3.3.1 Betel Nut

Betel Nut #

Binomial / Botanical Name Areca Catechu
Street Names Betel
Major Active Compound Arecoline
Indigenous Source Tropical Pacific, Asia, East Africa
Form Nut
RoA Chewed/Quidded
Personal Rating On Shulgin Scale +**


Betel nuts have traditionally been chewed across a number of Asian and Oceanic countries, and in some they remain extremely popular. I obtained my samples via the Internet, from two different sources, only to be disappointed. They were like lumps of concrete, and were totally useless. This equally applied to a third sample which was pre-sliced on delivery.

Eventually, I experienced the real deal in the more ethnic setting of Mandalay, in Myanmar. These were sold from portable stalls, which were dotted around the city, and chewed by locals of every shape and size.

The nuts themselves were crushed, mixed with some sort of slaked lime type powder, and wrapped in leaves. As a foreigner I was given one such treat on the house by a friendly street vendor.

The nuts were still hard, but I chewed and sucked as instructed. The effects came on quite quickly.

I would describe the stimulation as caffeine-like, but cleaner, with more clarity and with no jittery edge. As I walked around the pagoda district I was consciously aware that I was stimulated. What appeared to be slightly enhanced visual acuity was another reminder.

This was in fact quite pleasant, and it lasted for several hours.

Would I sample it again should the opportunity arise? Yes, certainly, provided that it was in a similarly authentic setting.

Typical betel nut stalls in Mandalay
[Bottom photo courtesy of C Brown]

Typical betel nut stalls in Mandalay
[Bottom photo courtesy of C Brown]

Note that, contrary to the headline name of betel nut, the nuts are actually areca nuts, although the leaves are betel leaves (piper betel). As an interesting aside, it is sometimes claimed that areca nut is the fourth most commonly used psychoactive substance in the world (following caffeine, nicotine and alcohol).