Betel leaf, is the leaf of a climber plant from the piperaceae family of plants. It is a native of Asian countries -India and Indonesia. It requires a well-drained fertile soil to grow with compatible trees on which it climbs or in the alternate climbs on poles erected alongside.
In most of the regions in India, betel leaf is considered auspicious and extended to guests during ceremonies like marriage. Betel leaf is given with areca nut. It is generally chewed along with areca nut and flavored calcium carbonate (Chunnaambu) after each sumptuous food intake for easy digestion. Betel leaf is also chewed with ginger, nutmeg, mace, cardamom etc., as all of these are spices which increases digestion in addition to providing flavor and fragrance.
Even though betel leaf and its health benefits are not confirmed through research by the western world, the leaf is used in many Asian countries for a number of health benefits derived from it.
Betel leaf with a high percentage of water content (85%) contains protein, fat, dietary fiber, carbohydrates and many vitamins and minerals. The leaf contains vitamin C and calcium, riboflavin, niacin, thiamine and carotene, all in small quantities. Betel leaf also contains some tannins and sugar.
The light yellow essential oil extracted from betel leaves give pleasant odor with sharp pungent taste. Chavicol is a phenol present in the leaf which is an effective germicide.
Health benefits of Betel Leaf
Besides the sacramental usage during ceremonies betel leaf provides various health benefits for people of all ages.
The foremost use for which betel leaf is consumed with other ingredients like areca nut is that chewing of the leaf accelerates the digestion process. Betel leaf has primarily carminative property which prevents flatulence, which is excessive formation of gases in the stomach or intestinal tract. Massaging the stomach with the essential oil extracted from the leaf facilitates secretion of gastric juices and acids that aid digestion. By aiding digestion, betel leaf act as an appetizer too.
Anti-oxidant properties in the leaf neutralizes the free radicals produced during metabolism and induce easy bowel movement by increasing the digestive enzymes. This property is used to treat and prevent constipation.
Cures cold and cough
Antibiotics present in betel leaf clears the respiratory disorders and cures cold and cough. It has the potential to remove phlegm either by dissolving or by coughing out. Since it removes phlegm and cures cough, inflammation of the throat is also cured simultaneously. In addition to the above curative benefits, betel leaf cures sore throat and protects the vocal cord from any disorder.
Betel herbal leaf is warmed up with a little castor oil or mustard oil rubbed on it and applied on the chest of children to remove congestion, cold and phlegm and respiratory problems.
Improves oral health
With its anti-bacterial property, chewing of this herb cleanses the mouth and also stops bad breath.
Analgesic property of this leaf cures wounds on external application. For this, the leaves are made into a paste by grinding well and applied on the wounds, cuts and bruises to cure them.
Treats gastric pain
Even as betel leaf cures flatulence, it enables the maintenance of appropriate pH levels and remove gastric disorders and the pain due to accumulation of gas in the stomach. Chewing betel leaf can cure gastric ulcer.
Remedy for bronchitis
Inflammation of the bronchial chord and the lungs are reduced by chewing the herbal leaf. In addition to this by dissolving the phlegm, chest congestion is also removed.
Cures head ache
The analgesic property of this herb cures head ache as well as other muscle pains. To derive this benefit betel leaf is warmed up and applied on the pain area. Alternately, the oil extract of it also provides the desired relief.
Many other health benefits of betel leaves are:
- The warmed oil drenched betel leaf is applied on boils or inflammations to cure them.
- The extract of this herb is mixed with water or milk and consumed to increase urination since betel leaf is a diuretic. The extract can be used as a cleaning agent to prevent vaginal discharge and itching or irritation.
- It possesses aphrodisiac properties and is given to newly married couple for chewing at bed time.
- It is used in Ayurveda medicines to treat warts, particularly in children. Both plantar warts and venereal warts can be treated with betel leaves. Warts are epidemic tumors of viral origin but non-viral spread of such tumors are also treated with the same medicines. In addition to curing the warts betel leaf has the potential to remove the scar in the area of warts and ensure that the warts do not recur.
Betel leaves that are neither very tender nor rough should be selected for use as only such leaves have all the nutrients at the optimum level through which full health benefit can be achieved.