Betel

AKA: Areca catechu, areca nut, betel nut, ping lang, supari.

A favorite stimulant for thousands of years, it is still one of the most widely used drugs in the world, as popular in Asia as tobacco is in the West.

Effects: The stimulant is the alkaloid arecoline, which increases energy, elevates mood, and acts as an aphrodisiac, though this last effect may just may be an indirect result of the first two. The arecoline that is swallowed can rid the body of some intestinal parasites.

Precautions: Constant use will stain the teeth, mouth, and gums a dark red or black. An overdose can weaken the sex drive and create other unwanted side effects. Ingesting too much arecoline, or betel that is not yet ripe, can result in a feeling of drunkenness, followed by dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea, and possibly convulsions.

Dosage: A slice of betel nut is mixed with part of a leaf from the Piper betel vine and a piece of lime, plus cloves, nutmeg, tamarind, turmeric, cardamom, and sometimes resins, then placed in the mouth and chewed or sucked on for hours.

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