Areca

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What other names is Betel Nut known by?

Arec, Aréca, Areca catechu, Areca Nut, Areca Palm, Arecanut Palm, Aréquier, Betel Nut, Betel Quid, Betelnut Palm, Bing Lang, Chique de Bétel, Gubak, Noix de Bétel, Nuez de Areca, Nuez de Betel, Palmier d'Arec, Palmier à Bétel, Palmier à Canne Jaune, Palmier Doré, Pinag, Pinang Palm, Pinlag, Poogiphalam, Puga, Supari, Tantusara.

What is Betel Nut?

Areca is a plant. The nut is used to make medicine. Areca nut is chewed alone or in the form of quids, a mixture of tobacco, powdered or sliced areca nut, and slaked lime wrapped in the leaf of "betel" vine (Piper betel).

Areca is used for treatment of a mental disorder called schizophrenia and an eye disorder called glaucoma; as a mild stimulant; and as a digestive aid.

Some people use areca as a recreational drug because it speeds up the central nervous system (CNS).

In veterinary medicine, an extract of areca is used for expelling tapeworms in cattle, dogs, and horses; to empty animals' bowels; and for treating intestinal colic in horses.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Schizophrenia. Early research suggests that betel nut might be helpful for schizophrenia. Some patients with schizophrenia who chew betel nut seem to have less severe symptoms.
  • Stroke. Early research suggests that taking a solution containing betel nut extract might improve speech, strength, and bladder function in people who have had a stroke.
  • Glaucoma.
  • Aiding in digestion.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of betel nut for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

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How does Betel Nut work?

It is thought that areca affects chemicals in the brain and other parts of the central nervous system.

Are there safety concerns?

Not enough is known about the safety of taking betel nut by mouth short-term. However, betel nut is considered LIKELY UNSAFE when taken by mouth long-term or in high doses. Some of the chemicals in betel nut have been associated with cancer. Other chemicals are poisonous.

Eating 8-30 grams of betel nut can cause death. Chewing betel nut can make your mouth, lips, and stool turn red. It can cause stimulant effects similar to caffeine and tobacco use. It can also cause more severe effects including vomiting, diarrhea, gum problems, increased saliva, chest pain, abnormal heart beats, low blood pressure, shortness of breath and rapid breathing, heart attack, coma, and death.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Taking betel nut by mouth is LIKELY UNSAFE for anyone, due to concerns about cancer and toxicity. But pregnant and breast-feeding women have additional risks. Betel nut can affect the central nervous system and this might endanger a pregnancy. Chemicals in betel nut might pass into breast milk and harm a nursing infant. Stay on the safe side and avoid using betel nut if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Asthma: Betel nut might make asthma worse.

Slow heart rate (bradycardia): Betel nut might slow down the heart beat. This could be a problem in people who already have a slow heart rate.

Gastrointestinal tract blockage: Betel nut might cause "congestion" in the intestines. This might cause problems in people who have a blockage in their intestines.

Ulcers: Betel nut might increase secretions in the stomach and intestines. There is concern that this could worsen ulcers.

Lung conditions: Betel nut might increase fluid secretions in the lung. There is concern that this could worsen lung conditions, such as asthma or emphysema.

Seizures: There is concern that betel nut might increase the risk of seizures.

Urinary tract obstruction: Betel nut might increase secretions in the urinary tract. There is concern that this could worsen urinary obstruction.

Are there any interactions with medications?



Drying medications (Anticholinergic drugs)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Betel nut contains chemicals that can affect the brain and heart. Some drying medications can also affect the brain and heart. But betel nut works differently than drying medications. Betel nut might decrease the effects of drying medications.

Some of these drying medications include atropine, scopolamine, and some medications used for allergies (antihistamines), and for depression (antidepressants).



Medications for Alzheimer's disease (Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Betel nut might increase certain chemicals in the brain, heart, and elsewhere in the body. Some medications used for Alzheimer's disease also affect these chemicals. Taking betel nut along with medications for Alzheimer's disease might increase effects and side effects of medications used for Alzheimer's disease.



Medications for depression (MAOIs)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Betel nut might increase the amount of a chemical in the brain. This chemical is called serotonin. Some medications used for depression also increase serotonin. Taking betel nut with these medications used for depression might cause there to be too much serotonin. This could cause serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, and anxiety.

Some of these medications used for depression include phenelzine (Nardil), tranylcypromine (Parnate), and others.



Procyclidine
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Procyclidine can affect chemicals in the body. Betel nut can also affect chemicals in the body. But betel nut has the opposite effect of procyclidine. Taking betel nut along with procyclidine might decrease the effectiveness of procyclidine.



Various medications used for glaucoma, Alzheimer's disease, and other conditions (Cholinergic drugs)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Betel nut contains a chemical that affects the body. This chemical is similar to some medications used for glaucoma, Alzheimer's disease, and other conditions. Taking betel nut with these medications might increase the chance of side effects.

Some of these medications used for glaucoma, Alzheimer's disease, and other conditions include pilocarpine (Pilocar and others), donepezil (Aricept), tacrine (Cognex), and others.

Dosing considerations for Betel Nut.

The appropriate dose of areca depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for areca. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

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You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

Reviewed on 3/29/2011 12:35:40 PM

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