A picture of a stack of fresh Betel leave. The leaves are ready for consumption.

Simon’s Betel Guide

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First of all, there is a lot of confusion regarding Betel products.

Let me clarify this.

The three main Betel products are:

Betel leaves from the plant Piper betle – This is what most people mean when they say betel in Asia.

Betel nut, nut of the Areca catechu palm tree – Betel nut is what most people mean when they say Betel in the West (because fresh betel leaves are not available in the West, most people are only ever heard of Betel nuts).

And paan, which is mixture of betel leaves and betel nuts – Paan is practically unheard of outside of Asia. Paan is a combination of betel leaves, tobacco, lime and areca nuts, and it is commonly prepared during festivities.

Betel leaves and Betel nuts are both often called betel but they are not the same plant.



Betel, betel leaves  – Piper betle


Betel (Piper betle) is a very popular recreational drug in Indonesia, India and all over southern Asia. It should  not to be mistaken with Betel nut (a.k.a. Aracea nut, areca catechu), which is an entirely different plant.

The leaves of the betel plant are consumed (chewed).

It is often consumed together with aracea nut.
This mixture is called paan and it is very popular in India and Indonesia and all throughout the middle East.

Kava, another herbal legal high, is a close relative of Betel.

3-5 fresh leaves are usually consumed during a chewing session.

The main active ingredient is arecoline (see below).


Betel pipre leaves prepared for chewing. Betel is a popular legal stimulant in Indonesia.
Betel leaves prepared for consumption


Effects of Betel: the effects are best described as a combination of tobacco and caffeine, it’s a mild stimulant and mild mood enhancer.



Interesting: in Taiwan scantily dressed woman selling Betel are part of the accepted mainstream culture.

These so called “Betel nut beauties” can be seen alongside high-traffic roads all over Taiwan selling Betel and cigarettes.


On the picture is a "Betel nut beauty". In Taiwan women dressed in lingerie sell Paan, Betel leaves and cigarettes to drivers.
A scantily dressed “Betel nut beauty” selling Betel and cigarettes to drivers.



Betel guide



Places to buy betel

Buy betel leaves – USA, Netherlands


Betel leaves and paan need to be freshly prepared, and the product’s shelf life is very short.

Also, most people in the West haven’t even heard of betel leaves or paan.

Therefore, betel leaf and paan consumption  is restricted to regions, where Betel is cultivated (southern Asia and Indonesia).

You can’t buy them online in the western world.


A world map showing the prevalence of Betel leaf chewing in different countries. The biggest consumers of Betel are Thailand, Indonesia, India and Pakistan.
Betel consumption map, betel consumption is widespread in the green countries




Betel’s main active ingredient Arecoline and it’s effects


This is a picture of the chemical formula of arecoline. The formula of arecoline is Methyl 1-methyl-1,2,5,6-tetrahydropyridine-3-carboxylate
Arecoline – main active ingredient in betel

Arecoline is the primary active ingredient responsible for the effects of  Piper betle.

Arecoline’s effects has been compared to nicotine.

Arecoline is a mild stimulant and mood enhancer.

It also causes slight pupillary constriction and bronchial constriction.



Betel leaves – legal status


Country-by-country breakdown: 

It is only illegal to chew betel leaves in the United Arab Emirates.

Betel legal status
United Arab EmiratesIllegal


Betel chewing was outlawed in the UAE due to the high number of migrant workers from India, who brought this habit with them.




Betel consumption method, dosage and preparation



Betel consumption methods:  chewing the leaves, the nuts or paan.

Insufflation is not possible and smoking is not effective.

People do not swallow the leaves, they spit them out after chewing them for about 5-20 minutes.

Betel dosage


Betel leaves: 3-5 leaves are chewed per session.

However, many people chew up to 30 – 50 leaves per day (not recommended)


Betel leaf preparation


The leaves need to be consumed freshly (the less they are, the weaker they get) but other than that, betel leaves do not require any special preparation before consumption.

In Asia many vendors add tobacco, lime or spices to the betel leaves to distinguish themselves from the hundreds of other sellers, but it’s not necessary.



Dangers of betel consumption


Excessive use of betel causes:

  • discoloration of  teeth
  • increased risk of oral cancer
  • loss of teeth


If betel is consumed with tobacco the risk is even higher!

Spitting out the chewed material in public spaces also poses a health risk. In crowded cities this biological contamination can help the spread of various diseases (it is banned in many cities).

There is also some evidence linking higher incidence of cardiovascular disease to more frequent use of betel.

Source: US national library of medicine – Mycotic pulmonary artery aneurysm: an unusual complication of ventriculo-atrial shunt


Betel health benefits


The main active ingredient in the betel plant (arecoline) has been shown to improve the learning ability of healthy volunteers.

Intravenous administration of arecoline also improved the  verbal and spatial memory of Alzheimer’s patients.

Source: Physostigmine and arecoline: effects of intravenous infusions in Alzheimer presenile dementia


Arecoline has also been used medicinally as an antihelmintic (a drug against parasitic worms).

Source: Pubmed – Oral submucous fibrosis in a 12-year-old Bangladeshi boy: a case report and review of literature


According to traditional Ayurvedic medicine, chewing betel leaf is a remedy for bad breath.

Buy betel leaves – USA, Netherlands

Betel leaves and Paan need to be freshly prepared, and the product’s shelf life is very short.

Also, most people in the West haven’t even heard of betel leaves or paan.

Therefore, Betel leaf and Paan consumption  is restricted to regions, where Betel is cultivated (southern Asia and Indonesia).

You can’t buy them online in the western world.


Betel trip reports


The following are trip reports of ordinary people from all over the web, who chewed betel leaves:

Interestingly, despite betel being so very popular in Asia I could not find a single English trip report.

Let me know if you find any online.


If you find this betel guide useful please give it a “+1”:

Thank you! It helps my website a lot.


Share your own trip report in the comment section below (to ensure anonymity don’t use your real name or real email address when submitting trip reports)!



Some of the information presented here might be outdated or incorrect (check “last updated” below). Make sure, that if you are planning to try out any of the substances to research them yourself as well.

I’m 100% committed to safe and responsible legal high consumption. If you have a few minutes to spare please read my blog post about responsible and safe legal drugs use

Betel is only one of the legal highs included in Simon’s legal high guide, check out the others as well.

If you are only interested in legal stimulants, then check out Simon’s Legal Stimulants for more.


Last updated: 2015 10. 21

Simon's Guide to Betel Leaves, Piper Betle
Article Name
Simon's Guide to Betel Leaves, Piper Betle
Betel, Paan, Betel nut health effects, places to buy and trip reports. Comprehensive guide containing everything you need to know about Betel.

5 thoughts on “Simon’s Betel Guide”

  1. Hi Simon,

    I came across your blog page while I was looking for my site which I’ve just started today. Would you mind if I tag into your site and I’ll do the same on my side with your webpage I like the video you have placed of Paan making. Would you mind if I use your ingreditents.


    1. Sure. As long as you link back to the original source and give me credits 8just mention briefly, that this is from Simon). Good luck with your website.

  2. Hi I live in the Uk and I am successfully growing piper betel or paan leaf. It is easy to grow indoors not requiring a lot of attention. I have sold a number of plants this year that were from cuttings, I have 4 plants left. The plants are all healthy and have the distinct betel leaf odour when you crush the leaves

    1. I’ve not noticed too much of an effect from areca nut, I noticed an increased urge to talk but no increase in enjoyment from the nut chewed alone the first few times but have found it increasingly hard to notice. I have found it to be far more effective with bicarb that without (since lime was hard to come-by) but chewing with bicarb caused me to lose my sense of taste for a little while so I stopped doing that for fear of damage. I may be using more bicarb than necessary but I couldn’t find any references online, and a pinch or two didn’t seem to have much of an effect. I have found a tea made with the crushed nut to be effective with the addition of enough bicarb to make it taste bad (although I have heard of some who needed only a pinch). There is a limit to how much one can drink due to the effect on stomach PH but this can be avoided with a separate acidic drink for afterwards. I did try drinking a very strong brew of tea without the bicarb but I didn’t notice anything. The nut seemed to be far more noticeable in combination with caffeine, I don’t smoke anymore but I’d imagine it to be similarly effective with nicotine also.

    2. hiya

      do you still have anymore plants left?

      I was interested in buying some if you did

      thank you

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