The Areca nut (ಅಡಿಕೆ in Kannada or Bajjayi ಬಜ್ಜಯಿ in Tulu or Adakka അടയ്ക്ക ) is the seed of the Areca palm (Areca catechu), which grows in much of the tropical Pacific, Asia, and parts of east Africa.
The Areca nut is not a true nut but rather a drupe. It is commercially available in dried, cured and fresh forms. While fresh, the husk is green and the nut inside is so soft that it can easily be cut with an average knife. In the ripe fruit the husk becomes yellow or orange and, as it dries, the fruit inside hardens to a wood-like consistency. At that stage the Areca nut can only be sliced using a special scissor-like cutter (known as सरोता in Hindi, Paakkuvetti പാക്കുവെട്ടി in Malayalam, Adake ಅಡಕೆ in Kannada and Aḍakattera అడకత్తెర in Telugu).
Usually a few slices of the nut are wrapped in a Betel leaf along with lime and may include Clove, Cardamom, Catechu (Kattha), etc. for extra flavoring. Betel leaf has a fresh, peppery taste, but it can be bitter depending on the variety.
Areca nuts are chewed with betel leaf for their effects as a mild stimulant, causing a mild hot sensation in the body and slightly heightened alertness, although the effects vary from person to person. The effect of chewing betel nut is relatively mild and could be compared to drinking a cup of coffee. The areca nut contains tannin, gallic acid, a fixed oil gum, a little Terpineol, Lignin, various saline substances and three main alkaloids: Arecoline, Arecain and Guracine which have vasoconstricting properties. The betel leaf chewed along with it contains Eugenol, also a Vasoconstrictor. Many chewers also add small pieces of tobacco leaf to the mixture, thereby adding the effect of the nicotine, which causes greater addiction than the drugs contained in the nut and the betel.
In English, the areca nut is also widely known as Betel nut (“Betelnut”), because it is mostly chewed along with Betel, the leaf of a vine belonging to the Piperaceae family. The term “Betel nut” is technically incorrect, for the betel vine produces no nuts, and this inaccurate term creates quite a bit of confusion regarding the discernment between the nut and the leaf. Generally, “paan” is used to refer to the betel leaf. However, the common use of the word “paan” refers mostly to the chewing mixture, including areca nut, wrapped in the leaves.
The muddling between the areca nut and the betel leaf, by calling the nut “betel nut”, is restricted to the languages of the colonizing powers, like English, French, Dutch, Portuguese and German. This lack of accuracy is likely a legacy of the colonial era in which chewing the mixture was restricted to “the natives”. In the languages of the places where the Areca nut is traditionally chewed there is a clear and separate term for the areca nut and another for the betel leaf. This clear distinction is important in societies where both the areca nut and the betel leaf have a ceremonial and even sacred value. Furthermore, there is commonly a specific verb for the activity of chewing both of them together.
Arecanut Name in Different Asian Languages
1. Sanskrit: Puga or Pugaphala.
2. Nepali: “Supadi”
3. Assamese: Guwa (গুৱা) or Tamol (তামোল).
4. Bengali: Shupari
5. Hindi, Marathi,: Supari.(सुपारी)
6. Kannada: Adike (ಅಡಿಕೆ)
7. Malayalam: Adakka ( അടയ്ക്ക )
8. Raga (North Pentecost): Niniu.
9. Sinhala: Puwak
10. Tamil: Paakku ( பாக்கு)
11. Telugu: Poka,vakka
12. Thai: Mahk (areca nut), plue (betel).
13. Tulu:Bajjai. (ಬಜ್ಜಯಿ)
14. Urdu : Chalia