Betel quid, Betel chew, Betel pan
Betel nut (more correctly known as areca nut) is actually not a nut but the seed of the Areca palm, which grows in Southeast and South Asia, and in parts of east Africa. It is a stimulant drug which is chewed. To prepare the drug a few slices of the Areca nut are wrapped in a Betel leaf along with calcium hydroxide (slaked lime) and, sometimes, other spices such as cloves and cardamom and tobacco (see image above).
Chewing Betel is a traditional cultural practice in parts of south and south-east Asia, Asia Pacific and Africa. Unfortunately, chewing the nut can become habit forming and frequent use can lead to a range of medical issues such mouth ulcers, gum disease, heart problems and an increased risk of developing cancers of the mouth, stomach and oesophagus.
Use in the UK
Betel is legal in the UK. It is used by populations settling from India, Asia and East Africa where use of the nut is common.
Updated October 2021