Betelnut - chewing chemistry

Betelnut fruit contains chemical compounds called alkaloids. The main stimulant present in the fruit is an alkaloid called arecoline.

Stimulating action

Betelnut is usually chewed with lime (calcium hydroxide) and betel pepper leaves. When mixed with the lime the arecoline in the betelnut is converted to arecaidine. This contributes to the various effects of betel quid on the central nervous system. Both arecoline and arecaidine have been shown to interfere with the action of some of the nerves in the brain, which results in the stimulant effects. The action of these alkaloids might also explain why betel nut affects the appetite. Compounds called tannins are also found in the fruit and it is these compounds that may help treat the symptoms of dysentery.