Often called botanic chewing gum, in recent years Areca Nut (Bing Lang) is favored by more and more people, both the younger and senior citizens. However, trying it the first time may not impress you so much because it might get you drunk, accompanied with dizziness, blush, chest stuffiness, and sensation of a lump or discomfort in the throat.
Actually it has two main different applications in different parts – Da Fu Zi (areca palm seeds) for expelling parasites, relieve dyspepsia, and activating qi to excrete water while Da Fu Pi (peel of arecanut) for descending reversed Qi to relieve middle Jiao and inducing diuresis for removing edema.
What is Areca Nut (Betel Nut)?
Also known as beetlenut or betelnut, it refers to the dried seeds of betel palm tree (Areca catechu L.), which belongs to one of Pahnaceae plants’ species. In China, it mainly grows in provinces of Hainan, Fujian, Yunnan, Guangxi, and Taiwan. The ripening fruits are collected from late spring to early autumn, boiled with water, dried, rind removed, seeds taken out, and dried in the sun. Medicinally, it is usually in the form of soaked and sliced or mashed.
What is it used for in TCM?
From the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is bitter, acrid, and warm in nature and covers meridians of stomach and large intestine. Main functions are removing parasites to eliminate accumulation and activating qi for excreting water. Main uses and indications are multiple intestinal parasites, food retention and qi stagnation, abdominal distension and constipation, edema, diarrhea and dysentery, and frequent urge to have bowel but can’t make it. Regular dosage is 6 to 15 gram in decoction or 60 to 120 grams when employed for only killing tapeworm and fasciolopsis buski.
Effects and benefits
According to modern pharmacological research, it shows that arecoline contained in this herb is an effective parasiticide, killing a number of entozoas, and a laxative, helping discharge of dead bodies of parasites. Combined with Pumpkin Seeds, it has a stronger effect, especially for taenia solium. In addition, it also inhibits, in a certain extent, influenza virus and many species of dermatophytes.
Related Chinese herbal formulas
As a traditional Chinese herb, bin lang is used for a very long time medicinally. Medical practitioners have accumulated lots of experience about it and some remedies as follows are pretty popular.
(1). Bin Lang Si Xiao Wan. Other herbs include Da Huang (Rhubarb), Qian Niu Zi (Morning Glory Seed), Zao Jia (Gleditsia Sinensis), Xiang Fu (Nut Grass Rhizome), and Wu Ling Zhi (Flying Squirrel Feces). This prescription helps digestion to relieve accumulation and promote qi to excrete water, thus principally used for cures of food accumulation, phlegm and retained fluid, indigestion, abdominal fullness and distention, belching and acid swallowing, and constipation. In terms of western medicine, it is very likely to be used for diseases, like gastritis, functiona, gastric ulcer, and cholecystitis, if only they are caused by stagnated phlegm, food, air, or water in digestive tract. Maybe it’s better to mention that pregnant woman should stay away from it;
(2). Exclusive deworming formula – decoction of 30-120 grams of areca nuts and 50-150 grams of Nan Gua Zi (Pumpkin Seeds). Take it in the morning before breakfast and then take magnesium sulfate powder 30 to 60 minutes later;
(3). Mu Xiang Bing Lang Wan. Other herbs are Mu Xiang (Costus Root), Qing Pi (Green Tangerine Peel), Chen Pi (Tangerine Peel), E Zhu (Zedoaria Rhizome), Huang Lian (Coptis Rhizome), Huang Bai (Phellodendron), Da Huang, Xiang Fu, and Qian Niu Zi. It also can be served as decoction but should be used in less dosage. This prescription promotes the circulation of qi to relieve food accumulation, clears heat, and free movement of the bowels, thus used in treatments of abdominal fullness and distention, constipation, or rectal tenesmus, thick greasy coating, and powerful pulse.
Potential side effects and contraindications
There is evidence that arecoline is carcinogenic to humans, and known to cause oral cancer and pharyngeal cancer. Furthermore, lime added is also one of co-carcinogens. After reviewing literature about relationship between cancer and chewing areca nut, the world health organization comes to a reliable conclusion about this quid as follows.
(1). Chewing tobacco together with areca nut, no doubt, is one of the causes for cancers;
(2). Chewing areca nut and smoking simultaneously make people susceptible to oral cancer and pharyngeal cancer.
Besides, overeating of this herb can also lead to toxic symptoms.
(1). In mild cases – feeling high, glazed eyes, trembling, stumbling, and acting peculiarly or wildly;
(2). In severe cases – acute and transient psychosis, including auditory hallucination, self-enhancement, persecution mania, delirium, and insecurity.
TCM wise, it shouldn’t be used for those diagnosed with diarrhea due to deficient spleen or collapse from qi deficiency.