- The areca nut is the fruit of the areca palm (Areca catechu), which grows in much of the tropical Pacific (Melanesia and Micronesia), South Asia, Southeast Asia, and parts of east Africa.
- It is commonly referred to as betel nut, not to be confused with betel (Piper betle) leaves that are often used to wrap it (a preparation known as betel nut chewing).
- Various compounds present in the nut, including arecoline (the primary psychoactive ingredient which is similar to nicotine), contribute to histologic changes in the oral mucosa.
- It is known to be a major risk factor for cancers (squamous cell carcinoma) of the mouth and esophagus.
- As with chewing tobacco, its use is discouraged by preventive efforts.
- Consumption by hundreds of millions of people worldwide – mainly of South Asian or Southeast Asian origins – has been described as a “neglected global public health emergency”.
- The areca nut is not a true nut, but rather the seed of a fruit categorized as a berry.
- The areca nut contains the tannins arecatannin and gallic acid; a fixed oil gum; a little terpineol; lignin; various saline substances; and three main alkaloids—arecoline, arecaidine, and guvacine—all of which have vasoconstricting properties.
- The betel leaf chewed along with the nut contains eugenol, another vasoconstrictor. Tobacco leaf is often added to the mixture, thereby adding the effect of nicotine.
- The cultivation of arecanut is mostly confined to 28º north and south of the equator.
- It grows well within the temperature range of 14ºC and 36ºC and is adversely affected by temperatures below 10ºC and above 40ºC.
Different terms for arecnuts-
The term areca originated from Dravidian languages, cognates of which are:
- Malayala: romanized: aṭaykka
- Kannada: adike
- The terms dates back to the 16th century when Dutch and Portuguese sailors took the nut from India to Europe.
- It is also known as Elaus in Palau.
Further reading: https://journalsofindia.com/yellow-leaf-disease-of-arecanut/