betel (bēˈtəl) [key], masticatory made from slices of betel palm seeds (called betel nuts) smeared onto a betel pepper leaf together with other aromatic flavorings and lime paste and rolled up. The betel palm ( Areca catechu ) and the betel pepper ( Piper betle of the pepper family) are native to and widely cultivated in S Asia, where betel has been chewed since ancient times and is an article of considerable commerce. Betel contains alkaloids that increase the heart rate and induce a sense of euphoria. Habitual chewing stains the teeth and is linked to oral cancer.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.