Betel leaf is one health trend that may not be as familiar to as many people in as many ends of the globe. It is time to learn a bit more about betel leaf, its history, and the benefits that some claim the leaf offers.
What is the betel leaf plant?
Betel leaf comes with the scientific name Piper sarmentosum. It is also sometimes referred to as wild pepper, bai cha plu, cha plu, sirh dudu, betel petter and la lot. Betel leaf comes from the family Piperaceae and finds its origins in Southeast Asia.
The betel leaf plant is perennial. It is a creeper plant that can grow to ninety centimeters tall. It has leaves that are shaped like hearts and have a somewhat shiny glow. The plant blooms tiny flowers that are white and sometimes described as spiky.
It is somewhat important to note that the betal leaf plant is not the same as the betal pepper, despite their similar names. The betel pepper is the part that is traditionally chewed with betel nut. Though often when listing medicinal uses the names are interchanged.
The betal plant demands a rich type of soil with proper drainage and in a location that is partially shaded. This plant’s leaves do not endure frost very well, though the plant will survive frost if it is matured enough. Some gardeners use betal leaf plant as a ground cover, especially in tropical and subtropical climates. If you are from a cold climate, you may still be able to grow betal leaf plant if you use a hanging or moveable basket or pot. If you are cutting the plant, do so during hot periods. You must plant the betal leaf plant 12 centimeters in the ground. Leave around 60 – 100 centimeters between planting holes. The soil needs to be kept moist, too (Green Harvest).
The betel plant holds a special place in Indian hearts. It is said to be an auspicious plant. During ceremonies, marriages, and special deals, this plant’s leaves are often used as a special form of exchange. It has endured its ups and downs, reputation-wise. In the 1980s, it was said that the betel juice caused oral cancer. The Cancer Institute in India attempted to disprove this accusation, citing that it is not the betel but rather the areca nut and the tobacco causing the cancer (Ayurvedic Talk).
Medicinal uses and benefits
In addition to its auspicious properties and importance in ceremonies, culture, and traditions betel leaf is also said to have some impressive medicinal uses as listed below.
There’s nothing worse than a pesky cough. Betel leaf may be the answer to a persistent tickling throat. It is said to be able to heal coughs. Make a cough treatment using:
- betel leaf (2 grams)
- 110 millileters of water
Mix all of the above ingredients and brew with hot water. Drink one glass per day of this elixir and perhaps you’ll be rid of your cough in as little as one week.
If you suffer from dryness, pain or an uncomfortable condition in your mouth, some say betel leaf can help alleviate the symptoms of these oral situations. Merely mix a few pieces of betel leaf with water to create a daily rinse.
Quite similar to the above mentioned mouth treatment, betel leaf may help treat bad breath, too. Mix a few grams of betel leaf with water to create your very own throat gargle. Use a few times a day for fresher breath.
Yes you read that correctly. This is a bold claim that demands a whole lot more research. Still, that does not stop some from claiming that betel leaf can heal malaria. Along with these claims are often intricate concoction recipes and instructions involving sembung leaves, beluntas leaves, and other ingredients.
Here is a slightly less arrogant claim. Supposedly betel leaf plant can be used to stop bloody noses. They are sometimes used to stop the bleeding by rolling the betel leaves and putting them in the affected nasal cavities (Plants-Medicine).
Since ancient times, betel leaf has been used as a digestive. It is said to help with flatulence by encouraging saliva production and digestive juices. It also instigates the peristalic wave, an important aspect of digestion.
Increases sexual desire
Many claim betel leaf is an aphrodisiac. This may be one of the reasons it is often given as a wedding present.
Helps with urination discomfort
Betel leaf is said to have diuretic properties. Some take the juice of betel leaf, add a bit of milk and honey, and find their urination discomforts eased.
Some Ayurvedic schools claim that betel leaf helps with the treatment of some nervous system pains. It is said to have analgesic properties and can offer relief from mental tension. There are some that put betel leaf directly on the site of pain (e.g., the head for a head ache).
Some traditional Ayurvedic followers and those living in rural areas use betel leaf to temporarily stop the bleeding of minor wounds. Of course it is best to consult your physician and much more research before trying medicinal alternatives such as betel leaf.
Betel leaf is also said to be used in rural areas when suffering children are in need of a stool softener. The betel leaf is claimed to act as a suppository (Health Information Network).
Betel leaf plant is a somewhat controversial herbal treatment. There has been conflicting research throughout the years. Traditional medicinal uses and its place in cultural practices has been around for many years. Still, it is important to take all claims with a grain of salt, especially those claims that have little research to back them up. Also, it is of utmost importance that those interested discuss all aspects of their life and health goals with their nutritionist to not only gain the most health benefits but also to avoid unnecessary harm.
How to cook with betel leaf
The betel leaf has been popular in Asian cooking for a long time both in raw and cooked form. Sometimes they are used as a wrap for different types of minced meat. In Thailand these leaves might be stuffed with peanuts, shrimps, lime or ginger. They can be made into rice salads, too. The leaves are also very beautiful, so some people use them as mere decoration (Herbs are Special).
Although not as plentiful as other recipes, there are many chefs and culinary enthusiasts that are using betel leaf in their modern cooking.
- Ayurvedic Talk, Medicinal Values of Betel Leaf, online.
- Green Harvest, Betel Leaf, online.
- Herbs are Special, Betel Leaf, online.
- Plants-Medicine, Benefits of Betel Leaf, online.
- Kulkami, Dr., Health Information Network, Ayurvedic Herbs-Betel Leaves, online.
- Image Source: flickr.com