Arecoline is an oil, and the physiological action of the betel nut is alone due to this substance.
The betel nut is the fruit of the Areca or betel palm, Areca Catechu, and the betel leaf is the produce of the betel vine or pan, Chavica Betel, a plant allied to that which yields black pepper.
When chewed a small piece is wrapped up in a leaf of the betel vine or pan, with a pellet of shell lime or chunam; and in some cases a little cardamom, turmeric or other aromatic is added.
The nuts of other species of Areca are used by the poorer classes in the East as substitutes for the genuine betel nut.
The chief purpose for which betel nuts are cultivated and collected is for use as a masticatory, - their use in this form being so widespread among Oriental nations that it is estimated that onetenth of the whole human family indulge in betel chewing.
The name betel is applied to two different plants, which in the East are very closely associated in the purposes to which they are applied.
Among the Orientals betel is offered on ceremonial visits in the same manner as wine is produced on similar occasions by Europeans.
The natives chew betel nuts instead of tobacco, and to the production of these nuts they devote more than 60,000 acres.
The great bulk of the silver work is in the form of bowls of different sizes, in shape something like the lower half of a barrel, only more convex, of betel boxes, cups and small boxes for lime.
Clay-pipes may also give rise to cancer of lips in males in England, while cancer of the mouth of both sexes is common in India where chewing a mixture of betel leaves, areca-nut, tobacco and slaked lime is the usual practice.