The Betel (Piper betle) is the leaf of a vine belonging to the Piperaceae family. The plant, by itself, is said to have originated in India. Betel Leaf is cultivated in majority of South and Southeast Asia, and is a much esteemed leaf across the dozen nations. In India, the leaf is considered auspicious and is used as an auspicious exchange material not only during ceremonies, but also when fixing deals, business transactions and even marriage alliances.
Although the betel leaf earned a bad reputation during mid-1980s when early Western literature suggested that the betel liquid causes oral cancer, Dr. S. V. Bhide and others at the Cancer Institute in India, showed that it is not the leaf, but some contents of the areca nut (areca nut, lime and tobacco are chewed with betel leaf) and the tobacco that are the culprits.
The betel leaf when taken alone (without the said accompaniments), has several medicinal benefits, which very few of are aware of.
Discussed here are the less-known medicinal properties of betel leaf. Apart from being a mild stimulant, betel leaf is used for various medicinal purposes.
To begin with, when the leaf is chewed, the mild anti-infective content in the leaf, freshen breath, and cleanses the mouth. Its constituents enter the blood directly via the buccal mucosa. As this is a direct way of entry into blood stream, it is the best way to deliver drugs into the blood stream during sickness.
On chewing, the betel leaf induces salivation. Saliva fights bacteria in the mouth, and helps reduce plaque formation on teeth. Further, the Betel leaf contains compounds that act as heart beat regulators, relaxing the blood vessels.
The leaf contains certain poly-phenols that not only fight microbes, but also act as pain relievers and anti-inflammatory agents. Recent studies have shown that the leaf contains tannins, sugar, diastases and an essential oil. A particular phenol called ‘chavicol’, present in it has powerful antiseptic properties.
The leaf has analgesic and cooling properties, and can be applied on the painful area for temporary relief.
Betel leaves possess good diuretic properties. Therefore, it can be mixed with dilute milk and consumed by sweetening, as it helps ease urination.
The betel leaves are also beneficial in treating nervous pains and debility. The juice of the leaves, when consumed by adding a teaspoon of honey, twice a day, acts a good tonic.
Betel leaf has been in use since ancient times for healing wounds. Ayurveda has strongly believed in this property of the leaf. The juices of the leaves are applied locally on the wound, after which, the betel leaf is wrapped around and bandaged. The wound is sure to heal within a day or two.
Also, recent studies have shown that the leaf contains components that have chemo-preventive and anti-cancer properties.
In short, Betel leaf is a storehouse of several chemicals that are of much pharmaceutical value. Studies are on, to isolate and identify each molecule and study their effects. It is hoped that several more medicinal properties of this wonderful leaf are yet to be revealed. However, the one precaution to be taken is to avoid chewing the leaf with areca nut and tobacco, instead, try some variety spices including cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and the likes to enjoy its benefits.
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