On the picture you can see 30 high-end paan masala on a plate ready to be served to customers.

Simon’s Paan Guide

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First of all, there is a lot of confusion regarding paan.

Let me clarify it.

The three main betel products are:

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).

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

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.

 

On the picture you can see traditionally prepared indian paan.
Indian, traditional paan

 

Paan

 

Paan is mixture of betel nuts, betel leaves and lime. Sometimes tobacco is added as well (mostly in India). Higher quality and more expensive variants include added spices, sugar, honey and decoration (mostly silver foil) as well.

Paan is originated from India.

The ingredients are synergistic. Therefore, paan produces the strongest psychoactive effects out of all betel products.

In Thailand Paan is called betel quid.

Paan is the most often consumed Betel product.

 

Difference between betel quids, paan and gutka

 

Paan is originated in India but it has spread all over South and Southeast Asia. There are three main varieties of paan:

  • paan masala (a.k.a india paan),
  • taiwanese betel quids,
  • and gutka.

 

A picture of banarasi paan. Banarasi paan is traditional, Indian sweet paan served with decorative silver foil and using the best ingredients. It's the most expensive version of Paan.
Banarasi paan

Paan masala – Traditional, Indian paan. There are many varieties of paan. Probably the two most well known are sweet paan (paan with cocktail cherry and/or with honey and other sweets). The other one is the high-end banarasi paan (on the picture, sweet paan with the best ingredients and decorative elements, served mostly in restaurants after dinner).
In India sweet paan is usually under US $1 per unit. Chewing time is around 20 minutes for Indian paan.

Taiwanese quids –   Betel quids contain the taiwan_betel_quidssame ingredients as traditional paan but are smaller and the shape is different (kinda like a mini burrito). In Taiwan, you will get around 10  betel quids for around US $1.25.
Chewing time is 5 minutes for a Taiwanese betel quid.

gutkaGutka – Gutka is the cheap, mass produced, packaged version of paan.

Gutka consists of areca nut, tobacco, catechu, paraffin wax, slaked lime and sweet or savory artificial flavorings. 

 

paan_betel_nut_on_betel_leaf
Paan: Betel nut + Betel leaf + Lime and tobacco

 

Effects of paan: the effects of paan 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 paan, gutka, cigarettes 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 girl". In Taiwan women dressed in lingerie sell paan, gutka, cigarettes and betel to drivers.
A scantily dressed “betel nut girl” selling paan, gutka and cigarettes to drivers.

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Paan guide

Buy paan – USA

You can buy Areca nuts in the US here:

Update: No longer sold in the US due to some changes in legislation (wholesale import is prohibited, small orders from outside the US are still fine).

Try ordering it from a European vendor below (they offer free international shipping).

Buy paan – Netherlands

To buy areca nuts in the Netherlands go here:

Haven’t found any Dutch stores selling it.

Let me know in the comments below if you know of a place, where you can buy Betel nut in the Netherlands or anywhere in mainland Europe online.

 

Paan:  One Indian Paan is one dose, and 2-3 Thai Betel quid is one dose.

 

Preparation:

Expensive, up-scale, Indian sweet paan:

 

Thai betel quid:

 

 

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

However, many people chew up to 30 – 50 leaves per day.

Betel nuts: usual dosage is between 10 – 50 grams per day, per person, on average.

 

You need much less if you are chewing paan, because the ingredients are synergistic.

 

Dangers of paan consumption

Excessive paan chewing causes:

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

If paan 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

 

 

Paan health benefits

The main active ingredient in paan (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 is a remedy for bad breath.

 

 

Paan trip reports

The following are trip reports of ordinary people from all over the web, who chewed betel nuts (one of the main ingredients of paan, couldn’t find any trip reports of just paan specifically):

I started by chewing half a slice, just to be on the safe side. Immediately, there was a striking sensation in the mouth – this is a powerful astringent. Another very striking effect was the flood of saliva released. 

About a minute after I started chewing, I felt something very mild. At that time, I decided I had enough of the taste and spit it out. There was a marked lightheadedness, but that was about it for the effects. So I decided to go for a whole slice.

As I chewed on that one, I felt a rather rapid (but still mild) effect. I would be very hesitant to call it a “rush” though, since I tend to reserve that term for things like Speedballs or IV Ketamine.

This is one of those stimulants that are simultaneously sedating and stimulating.”

Source: Bluelight – Areca nut – Trip report

“In less than 10 minutes my arms and legs felt a tingle and I felt very lightheaded.

Colors seemed a bit brighter and my vision was slightly off, I can best describe it as looking at life like it was a movie you watch on the internet not quite fluid a bit choppy, like a strobe light effect minus the light. Are you following me? I continued to chew more nuts and experienced several peaks on this trip. All in all very pleasing and relaxing. I was as the song goes ‘Comfortably Numb’. I would give just one word of caution, don’t chew betel nut while driving, I did this last weekend and it was a bit frightening. It’s a fun way to spend an evening at home with friends or by yourself.”

Source: Erowid – Betel nut – Trip report

“I got some baked and sliced betel nuts in the mail today with some edible lime (NOT the fruit, but the mineral).

Once it was all mixed I stuffed it between my jaw and my cheek, like dip. I kept it in for the next 4 hours. I found it gave me a great little buzz. Slightly giddy and talkative. Similar to coffee only smoother. When I found the buzz was going down I would chew on it some more then put it back into the dip position.”

Source: Erowid – Betel nut – Trip report

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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

Paan 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

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Simon's Guide to Paan, Paan Samala, Banarasi Paan and Betel Quids
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