Betel nut is a combination of three ingredients. People roll small pieces of the nut from Areca catechu, more commonly called betel palm, in a leaf from the Piper betel vine, then add powdered slaked lime or limestone paste, and chew it. The substance is popular in certain parts of the world, primarily Asia and Africa, as a recreational drug due to its psychoactive and stimulant effects. Some components of betel nut have pharmacological properties, but little evidence supports its use for any therapeutic purpose, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Additionally, betel nut use can worsen high or low blood pressure and irregular heart rate, as well as asthma. Chronic use may increase the risk of certain cancers. The NIH notes that toxic effects of betel nut may outweigh any possible benefits.
Betel nut extract may be beneficial for stroke recovery, according to InteliHealth. Improvements have been noted in speech, bladder control and muscle strength in patients taking betel nut extract, although InteliHealth explains that studies so far have been small and flawed.
Preliminary research indicates improvements in symptoms for schizophrenia patients who take betel nut, according to the NIH. Standard schizophrenia medications produce unpleasant side effects, fueling further efforts to discover new treatments, but the NIH notes that betel nut also produced side effects of tremors and stiffness in the schizophrenia research.
Betel nut may have antibacterial effects, and it previously was included as a toothpaste ingredient for preventing cavities, according to InteliHealth. Because of its toxic effects, however, betel nut is likely less useful than other therapeutic agents for dental purposes.
Dry Mouth Relief
People who chew betel nut tend to produce large amounts of saliva, according to InteliHealth. This could help people with dry mouth caused by health conditions such as diabetes and Sjogren's syndrome. InteliHealth explains that safer medications are available to relieve this symptom.