A green leafy vine growing as a ground cover or small climber, very
similar in growth habits to pepper.
The betel leaf is used in a number of traditional remedies for the
treatment of stomach ailments, infections, and as a general tonic.
It is often chewed in combination with the betel nut (Areca
catechu), as a stimulatory. Some evidence suggests that betel leaves
have immune boosting properties as well as anti-cancer properties
The plant prefers warm, humid conditions, but can tolerate some
In India and parts of Southeast Asia, the leaves are chewed together
with mineral lime (calcium oxide) and the areca nut which, by
association, is sometimes inaccurately called the "betel nut". The
lime acts to keep the active ingredient in its freebase or alkaline
form, thus enabling it to enter the bloodstream via sublingual
absorption. The areca nut contains the alkaloid arecoline, which
promotes salivation (the saliva is stained red), and is itself a
stimulant. This combination, known as a "betel quid", has been used
for several thousand years. Tobacco is sometimes added.