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Betel leaf or pan ka patta holds a special place in every Indian household. Whether you are serving it as a mouth freshener, using it for relieving mouth sores or as a holy item in Hindu rituals and ceremonies, this heart-shaped leaf literally remains at the heart of it all.

You might be curious to know that betel leaf or paan has been a part of Indian culture since the ancient times (about 400 BC) and the tradition of chewing betel leaves after meals is as old as 75 AD. In fact, it is considered a symbol of luxury and leisure in traditional Indian scriptures and formed an important part of royal kitchens.

Not a fan of paan? You might be once you get to know the many benefits it provides for your health.

Betel leaves are proven to be good for your oral hygiene and are an excellent antiseptic. They are also considered to be good for your heart and liver. Though it is important to note that all of these benefits are restricted to betel leaf alone without the addition of areca nut and lime, which are known to increase the risk of oral cancer.

In this article, you’ll know more about the traditional and well-known benefits of this famous leaf along with scientific evidence to back these claims.

But before we dive into research studies, here are some basic facts you may like to know about betel leaf:

  • Botanical name: Piper betel
  • Family: Piperaceae
  • Common name: Betel leaf, paan ka patta
  • Native region and geographical distribution: Betel plant is a native of Indonesia. It is now grown in India, Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar and Vietnam.
  1. Betel leaf health benefits
  2. Betel leaf side effects

Betel leaf is an excellent euphoric. Chewing on betel leaf brings a sense of calmness to the mind and improves awareness. However, that is not all this leaf has to offer. Let us explore some of the health benefits of betel leaf.

  1. Betel leaf benefits for stomach
  2. Betel leaf benefits for oral health
  3. Betel leaf for respiratory system
  4. Betel leaf benefits for diabetes
  5. Betel leaf for the heart
  6. Betel leaf as an antimicrobial
  7. Betel leaf benefits for skin
  8. Betel leaf for dengue and malaria
  9. Betel leaf for autoimmune diseases
  10. Other benefits of betel leaves

Betel leaf benefits for stomach

Betel leaf provides several benefits for your stomach. Traditionally, it is known as an excellent carminative (relieves bloating) and an appetite inducer. It is also known to act as a laxative, thereby, preventing and alleviating constipation. Preclinical evidence suggests that Ambadi paan leaves stimulate the secretion of digestive enzymes and facilitates faster break down of fats, proteins and carbohydrates in your gut.

According to a study published in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, betel leaves from Sri Lanka are a bit different in their chemical composition and contain several beneficial compounds such as eugenol, the compound which is also present in clove oil.

These leaves exhibit strong gastroprotective activity. In vivo (animal-based) studies indicate that betel leaf improves the mucosal barrier of the stomach lining and reduces excessive acid secretion, thus preventing gastric ulcers.

Furthermore, betel leaf extracts have been found to be effective in reducing the risk of stomach cancer.

(Read more: How to improve digestion)

Betel leaf benefits for oral health

One of the most common uses of betel leaves is in the form of a mouth freshener to reduce bad breath, especially after eating a meal. Chewing betel leaf is believed to cleanse the palate and reduce the risk of gum diseases or infections.

Dental plaque and caries are two of the most common problems associated with bad oral hygiene. Plaque refers to a thin layer of bacteria that deposits on your teeth and slowly starts to erode the enamel, thus leading to cavities. Extensive studies have been done on the benefits of betel leaf in preventing dental plaque and promoting tooth and gum health. It has been suggested that using betel leaves as mouthwash reduces the growth of acid-producing bacteria in your oral cavity and which minimises the risk of tooth decay. Not only does it reduce bacterial load in your mouth but also betel leaf mouthwash inhibits the growth of pathogenic yeast which causes oral thrush.

Furthermore, it increases saliva production, helps heal minor cuts and prevent gum infections.

Betel leaf for respiratory system

Traditionally, an infusion or tea made from betel leaves is used for relieving cough and bronchitis since it helps expel out mucus from the lungs and airways. Betel leaf juice, when taken with honey is considered to be an excellent remedy for cough. Lab studies suggest that betel leaf extracts reduce allergic response produced by the body and have a therapeutic value in the treatment of allergic diseases such as rhinitis, and bronchitis.

Research evidence indicates that betel leaves reduce inflammation and free radical damage in asthmatic patients, leading to improvement in asthma symptoms.

However, if you are an asthmatic, it is best that you talk to a doctor to know more about the usage and safety profile of betel leaf usage before consuming it.

Betel leaf benefits for diabetes

In vivo studies suggest that betel leaf juice, when given in a certain amount, can facilitate blood glucose reduction by reducing sugar absorption from intestines.

According to a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, betel leaf extracts inhibit glucose metabolism in the body by downregulating the release of certain liver enzymes. It was further suggested that the hypoglycemic (reducing blood sugar) effects of these are much more potent than glibenclamide, a well-known anti-diabetes drug.

Chewing on a betel leaf post meal may assist in maintaining hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) but the absence of clinical studies does not guarantee safety. Also, meetha pan may have some sort of sweetener in it, so, diabetic people are advised to confirm with a doctor before taking paan or betel leaf.

(Read more: Diabetes symptoms)

Betel leaf for the heart

Betel nut may be considered harmful for your heart but betel leaf is certainly cardiotonic (improves heart health). Going by the doctrine of signatures, the heart-shaped leaf needs no more proofs to be an excellent cardioprotective. In fact, it is believed to be a useful alternative for foxglove, a herb most famous for its benefits for the heart.

It improves conditions like arrhythmia and high blood pressure and is found to be effective in strengthening heart muscles. By relaxing blood vessels and preventing blood clotting, it reduces the risk of stroke and heart attack. Preclinical studies indicate that the antioxidant effect of betel leaf extracts is responsible for its protective effects on heart.

High cholesterol is yet another risk factor of heart diseases, which Piper betel leaves have demonstrated effective against. This is attributed to the presence of eugenol in betel leaves. Additionally, the antioxidant content of paan leaves inhibits lipid peroxidation, which otherwise forms fat deposits inside your arteries and causes atherosclerosis.

Betel leaf as an antimicrobial

Natural antibiotics are all the rage these days. No thanks to increasing number of antibiotic-resistant pathogens and the many side effects of chemical-based drugs.

Betel leaf is one such natural antimicrobial herb that is well-studied. In fact, these leaves have long been used as a traditional antiseptic. Says a lot about how traditional uses are rooted in strong scientific evidence. In a series of studies, various extracts of betel leaf have shown to be potent in inhibiting the growth of pathogenic bacteria which includes, Streptococcus mutans (causes dental plaque and caries), Escherichia coli (diarrhea and dysentery), Salmonella typhi (typhoid), and Vibrio cholerae (cholera) and fungus such as Aspergillus. Hydroxychavicol, a chemical compound extracted from the chloroform extracts of betel leaf have been found to be effective in suppressing the growth of Candida albicans, the causative organism of thrush.

Betel leaf benefits for skin

Considering all the benefits that betel leaf provides for your health and well being, it is not hard to believe that it is also useful for your skin. In traditional medicine, betel leaves are used for healing open wounds. Studies suggest that it speeds up wound closure and restricts the growth of infectious pathogens.

Acne is one of the most common skin problems that cause inflammation and pain, besides being an aesthetic concern for many. As an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial, betel leaf extracts reduce acne inflammation and reduces the growth of Propionibacterium acnes, the causative agent of acne. It is also effective against Staphylococcus aureus and Microsporum, the common cause of skin and scalp infections.

Being a rich source of antioxidants, betel leaves may aid in reducing the early signs of ageing including fine lines and wrinkles.

Just add a few drops of betel leaf juice along with some multani mitti, basil and turmeric in a face mask and enjoy its skin benefits.

Betel leaf for dengue and malaria

Mosquitoes carry and transmit several diseases in humans including dengue and malaria. Manifesting in the form of a fever, these diseases pose a threat to life when left untreated. Development of drug-resistant pathogens and resistant mosquito strains has created an almost urgent need to find for natural alternatives. Piper betel is known to be an effective anti-malarial herb in Malaysian folk medicine.

Research evidence indicates that betel leaf extracts are toxic to malarial parasite while being safe on oral administration. However, clinical studies still need to be done to asses efficiency and dosage for humans.

In other studies, betel leaf essential oil has been found to be more effective in preventing mosquito bites than citronella, a herb commonly used as a mosquito repellent. It was shown to be effective for about 4 hours as compared to the 2 hours efficiency of citronella.

Betel leaf for autoimmune diseases

Our immune system is responsible for protecting the body against the effects of pathogenic microbes and disease-causing antigens. Autoimmune disorders or diseases refers to conditions wherein a person’s immune system starts attacking and destroying their own body cells. Organ function starts to deteriorate as a result of this damage and immunosuppressants remain the only choice to improve health and prolong life.

Research evidence demonstrates that betel leaf extracts can be a natural alternative to most chemical-based drugs since it reduces both the cellular and humoral arms of immunity. The study further suggests that betel leaf extracts possess strong anti-inflammatory potential and may be used for the therapeutic treatment of various autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

Comparative research done on four different varieties of betel leaf claims that the Bangladeshi and Jaleswar betel leaves are more efficient antibacterials than Desawari or Desi varieties

Other benefits of betel leaves

  • In an animal-based study, betel leaf extract was found to promote body weight reduction without affecting appetite. (Read more: Diet chart for weight loss)
  • Traditionally betel leaves are used for the treatment of various eye infections and age-related eye disorders such as cataract.
  • Betel leaves demonstrate excellent hepatoprotective abilities (prevents liver damage) due to the presence of free radical scavenging antioxidants. It reduces the damage caused by excessive metabolic stress on the liver thereby promoting liver function.
  • Though betel quids have been associated with oral cancer, betel leaves have been found to possess tumour suppressing property. Betel leaf extracts have especially been studied for their potency against lung cancer and breast cancer and most studies have reported positive results. (Read more: Cancer treatment)
  • Piper betel essential oil and extracts also exhibit insecticidal and larvicidal property and have been found to be effective against a wide range of insects and their larvae.
  • Some varities of betel leaf have been found to reduce sexual vigour and libido in animal models and reduced the motility of human sperms in laboratory experiments.
  • Chewing betel leaves regularly may change the colour of your tooth enamel.
  • Betel leaf extracts have been found to suppress the immune system, if you are on some sort of immunosuppressive medication, it is best that you avoid its consumption.
  • Betel leaf is known to reduce blood sugar levels. If you are suffering from hypoglycemia or taking blood sugar lowering medicines, it is best that you stay away from these leaves.
  • Betel leaves reduce blood pressure. People suffering from low blood pressure or hypertensive people on prescribed medicines should check in with a doctor before taking betel leaves.
  • Research evidence indicates that betel leaves may reduce estrogen content and fertility in women.
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References

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