Betel leaf is called ‘Paan ka patta’ in Hindi, Tamalapaaku in Telugu, Vethalapaaku in Tamil, Tirur Vettila in Malayalam. They are heart shaped and are offered to elders as a mark of respect and often used for an auspicious beginning.
Betel leaf is a vine which belongs to the family of Piperaceae and they are grown and consumed more in Asian countries. Many people across India have a habit of eating ‘Betel leaf or Paan’ after their good meal.
Importance of Betel leaf in Hindu culture
Betel leaf have very important role in Hindu religion. No rituals are complete without the involvement of paan or betel leaf. You will find betel leaves and betel nuts included in all puja’s which are performed all across India. Betel leaves which have turned black, dried, torn or has holes in it are often excluded from pooja. As per our Hindu scriptures, Betel leaf was acquired during the churning of the ocean for the magical potion or Amrit.
Second story goes by that when there was an Ramayana war. Hanuman came to Ashoka vana to escort Sita devi to Lord Rama. Since there were no flowers around, she made a garland of betel leaf and offered to Lord Hanuman and expressed her gratitude.
Nutrients of Betel Leaf
Betel leaf has lots of health benefits which many tend to ignore. Mother Nature has provided this leaf which has a tremendous amount of medicinal properties. This glossy green color heart shaped leaf is loaded with vitamins like carotene (Vitamin A), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), thiamine (B1), Vitamin C and are great sources of calcium. More than half of the betel leaf contains water. It is high in moisture content and low in calories count. Besides these nutrients Betel leaf contains essential oil and many other chemical components like betel oil, eugenol, terpene, betel phenol, and chavicol. It is because of all these components which are present in betel leaf which makes it an important source to treat various diseases and disorders.
How the leaf are consumed
This leaf has strong, pungent, aromatic flavor and they are mixed with other ingredients and are widely used as a mouth freshener. The Betel leaf are served along with sliced or chopped betel (areca) nut, slaked lime (Chuna; calcium hydroxide) , the paste of red katha (catechu*) paste is spread on the leaf, coriander, dates, sauf (fennel seed or aniseed), clove, cardamom, coconut scraping, Gulkand, jelly, peppermint, fruit pulp. They are rolled or made in triangle shape and put in the mouth. The betel leaf can be sweet to a pungent taste due to the presence of essential oil in it.
* catechu is also called as heartwood extract. It is used to treat many diseases. As per Ayurveda they were used widely and were used for asthma, cough, diarrhea, dysentery, skin, sores. People apply catechu directly to the skin for skin diseases, hemorrhoids, and traumatic injuries; to stop bleeding; and for dressing wounds.
Different type of Paan
Though there are two types of Paan’s but nowadays there has been many changes done in ingredients and many flavours added.
Flavored paan are nowadays trending with many flavors have been introduced. Flavors like mango, cola, strawberry, chocolate are added to make it more variant. But they are always mixed with traditional ingredients like coconut, aniseed, cardamom, mukhwas.
Points to think
One can enjoy ‘paan or betel leaf’ without tobacco, too much choona (mineral slaked lime or calcium hydroxide) and supari (betel nut). These 3 ingredients should not be added as they have adverse effects on your health. In fact they can cause cancerous disease along with other well known health risks.
Health benefits of Betel leaf (benefits of Betel Leaf)
1)Betel leaf can help us in our oral health. It can reduce the bacteria growth in our mouth thereby prevention of mouth infection and diseases. Betel leaves contain antibacterial properties which can help in fighting bad oral hygiene. Just see to it that you control the sweets (Gulkand & Coconut powder) which are present in it.
2)Betel leaf is known as having analgesic properties. Once applied betel leaf provides immediate relief from pain. You need to just take a few leaves and crush it and apply the paste on wounds, cuts and bruises. Betel leaf provides will soothe the part which has been applied and provides you relief from pain.
3)If you are suffering from digestion problems then this leaf are excellent solution for you. At least try to have it once in a while. Betel leaf has excellent properties which are carminative, gastroprotective, and anti-flatulent. Also when you are continuously chewing the Betel leaf and trying to break down it will put your salivary glands on top gear and this will make them release saliva thus will help in digestion process. Hence you will find at many wedding or social gathering guests are offered ‘Paan or Betel Leaf’ just after they have finished with their food.
4)Betel leaf provides relief from gastric pain. Betel leaf keeps our small intestine clear of any toxins & helps us reduce acidity by maintaining the pH levels in the stomach. It also reduces bloating as it increases the secretion of digestive juices in our stomach
5)Another important feature to add is Betel leaf is very useful in treating cough because of its antibiotic properties. It is an excellent remedy for those who are suffering frequently from chest or lung congestion. One can mix 1-2 cloves, 1-2 cardamom, a small size of cinnamon and a few betel leaves with water and boil it. See to it that this mixture reduces to half of the half then strain it and have it three times a day. Another useful method is apply mustard oil on a betel leaf, heat it a little bit and place it on the chest to remove the congestion.
6)When there is an imbalance of pH level in our stomach we will feel our stomach bloating and will have a feeling of flatulence. Betel leaves will help us in maintaining the pH level and boost our hunger too.
7)The cooling properties of Betel leaf are excellent remedies for headache. One can apply fresh Betel leaves on your forehead or if the pain is too much then you can grind the Betel juice and apply it on the forehead. If fresh leaves are not found near you then you can apply betel leaf oil as a replacement.
8)Betel leaves are used as an antiseptic or pain relief material for toothache. The extract of betel leaf contains a proven antibacterial agent which helps in treating conditions like bleeding, toothache and redness in gums. The oil which is present in betel leaf keeps our breath fresh, prevents bad breath and helps in maintaining oral hygiene. Alternatively you can mix betel leaf oil in 1 cup of warm water and gargle it every morning.
9)Betel leaves also help us when we feel bloated due to too much water retention. You need to just crush betel leaf and extract its juice and mix with a little milk and drink it. This will help in treating water retention and you will get better immediately.
10)Paan can be eaten by Diabetic people also as the components present in betel leaves helps in reducing the level of sugar in our blood. Thus you can say it is diabetic friendly. But see to it that you take gulkand in less quantity.
11)Betel leaves are known to increase the metabolic rate which leads to weight loss. The ingredients which are present in paan help in fighting the ‘Medha dhatu’ fat present in our body. Thus it is very helpful for people who are planning to shed their weight.
12)Betel leaves are known to cure earaches. You need to crush betel leaves or alternatively you can use betel oil and mix it with coconut oil and just put 1-2 drops of this mixture in your ear. This mixture will soothe and get rid of the pain quickly.
When taken in the right proportion the benefits are huge. You can find many Panwallas or small paan kiosks which can be found all over India.
Some points to consider while having Betel leaf
>>The areca nuts which are included in Paan are known for certain oral cancers. Since tobacco and areca nuts are known to cause cancer, chewing paan with them should be avoided.
>>Continuously eating paan can discolor your teeth hence after eating paan see to it that you clean your teeth thoroughly.
>>Cleanliness problems crop up when you eat and spit the paan especially when it is mixed with tobacco. Hence paan culture was widely criticized.
>>May lead to allergic reaction.
>>It can stiffen your jaw because of continuous chewing.
>>Betel nut might worsen asthma
Tips:-You can have a small part of the leaf just to see if you are allergic to it or not. To add more precaution you can consult your doctor before adding anything new in your diet. Some say chewing paan is an addiction but it is generally an addiction towards the tobacco products and not the leaf itself.
Below reasons few people won’t like it
1)Some can’t handle it in mouth properly
2)Few people can find it messy
3)Some may don’t like the taste of it.
This article was mainly directed towards the non paan eaters — with a hope that some of them will get converted. But you can’t force anyone and of course those who love eating it will now know their benefits too. So dear readers, since now you know their immense benefits which betel leaves or ‘paan’ offers, there is no reason why you should not start adding it in your daily life. What’s your opinion?