Where to get more information

So, we’ve been thru the known risks and speculation of how betel nut use can negatively effect your health… but what to do about it?  There are quite a few very good online resources as well as health centers across Asia that have very good programs in place to curb peoples’ appetite and habit for chewing betel nut.

In this post we’ll examine where people can go to get help and be educated in addition to what local and national governments are doing to educate their population as to the legitimate health hazards of consuming the betel nut.

Sono chewing sign, if you live in South East Asia, where the vast majority of areca nuts and betel leaves are consumed, you probably know someone that consumes and may not understand the dangers.  What to do next?  Well, there are a number of brick and mortar centers and educational websites for that person to visit and read thru.  If you need to go, but don’t have a car, call your local cab service company.

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Known Risks and Speculation about the Betel Nut

Today I’m going to go into a bit more detail of the known dangers and scientific speculation about the dangers of consuming the betel nut and how much of that information is slowly spreading to the people who need to hear it the most. Many people, however, do not either want to believe the facts or simply choose to ignore them and continue on with their daily use.

A few people at work know I’m writing about this and I asked what I thought was a rhetorical question about how to stop people from using.  A fella who owns a tree service, gave the predictable answer of cutting down all the areca trees.  A few others suggested a grass roots campaign to educate people on the streets and engaging the vendors themselves to make them aware of the harm they could be spreading by selling betel nuts.  Some other folks mentioned to make the leaf illegal altogether.  In the next post, I’ll go into what’s being done and share where to go to get help.  But more on that later.

As mentioned in the previous post, chewing the areca nut- or betel nut- as it’s more commonly known, has been a practice for many in southeast Asia for many centuries. Only recently, in the past 10 to 20 years has there been concrete evidence that points to some harm it causes your body.

Betel Leaves
Woman with red mouth
Woman preparing betel leaves while chewing.

Before we dive into the harm, it’s important to point out what we’re talking about when we say ‘consume’ betel nuts.  Eating them is not what I’m saying.  It’s more akin to chewing tobacco.  How they’re typically consumed is by starting with a lime coated betel leaf and putting areca nuts inside and wrapping them like a little fajita and placing in your mouth.  Then- much like chewing tobacco- a small amount of betel juice is absorbed thru your mouth, but most of the juice is spit out, not swallowed.  The juice is a red color and leaves the person’s teeth stained a deep red over many years of use (it also leaves the street painted red as well, which many municipalities have banned the spitting of betel because it’s so unsightly).

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The History of the Betel Nut

Southeast Asia

The history of the betel nut goes back as far as 2000 years.  In areas around Southeast Asia, it’s been used as Americans today drink coffee. It’s got many of the same effects as caffeine, but unlike caffeine, has been scientifically proven to be a carcinogen.  The most unfortunate part is many people chewing betel nuts don’t know its potentially lethal. Federal and local governments alike across Asia have been attempting to educate their population to the dangers of the betel nut.

It’s interesting as our understanding of medicine has changed, so to how we look at natural things in our world that was once thought to provide a medical enhancement, may in fact be a medicinal hindrance.  That is the betel nut summarized in a sentence.  It was a nut (actually a seed, but more on that later), many people in Asia, Southeast Asia specifically, used as a form of natural mood enhancer and productivity booster (even used as a psychedelic drug).  Perhaps that’s still true today in some corners of the world.  It’s their morning Folgers or Maxwell House… or probably more appropriately, their morning shot of Starbucks.  It’s also used by younger people to stay up late for long nights of partying in Thailand specifically.  Along those lines, I was chatting with a buddy of mine who’s a wedding DJ, he was in the Samui area of Thailand years ago on a vacation of sorts to check out the night

Betel Nut Spit

life and to bring back some Asian DJ techniques, made mention of how much red spit he saw on the sidewalks and streets.  I remember him mentioning how much he thought it looked like a crime scene.

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The Betel Nut

Hi All… having traveled to Asia a few times, there are some things that fascinate me about the culture.  One of them being the close relationship people there have to nature.  Specifically in this case to the betel nut.  I’m going to explore a bit more about the truth and myth of the betel nut on this site as I’m incredibly curious about this nut in particular.  Check out a little about my background here.

I hope we learn a little bit together and this is helpful to all that run across it.