Herb Library

Back to Herb Menu     Back to Index

DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

aka Areca nut, Areca palm, Betel Palm, Catechu
(Areca catechu)

CAUTION! TOXIC if mishandled. Excess results in profuse salivation, sweating, vomiting, vertigo and stupor. Antidotes are atropine or epinephrine. The seeds posses a pigment that turns saliva red and blackens the teeth.

DRUG INTERACTIONS: Can increase side effects of phenothiazines.

CONTRAINDICATED: NOT when pregnant. NOT with asthma (bronchconstrictive).

CONTAINS: Seeds contain tannins, gallic acid, fixed oil gum (14%), a small amount of volatile oil, lignin, mannosan, and alkaloids (arecoline, arecain, guracine) that stimulate saliva flow and accelerate heart and perspiration, suppress hunger, and kill internal parasites. Arecoline is cholinergic, stimulating the neurons and is also vermicidal; it is related to pilocarpine and stimulates peristalsis while causing bronchial constriction.

Handsome tree of the Palm family with a single, slender stem, growing up to 25 meters and more. Male and female flowers appear on the same tree; male flowers are less numerous and located on the lower part of the flowering stalk. The fruits are conical, about 2 to 2½ inches long with a flattended base, orange to red in color with a soft and fibrous outer covering over a hard seed which is a mottled brown in color. The seed is mostly known as a narcotic used by certain natives. It is cut into narrow pieces and rolled up inside a betel (Piper betle) leaf, rubbed over with lime and chewed. Its origins are uncertain, but believed to have come from the Malay peninsula. Found growing throughout the Old World tropics.

PROPAGATION: By seed in spring sown at 75 to 81 degrees F.
NEEDS: Moist, well-drained soil in sun and high humidity; a minimum of 61 degrees F.
HARVEST: Fruits when ripe; dried for use.
PART USED: Fruit rind [da fu pi], seeds [bing lang].


Astringent, stimulant, laxative, diuretic, acrid, bitter, mildy toxic; also relieves hunger and abdominal discomfort due to bloating and flatulence due to constipation.
Kills intestinal parasites (tapeworms, round worms, pin worms, body flukes). Both the extract of the seed and the decoction show a 100% cure for pork tapeworm and a 94.1% cure in 120 cases of cestodiasis. In cases of Fasciolopsis buski, a single dose was effective for 54.7%, while 3 successive doses cured 98.4%. Formerly, 1 to 2 tsps (60 to 120 grains or 30 grams) of the powdered nut was taken for tapeworm; or 1 drachm of the Fluid Extract of Areca Nut which was followed by a purgative such as castor oil to produce a watery evacuation of the bowels.
Has been used in Chinese medicine to destroy parasites and to treat dysenary; the ripe seeds have been used for malaria, diarrhea, indigestion, beriberi, canker, lumbago, dysuria, edema, to expel tapeworms and roundworms and to increase menstrual flow; the rind has been used as a diuretic in cases of edema.

Used to expel tapeworms in animals.
Arecoline hydrobromide, a commercial salt, was once used for colic in horses with 1 to 1½ grains being given.

The hard seed, either fresh or cured, is sliced, mixed with slaked lime and spices, then wrapped in a leaf of Betel pepper (Piper betle) and chewed as a narcotic. The quid is kept in the mouth and chewed slowly, resulting in constant salivation. The saliva turns bright red and is spat out. Eventually, the quid is disposed of as well.
The sweet scented flowers were used in Borneo in medicines and charms to cure the sick.

©2003 by Ernestina Parziale, CH