Monday, October 1, 2012

Pan (Piper Betel) cultivation


Scientific classification
Kingdom       : Plantae
(unranked)    : Angiospermae
(unranked)    : Magnoliidae
Order           : Piperales
Family          : Piperacea

The Betel (Piper betle) is the leaf of a vine belonging to the Piperaceae family, which includes pepper and Kava. It is valued both as a mild stimulant and for its medicinal properties. Betel leaf is mostly consumed in Asia, and elsewhere in the world by some Asian emigrants, as betel quid or paan, with or without tobacco, in an addictive psycho-stimulating and euphoria-inducing formulation with adverse health effects.

 The betel plant is an evergreen and perennial creeper, with glossy heart-shaped leaves and white catkin. The betel plant originated from South and South East Asia (India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka).
Botanical name of betel vine is Piper betel. In India, it is known as ‘pan’. Betel vine is a perennial, dioecious, evergreen climber that is grown in tropics and subtropics for its leaves that are used as a chewing stimulant. In India, betel vine is grown as an important cash crop in southern parts, mainly

in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. Betel is also cultivated in Assam, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. Betel leaves has good export potential and India exports betel leaves to the countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Burma and Thailand.


The betel leaf is cultivated in most of South and Southeast Asia. Since it is a creeper, it needs a compatible tree or a long pole for support. Betel requires high land and especially fertile soil. Waterlogged, saline and alkali soils are unsuitable for its cultivation.
Climatic Requirements 

Tropical climate, high rainfall and a shady place are best for its vigorous growth.

Soil Requirements 

Soil with good organic matter and drainage system is best suited for betel vine growth. However, it can be grown on different types of soils such as heavy clayey loam, laterite and sandy loam soils.


Based on shape, size, brittleness, and taste of leaf blade, betelvine is classified into pungent and non-pungent varieties. Important betelvine varieties cultivated in Andhra Pradesh are Karapaku, Chennor, Tellaku, Bangla and Kalli Patti and important betelvine varieties cultivated in Assam are Assam Patti, Awani pan, Bangla and Khasi Pan. Important betelvine varieties cultivated in Bihar are Desi Pan, Calcutta, Paton, Maghai and Bangla while important betelvine varieties cultivated in

Karnataka are Kariyale, Mysoreale and Ambadiale. Important betelvine varieties cultivated in Kerala are Nadan, Kalkodi and Puthukodi and important betelvine varieties cultivated in Madhya Pradesh are Desi Bangla, Calcutta and Deswari. Important betelvine varieties cultivated in  Maharashtra are Kallipatti, Kapoori and Bangla (Ramtek) while important betelvine varieties cultivated in  Orissa are Godi Bangla, Nova Cuttak, Sanchi and Birkoli. Important betelvine varieties cultivated in Tamil Nadu are Pachai Kodi and Vellaikodi and important betelvine varieties cultivated in Uttar Pradesh are Deswari, Kapoori, Maghai and Bangla. Important betelvine varieties cultivated in West Bengal are Bangla, Sanchi, Mitha, Kali Bangla and Simurali Bangla.


Stem cuttings having 3–5 nodes are used for propagation and these are planted in such a manner that 2–3 nodes are buried in the soil. A single node cutting with a mother leaf is also planted. Cuttings of the apical and middle portions of the vine are used for planting.

Cultivation Practices 

Two types of cultivation is practiced in India: open system of cultivation using support plants and closed system of cultivation using artificial rectangular structures called barejas.

Construction of Bareja (rectangular structures) for artificial support and shade 

Barejas are normally made on slightly slopy land, near to a source of irrigation at a higher level than the adjoining area. There must be a slope in all directions for a quick drainage of excess water. Barejas are nothing but rectangular structures made up of bamboo or jute sticks which are normally having a height of 2–2.5 meters. These rectangular structures are covered with thatching using coconut leaves or straw or such other materials.

Thumbnail #1 of Piper betle by Dinu  
Raising of support plants for natural support and shade 

Plants of Sesbania grandiflora, S. sesban, Erythrina variegata and Moringa oleifera are raised to provide support and shade. They are sown in 45–60cm rows at least 45 days before planting the cuttings of betelvine.

Soil preparation

Soil should be prepared well by 4–5 ploughings and land should be raised by 5–10cm from the adjacent areas, providing proper gradient on both sides for quick drainage. Afterwards, field beds of suitable size (15cm high and 30cm broad) are prepared. Before planting the cuttings, soil should be sterilized thoroughly.

Thumbnail #4 of Piper betle by Love2bugs  

Soil Sterilization

During hot summer months (March–May), when the soil temperature rises sufficiently, soil is covered using polyethylene sheets in order to destroy inoculum of soil- borne pathogens. For new plantations, application of Carbofuran @ 1.5kg/ha or neem cake (0.5 tonnes/ha) + Carbofuran (0.75kg/ha) is also recommended to minimize initial soil nematode population. However, Carbofuran should not be recommended in established gardens at any stage because a time gap of 65–70 days as safe waiting period is required between application and harvesting of leaves.

Planting of Betelvine cuttings 

40,000–75,000 cuttings are used for a hectare under open system of cultivation whereas 1,00,000–1,20,000 cuttings/ha are sufficient in bareja (closed) system of cultivation. The onset of monsoon is ideal time of planting under closed system of cultivation. October month is best planting time under open system of cultivation. However, planting season varies from state to state in India. Planting season in Andhra Pradesh is September-October. Planting season in Assam is April-May and August-September. Planting season in Bihar is June-July, September and May-June. Planting season in Karnataka is July-August. Planting season in Kerala is May-June and September-November.

 Thumbnail #5 of Piper betle by Love2bugs
Planting season in Madhya Pradesh is January-March and September-November. Planting season in Maharashtra is July-August and October-November. Planting season in Nagaland is April-May. Planting season in Orissa is May-June and September-November. Planting season in Tamil Nadu is March-May and August-October. Planting season in Tripura is March-April and September-October. Planting season in Uttar Pradesh is October-November and planting season in West Bengal is June-July and September-October. Planting is done in rows. Different spacing is followed in different states. In West Bengal, Row-to-row spacing is 50–70cm and Plant-to-plant spacing is 10–20cm and in Uttar Pradesh, Row-to-row spacing is 100cm and Plant-to-plant spacing is 10–15cm. In Maharashtra, Row-to-row spacing is 80cm and Plant-to-plant spacing is 20cm and in Bihar, Row-to-row spacing is 80–100cm and Plant-to-plant spacing is 10–20cm. In Madhya Pradesh, Row-to-row spacing is 50–60cm and Plant-to-plant spacing is 15cm.

Training and pruning

One month after the planting, young shoots start appearing and these young shoots are trained along the support and tied with them using banana fiber or jute fiber once in every 15 to 20 days.

Thumbnail #6 of Piper betle by Metrosideros

Nutrient Management

Dried leaves and wood ash are applied to the furrows at fortnightly intervals and cowdung slurry is sprinkled. This is repeated till four months after planting when the crop is ready for harvest. Application of different kinds of leaves (gliricidia, mango leaves etc) at monthly intervals is found advantageous for the growth of the vines.

Oilseed cakes like Castor cake, linseed cake, sesamum cake or neem cake are applied as manure @ 15 Q/ha. The cake is first soaked in water in a big earthen pot for a week. Then this slurry is applied at frequent intervals. Oilcakes in powder form are also applied in the rainy season. Nitrogen @ 200kg/ha/year as farmyard manure or oil cakes should be applied. A dose of 100kg each of P2O5 and K2O/ha/year is also recommended. The fertilizers should be applied in 4–6 split doses at 2–3 months intervals.


Gardens should be kept clean by weeding and stirring as and when required.


The insect pests include the mirid bug (Disphincuts politus) which de-saps the tender leaves and shoots, scale insects and mealy bugs (Lepidosaphes and Pseudococcus), which occur on the stems. Insecticidal application is not recommended to avoid toxic hazards. In serious infestations, apply fish oil soap at 1.5% against the mirid bugs and 0.025% quinalphos against the scale insects and mealy bugs. Against scale insects, restrict insecticide application on the stem only. The leaves should be harvested only after 15 days of insecticide application. The treated leaves should be consumed / marketed after thorough washing in water. 

Disease Management

Among the diseases, the bacterial leaf spot caused by Xanthomonas betlicola is most serious in southern Kerala. The initial symptoms appear as small water-soaked regions, which enlarge and turn dark brown in the centre with yellow halo. Profuse bacterial ooze may be seen on the lower side of the lesion. In severe cases, defoliation and stem injury occur, leading to wilting of the plant. The cultivars Karilanchi, Karpuram, and Thulasi are found susceptible to the disease. Spraying of 1% Bordeaux mixture is recommended to control the disease.

 Lowering the vines

Under normal conditions, vines grow to a height of about 3 m in one-year time. When they reach this height, their vigour to produce normal sized leaves is reduced and the crop needs rejuvenation. This is done by lowering the vines down to the ground level at least once a year. Lowering is done during the months of August-September. Before lowering, all the leaves in the basal portion of the vines to a height of 15 cm are removed. Vine is untied from bottom upwards and coiled up carefully and laid flat on ground leaving 2.5 to 5 cm length of top shoots. Soil is put over the portion kept in the soil to about 5 cm thickness. Lowering is followed by light irrigation and manuring.

Since betelvine requires high soil moisture, frequent light irrigation is necessary depending upon the season. Irrigation should be need-based and proper drainage is essential during rainy season.

In Bangladesh, farmers called barui prepare a garden called a barouj in which to grow betel. The barouj is fenced with bamboo sticks and coconut leaves. The soil is plowed into furrows of 10 to 15 metres' length, 75 centimetres in width and 75 centimetres' depth. Oil cakes, manure, and leaves are thoroughly incorporated with the topsoil of the furrows and wood ash. The creeper cuttings are planted at the beginning of the monsoon season

Proper shade and irrigation are essential for the successful cultivation of this crop. Betel needs constantly moist soil, but there should not be excessive moisture. Irrigation is frequent and light, and standing water should not remain for more than half an hour.

Dried leaves and wood ash are applied to the furrows at fortnightly intervals and cow dung slurry is sprinkled. Application of different kinds of leaves at monthly intervals is believed advantageous for the growth of the betel. In 3 to 6 months the vines reach 150 to 180 centimeters in height and they will branch. Harvest begins, with the farmer plucking the leaf and its petiole with his right thumb. The harvest lasts 15 days to one month. The harvested leaves are consumed locally or exported to other parts of Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and the United States. Betel is an important part of the economy in rural Bangladesh.
Varieties include 'Magadhi' from Bihar, Gundi, Rasi & Bada varieties from Hinjilicut, Orissa which is more popular in Benaras, Mirzapur, Tunda, Agra & southern districts of Orissa, in India, and 'Venmony Vettila' from Kerala.


Southeast Asian community worldwide use to chew Pan, predominantly as a betel quid (synonymous with pan or paan). The betel quid contains betel leaf, areca nut and slaked lime, and may contain tobacco. Other substances are often added to the betel quid, in particular spices, such as cardamom, saffron, cloves, aniseed, turmeric, mustard or sweeteners according to local preferences. Numerous commercially produced mixtures containing some or all of these ingredients are also available in various parts of the world. The betel quid is thus a mixture of substances, placed in the mouth; and betel leaf is not consumed alone. For a predominant majority, the paan usually contains the betel leaf with two basic ingredients, either tobacco or areca nut or both, in raw or any processed form.

The betel quid, or paan, as consumed in various parts of the world, consists of, :
  • betel leaf with areca nut and slaked lime
  • betel leaf with areca nut, slaked lime and tobacco
  • betel leaf with tobacco, but without any areca nut
  • betel leaf with areca nut and other spices or ingredients, but without tobacco
  • betel leaf with areca nut, tobacco and other spices or ingredients

In India, Burma, Nepal, Sri Lanka and other parts of South Asia and Southeast Asia, the leaves are chewed together in a wrapped package along with the areca nut  and mineral slaked lime. Catechu, called Kattha in Hindi, and other flavoring substances and spices might be added. The lime acts to keep the active ingredient in its freebase or alkaline form, thus enabling it to enter the bloodstream via sublingual absorption. The areca nut contains the alkaloid arecoline, which promotes salivation (the saliva is stained red), and is itself a stimulant. This combination, known as a "betel quid", has been used for several thousand years. Tobacco is sometimes added.

Betel leaves are used as a stimulant, an antiseptic and a breath-freshener. Betel quid is also strongly carcinogenic.

The betel and areca also play an important role in Vietnamese culture. In Vietnamese there is a saying that "the betel begins the conversation", referring to the practice of people chewing betel in formal occasions or "to break the ice" in awkward situations. The betel leaves and areca nuts are used ceremonially in traditional Vietnamese weddings. Per tradition a groom might offer the bride's parents betel and areca, the leaf and the nut symbolizing the ideal married couple bound together.

In Papua New Guinea, betel is prepared with a mustard stick dipped in lime powder and acts as a stimulant to suppress hunger, reduce stress and heighten the senses. Most families have backyard gardens and many grow betel there. The lime must be purchased. It is processed from corals, especially the fast-growing staghorn corals of genus Acropora.

Chewing betel quid to give fragrance to mouth, after washing one's teeth, applying collyrium on one's eyelids, coloring one's lips with alacktaka, is mentioned in chapter 4 of the Kama Sutra.

Health effects

 The betel leaf is predominantly consumed as betel quid or paan, which is a mixture of substances. The paan almost always contains a betel leaf with two basic ingredients, either areca nut or tobacco or both, with lime (calcium hydroxide or calcium carbonate). Both tobacco and areca nut are considered as carcinogenic.

In an extensive scientific research monograph, the World Health Organization expert group for research on cancer reported in 2004 that the percentage of oral cancer among all cancers diagnosed in hospitals in Asia has always been much higher than that usually found in western countries, where the habit of chewing betel quid, with or without tobacco, is virtually unknown. In many descriptive studies, investigators have obtained histories of chewing betel quid with tobacco from series of patients with oral cancer; and in all these studies the percentage of patients who practice betel leaf chewing was found to be extremely large. Researchers also noted that the cancer generally develops at the place where the betel quid is kept.

In another study, scientists report  the extent of cancer risks of betel quid chewing (without tobacco added) beyond oral cancer. In addition to oral cancer, significant increases were seen among chewers for cancer of the esophagus, liver, pancreas, larynx, lung, and all cancer. Chewing and smoking, as combined by most betel chewers, interacted synergistically and was responsible for half of all cancer deaths in this group. Chewing betel leaf quid and smoking, the scientists claim shortened the life span by nearly 6 years.
A Lancet Oncology publication claims that betel leaf quid, or paan masala, may cause tumours in different parts of the body and not just the oral cavity as previously thought.

Effects of chewing betel quid during pregnancy

Scientific teams from Taiwan, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea have reported that expectant mothers who chew betel quid, during pregnancy, significantly increase adverse outcomes for the baby. The effects of betel quid and areca nut were similar to those reported for mothers who consume alcohol or tobacco during pregnancy. Lower birth weights, reduced birth length and early term were found to be significantly higher.

Medicinal properties

In India, betel is used to cure worms. According to traditional Ayurvedic medicine, chewing areca nut and betel leaf is a remedy for bad breath.

A related plant P. sarmentosum, which is used in cooking, is sometimes called "wild betel leaf


Betel leaves are cultivated throughout southeast Asia. The leaves grow on betel vines, and the average size of vine plots range from 0.5 to 50 decimals (1 decimal = 0.01 acre).

Malaysian farmers cultivate four types of betel plants: sirih India, sirih Melayu, sirih Cina and sirih Udang. The harvest is then sold in bundles of 10 leaves, each bundle costing in 2011 between RM 0.30 to 0.50 ($0.10 to $0.15 per leaf).

In Sri Lanka, betel is grown all over the country but the commercial production of betel, with bigger leaves with dark green colour combined with thickness, known as “kalu bulath” is confined to a few districts such as Kurunagala, Gampaha, Kegalle, Kalutara and Colombo.These are sold at a whole seller lots of 1000 leaves. In a report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a successful betel farm in Sri Lanka can provide a supplemental income to a farmer by providing six days of work every six months and net income when the leaf prices are attractive. The FAO study found the successful farm’s yield to be 18,000 leaves per 150 square feet (14 m2). The additional salary and income to the Sri Lankan betel grower, assuming he or she provides all needed labor and keeps all net profit, to be SL Rs. 1635 per 150 square feet (14 m2) of betel farm every 6 months ($90 per decimal per year, or $9000 per acre per year). If the farmer hires outside labor to tend the betel vines, and harvest the crop, the FAO found the net income to the betel farm owner to be SL Rs. 735 per 150 square feet (14 m2) of betel farm every 6 months ($40 per decimal per year, or $4000 per acre per year). According to FAO, the market prices for betel leaves vary with wet and dry season in Sri Lanka, and in 2010 averaged SL Rs. 200-400 per 1000 leaves ($1.82 to $3.64 per 1000 leaves). The FAO study assumes no losses from erratic weather, and no losses during storage and transportation of perishable betel leaves. These losses are usually between 35% to 70%.

In Bangladesh, betel leaf farming yields vary by region and vine variety. In one region where betel leaf cultivation is the main source of income for farmers, a total of 2,825 hectares of land is dedicated to betel vine farming.  The average production cost for these betel farms in Bangladesh are about Tk 300,000 per hectare ($4000 per hectare, $16 per decimal), and the farm owners can earn a profit of over Tk 100,000 per hectare ($1334 per hectare, $5.34 per decimal).

In India, a 2006 research reported  betel vines being cultivated on about 55000 hectares of farmland, with an annual production worth of about IN Rs. 9000 million ($200 million total, averaging $1455 per acre). The betel farming industry, the report claims, supports about 400,000 - 500,000 agricultural families.

A March 2011 report claims that betel farming is on a decline in India.

Harvesting and Postharvest Management

As vines reach to a certain height, leaves are harvested from the lower portion of the stem. Harvesting is done during March–April in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, during May–June in Andhra Pradesh; during January–February or April–May in Tamil Nadu.

Mature leaves are plucked along with a portion of petiole. They are plucked by hand. In Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, leaves are plucked from side shoots. In south India, comparatively tender leaves are preferred in the market. After plucking, they are washed thoroughly and made into bundles according to the prevailing custom of the area. On an average, 60–80 lakh leaves are harvested annually from one hectare plantation.

Harvested leaves are washed, cleaned and graded according to their size and quality. Then they are packed after cutting a portion of the petiole and rejecting the damaged leaves. The picked leaves are sorted into different grades according to size, colour, texture and maturity. After that, they are arranged in numbers for packing. For packing mostly bamboo baskets are used and in many places straw, fresh or dried banana leaves, wet cloth etc. are used for inner lining.

Usually betel leaves are used for chewing as fresh unprocessed. But in certain areas, leaves are subjected to processing known as bleaching or curing. There is a good, demand for such leaves which fetch higher prices in the markets. Bleaching is done by successive heat treatments at 60°–70°C for 6–8hr.
A very attractive spice, fast growing, perennial, evergreen to 1 metre, with creeping stem branches, dark green, glossy, heart-shaped leaves to 15cm long. White catkin flowers turn a green/brown when mature.
Propagation is easy by root division or cuttings, preferably taken in spring or summer. Betel leaf requires a rich soil and prefers a semi-shade position. It makes a good under storey plant. Regular feeding and watering will keep it growing very lush. Although betel leaf is considered a tropical to subtropical plant, it will adapt to cold conditions if given a warm spot in winter, and could be grown in a large pot, and shifted to a cosy position in the cold months of the year.

In about 3–6 months time, vines grow to a height 150-180 cm. At this stage branching is noticed in the vines. Leaves are removed along with the petiole with the right thumb. Once harvesting is commenced, it is continued almost every day or week. The interval of harvesting varies from 15 days to about a month till the next lowering of vines. After each harvest, manuring has to be done.

An analysis of the betel leaf shows it to consist of moisture 85.4 per cent, protein 3.1 per cent, fat 0.8 per cent, minerals 2.3 per cent, fiber 2.3 per cent and carbohydrates 6.1 per cent per 100 grams. Its minerals and vitamin contents are calcium, carotene, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin C. Its calorific value is 44.
The plant has many traditional medicinal uses. Malaysians use the leaves for headaches, arthritis and joint pain. In Thailand and China the roots are crushed and blended with salt to relieve toothache. In Indonesia leaves are chewed with betel nut, and the masticated juice swallowed for relief from coughs and asthma

It is vata and kapha suppressant. It is an effective anti wormal agent because of its pungent taste. It is an excellent anti infectious agent again because of its pungent taste. It helps in normalizing the digestive tract hence is very effective in maintaining the digestive system because of its light properties. It provides strength to the heart and tones up the cardiovascular system. It also helps in expelling out the mucus form the respiratory tract because of its hot potency. It is also a good aphrodisiac agent.
According to ayurveda it contains :
  • Gunna (properties) – tikshan (sharp), ruksh (dry) and laghu light
  • Rasa (taste) - katu (pungent) and tickta (bitter)
  • Virya (potency) – ushan (hot)

Healing Power and Curative Properties:

Betel leaf has been used from ancient times as an aromatic stimulant and anti-flatulent. It is useful in arresting secretion or bleeding and is an aphrodisiac. Its leaf is used in several common household remedies.

 Aphrodisiac: Pan-supari, especially the pan, is prescribed by Ayurvedic physicians as an aphrodisiac. Betel leaf is considered aphrodisiac i.e. an agent which stimulates sexual desire. It is a common practice to offer masalapan to newly married couple before retiring to bed. It adds to love making and pleasures.

 Scanty or Obstructed Urination :Betel leaf juice is credited with diuretic properties. Its juice, mixed with dilute milk and sweetened slightly, helps in easing urination.

Weakness of Nerves:
Betel leaves are beneficial in the treatment of nervous pains, nervous exhaustion and debility. The juice of a few betel leaves, with a teaspoon of honey, will serve as a good tonic. A teaspoon of this can be taken twice a day.

Stomach Disorder: 

  • Taken betel morsel (pan supari) prepared with catechu, quick lime, betel nuts, cardamom etc. after meals cures digestive problems and eliminates flatulence (caution: do not add tobacco in this).
  • Fomenting the stomach (incase of children) with heated leaf of betel cures stomach ailments.
  • Boil 3 betel leaves with little black pepper in 250 GMS water and strain it. Taking 2 tsp. of this decoction twice a day cures indigestion
Headaches : The betel leaf has analgesic and cooling properties. It can be applied with beneficial results over the painful area to relieve intense headache.

Respiratory Disorders : Betel leaves are useful in pulmonary affection in childhood and old age. The leaves, soaked in mustard oil and warmed, may be applied to the chest to relieve cough and difficulty in breathing.
 Constipation : In the case of constipation in children, a suppository made of the stalk of betel leaf dipped in castor oil can be introduced in the rectum. This instantly relieves constipation.

Sore Throat : Local application of the leaves is effective in treating sore throat. The crushed fruit or berry should be mixed with honey and taken to relieve irritating cough.

Inflammation: Applied locally, betel leaves are beneficial in the treatment of inflammation such as arthritis and orchitis, that is inflammation of the testes.

Wounds : Betel leaves can be used to heal wounds. The juice of a few leaves should be extracted and applied on the wound. Then a betel leaf should be wrapped over and bandaged. The wound will heal up with a single application within 2 days.

Boils : The herb is also an effective remedy for boils. A leaf is gently warmed till it gets softened, and is then coated with a layer of castor oil. The oiled leaf is spread over the inflamed part. This leaf has to be replaced, every few hours. After a few applications, the boil will rupture draining all the purulent matter. The application can be made at night and removed in the morning.

A hot poultice of the leaves or their juice mixed with some bland oil such as refined coconut oil can be applied to the loins with beneficial results in lumbago.

Problem of Breast Milk Secretion : The application of leaves smeared with oil is said to promote secretion of milk when applied on the breasts during lactation.


Betel chewing gave rise to an entire artistic genre that included implements for preparing, serving, transporting, and storing betel ingredients.A remaining consideration is the impact of cigarette smoking on betel chewing in South-East Asia. Others maintain that the introduction of tobacco has had little effect on betel chewing. One of the few surveys conducted on this aspect concluded that cigarette smoking has largely replaced betel chewing amongst adult Indonesian men. Women, though, according to the survey, continue to chew betel. Over 85 per cent of the men in Indonesia smoke cigarettes compared with 1.5 per cent of the women. As we move towards the twenty-first century, the 2000 year-old custom of betel chewing seems to be losing its appeal in South-East Asia, at least in urban areas. This is in contrast to other parts of Asia, particularly India. In Bombay, for example, the number of people who chew betel is actually increasing. Discernible changes in the marketing of ingredients in South-East Asia reflect a response to changes in consumption. Vendors selling leaves, nuts, and lime from a plastic bucket on street corners in the cities are gone, suggesting a decrease in the demand for the ingredients and, by deduction, a decrease in the custom. The present generation seems to be chewing less betel than their grandparents. The younger ones, many of whom have been educated abroad and have inculcated Western ideas, find betel chewing no longer socially acceptable. Other modern social taboos, such as spitting, have contributed to the decline of betel chewing. Progress in urban areas has created an increased pace of life and discourages a leisurely chew. Despite these trends pointing towards a decline in the custom, the legacy of betel chewing remains and its use for medicinal and symbolical purposes continues as a vital part of the culture of South-East Asia.


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