic acid, latex, lignin, volatile and non-volatile oils, and salts. Arecoline (C8H13NO2) is the main alkaloid found in Betel nut seeds and is the most important alkaloid in its physiology besides acecolidine, Beteline, guavacoline, guavasine and isoguvasine (Jaiswal et al., 2011). Fresh seeds contain about 50% more alkaloids than processed seeds, and the flavonoid content of Betel nut seeds decreases as the fruit ripens.

Benefits of Betel Nut in General

The Betel nut plant has many benefits, the most common use of betel nut in society is the use of betel nuts, betel leaves and lime juice. There are also those who confuse it with tobacco.

In certain areas, betel nut is used as a medicine to strengthen teeth. Residents of the coastal villages of Assai and Yoon-non, inhabited by the Menyyah, Arfak, Biak and Serui (Papua) tribes, use these young Betel nut seeds as medicine in the womb after childbirth. Made by boiling young hazelnut nuts and drinking water for a week. The decoction of betel nuts is used to treat conditions such as heavy menstruation, nose bleed (epistaxis), boils, sores, abscesses, eczema, scabies, diphtheria, intestinal worms (pinches, bracelets, ribbons, strings), diarrhea and dysentery.

Betel nut is aromatic and has antioxidant and mutagenic effects, has astringent and narcotic properties, therefore it has long been used as a taeniafuge to treat worms, ulcers, mucous discharge, diarrhea, late menstruation (menstruation), vagina. decubitus ulcers, beriberi, malaria, and reduce the pupils of the eyes. Betel nut seeds can be made into cytostatics which can be combined with chemotherapy drugs to increase the sensitivity of cancer cells. Betel nut has anticancer potential due to its antioxidant and mutagenic effects.

Benefits of Chewing Betel Nut

Chewing betel nut in people who live in certain areas is often considered to strengthen teeth. Betel nut seeds are usually consumed raw, dried, boiled or roasted. Betel nut crushed and rolled with betel then chewed.

Some of the benefits of betel nut for dental health are as follows:

  1. Prevent cavities. Betel nut has anti-bacterial compounds that can inhibit the growth of bacteria that can cause tartar to cavities.
  2. Overcoming Dry Moutt. Chewing betel nuts can increase saliva production so that teeth are protected, cleanliness is maintained and can prevent dry teeth.

The risk of Chewing Betel Nut

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Apart from having the benefits, it turns out that excessive chewing of Betel nuts, whether consumed directly or as a by-product of betel nut, can cause heart palpitations, increased vitality and increased work capacity. Addictions and syndromes are also observed along with cholinergic toxicity, toxic psychosis, and neurological complications.

The habit of consuming betel nut with betel nut causes gum irritation and tooth decay and the oral cavity becomes darker. Some researchers suggest that these changes are related to oral cancer. a study found that misuse of the endoperm of betel nut which is chewed endangers the systemic health of users.

According to traditional Ayurvedic medicine, chewing betel nut and betel leaf (Piper betle) is a good remedy for bad breath, but it often has harmful oral side effects which can become malignant, called oral submucosal fibrosis and periodontal disease. Therefore, chewing betel nut can increase the risk of developing oral cancer. Oral cavity cancer is a cancer that affects many people and is estimated to be around 275,000 cases worldwide. It is estimated that oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) accounts for more than 90% of oral cancers of the tongue, cheeks and gums.

The Betel nut-induced carcinogenesis mechanism was proposed by Ho et al. Treatment of cells with arecoline extract 200 mg/mL or arecoline 10 mg/mL for 1 hour caused an increase in c-jun mRNA levels by about threefold, but then quickly returned to control levels. He also found that AC and arecoline extracts does not induce c-fos mRNA expression at a detectable level. During chewing Betel nut, oral mucosal cells are continuously stimulated by Betel nut extract and arecoline. Persistent induction of c-jun proto-oncogene by extract and arecoline may be one of the mechanisms of carcinogenesis of carcinoma oral squamous cells in Taiwan.

So, in chewing betel nuts, it is necessary to pay attention to the limit of consumption, so that it does not cause risks that are greater than the benefits.

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