The scientific name for betel nut, sometimes spelled betelnut, is Areca catechu. It is currently only found in cultivation so the exact origin of the species is unknown. South Asia, southeast Asia, and the Philippines have been suggested as areas of origin.
The kernels of both green and ripe fruits (often called “nuts”) are chewed as an astringent and stimulant, often in combination with the leaves or fruit of betel pepper (Piper betle) and lime. Betel nut was introduced to New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and the western Micronesian islands by early indigenous voyagers. Since then, its use and cultivation has spread eastward to Fiji, Samoa, and other Pacific islands. It is a major commercial crop in south Asia where it is widely used, but in the Pacific it is generally grown for local consumption or for interisland trade.
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Last updated 3 July 2010
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