Benefits and side effects of Betel leaves

Betel leaves are famous in Indian culture. From worship till daily life, betel leaves hold a fair place. Commonly known as “paan” the betel leaf plant is from the family of Piperaceae and its scientific name is Piper Betel. This Indian medicine is also called “Green Gold”. Let us read here the benefits and side effects of betel leaves in brief.

Nutritional values

Betel leaf comprises various nutritional elements thereby making it a healthy eatable.

A 100 grams of betel leaf provides 44Kcal of calories. The majority content in betel leaf is water i.e. 85% of it. It has 3% of protein, 2.3% of minerals, 2.3% fibre, and 0.8% of fats.  1.3 micrograms of it contains iodine, 1.1 micrograms of potassium, nearly 1.9 micrograms of vitamin A, and few micrograms of vitamin B1 , B2 and nicotinic acid

Health benefits of betel leaves

The heart-shaped betel leaves are widely used in India due to their traditional importance as well as health benefits. Some of the key health benefits of betel leaves are as follows:

  • A great mouth freshener: Betel leaves are widely chewed with different added flavors as mouth fresheners. Betel oil is used for bad breath issues and helps in maintaining oral hygiene.
  • Gives relief from headaches: Headaches or migraines are well managed with a good betel leaf oil massage. If you don’t have betel leaf oil then rubbing leaves on the forehead can also provide relief from headaches.
  • Boosts appetite: It is given majorly to people who are having appetite issues. Chewing betel leaves stimulates the hunger hormone and regulates pH balances. This helps in boosting appetite.
  • Manages diabetes: Red leaves tend to lower blood glucose levels. Tannins, the active molecules in betel leave have anti-diabetic traits. Betel alkaloids inhibit the absorption of glucose in the intestine thus reducing blood glucose levels. Its abundant polyphenols have intensive antioxidant potential. They protect the pancreatic cells from free radical damage. In India, eating betel leaves after meals is a common practice. As it reduces sugar levels and helps in digestion, this practice is still in use.
  • Helps in curing certain cancer: The compounds in betel leave hydroxychavicol and chlorogenic acid counters the carcinogens from tobacco. They can kill the cancerous cells selectively without harming the healthy cells, unlike common cancer drugs. Its phenolic compounds have a wide range of properties such as antioxidant, anti-bacterial, anti-proliferative, and anti-mutagenic. Phytochemicals in the betel leaves help to fight against oral and colon cancers. It supports oxidative stress and free radicals elimination and also helps in cancer prevention. It can help in fighting a form of bone marrow cancer. It also helps to prevent oral cancer as chewing the leaves maintains the levels of ascorbic acid in the saliva.
  • Fastens wound healing: The presence of high levels of oxidative stress in the body can delay the healing of wounds. Such delayed wounds are a critical problem in the case of type 1 diabetes. Herbal extracts in the leaf help effectively in treating such cases. Its antioxidant properties in the form of polyphenols boost the work of free radical-scavenging enzymes such as catalase and dismutase. A case study proved that applying betel leaves extract increased the rate of healing in rats and also improved hydroxyproline, a key element of collagen. As we know higher collagen help in fast wound healing and tissue generation.
  • Improves dental health: Teeth blackening was a crazy practice like tattoos in Southeast Asia. Using plant minerals and extracts it was performed. It was thought to prevent oral infections and said to be good for the oral cavity. The combination of betel leaves, slaked lime, and areca nut does the same work as to how teeth blackening did. The catecholamine from betel leaves interacts with areca nut compounds and slaked lime to blacken teeth but at the same time, it has the risk of producing throat and oral cancers.
  • Reduces respiratory problems: Betel leaves treat cough and cold. It cures lung and, chest congestion immediately and asthma gradually. Just apply one spoon of mustard oil to the leaf, warm it gently and place it in the chest area to reduce cough and congestion. You can even boil 2 cups of water with a few betel leaves, cinnamon, and clove. Reduce the level to 1 cup and drink this concoction at least 3 times daily to feel a great relief from breathing and congestion issues.
  • Relives constipation: Rich antioxidant content, fibre content and water present in betel leaves help in providing relief from constipation. Betel leaf is known to stimulate the production of the acids of the stomach that are essential in efficiently absorbing vitamins and nutrients. Betel leaf thus fixes the stomach acid and the digestive juices and boosts digestion.
  • Settles down gastritis: The phytochemicals in betel leaves have anti-ulcer and anti-oxidant properties. Stomach ulcers can damage the stomach linings; reduce the production of gastric mucus, and oxidative stress. Consuming betel leaves heal your ulcers, increases the gastric mucus level, and reduces oxidative stress with its antioxidants. It not only soothes the digestive system while healing ulcers but also saves you from stomach issues in the future.

Betel leaf during pregnancy

Many women eat betel leaves during pregnancy. It relieves constipation, eases digestion, and treats whooping cough. Applying betel leaves to the breast increases milk production. With the correct counts of betel leaves both pregnant and delivered ladies can obtain many benefits. But, taking tobacco content or betel nut may harm the fetus and can even lead to miscarriage. So, better watch your health condition before starting to chew betel during pregnancy time. Chewing more betel leaves during pregnancy may cause stomach ulcers and mouth ulcers. Thus, avoid excessive eating of betel leaves during pregnancy.

Side effects of Betel leaves

Though there are several benefits of betel leaves available, some betel leaves side effects are as follows:

  • Its psychoactive traits may lead to dizziness
  • Associated with addiction and withdrawal problems
  • May disturb good microbes in the mouth
  • May cause oral and esophageal cancer
  • Allergic reaction
  • Sweet pan or betel leaves with nut or tobacco can cause mouth-related issues like irritation of gums, stiffening of jaws, and even can lead to oral cancer.
  • The slaked lime-coated betel leaves may affect the heartbeat and in long term may cause heart-related problems.

Take away

Betel leaves have been around in our lives due to their medicinal values. These are a great source of a mouth freshener and boost digestion. They cure and reduce many health issues and conditions. However, using it excessively may trigger a few adverse side effects like harm to fetal development, addiction, etc. Hence caution is alarmed while eating betel leaves.

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