Betel leaves for better health!

By: Nutrition expert- Vidula Kozarekar, Mumbai.

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Piper betel or Betel vine deep green heart shaped vary famous leaves belongs to the family of Piperaceae and has over 2000 species and indigenous to India. A well prepared betel quid is still regarded as an excellent mouth freshener and mild vitalize, routinely served on the social, cultural and religious occasions like marriage, religious festivals, sraddha ceremony (religious function performed after cremation) etc. The most likely place of origin of Piper betel vine is Malaysia but it is also cultivated in India, Srilanka, Bangladesh, Burma and Nepal. Piper betel leaves are popularly known as Paan leaves in India, which are consumed by about 15-20 million people in the country.

Piper betel leaves are well-off in moisture, protein, fats, minerals, vitamins and in phytochemical and also antioxidants. It helps in curing and treatment of various diseases like halitosis, boils and abscesses, conjunctivitis, constipation, headache, hysteria, itches, mastitis, mastoiditis, leucorrhoea, otorrhoea, ringworm, swelling of gum, rheumatism, abrasion, cuts and injuries etc. (1)

Nutritional Composition:

The nutrient content of dried betel leaves powder is; moisture 9.45%, protein 3.30%, fat 1.10%, fibre 10.15%, ash 6.87%, carbohydrate 63.92%, vitamin C, iron and calcium as 1.11%, 2.57% and 1.53% respectively (2).

Pharmacological benefits:

  • Antimicrobial activity

The betel shows the antimicrobial activity against Streptococcus pyrogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Proteus vulgaris, Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Beside of this the leaf extract also possess the bactericidal activity against the urinary tract pathogenic bacteria such as Enterococcus faecalis, Citrobacter koseri, Citrobacter freundii and Klebsiella pneumonia (3), (4).

  • Antidiabetic activity

The aqueous and ethanolic extracts of Piper betel leaves possess marked hypoglycaemic activity. In glucose tolerance test, the extract showed anti-hyperglycaemic activity in the external glucose level (5).

  • Digestive health

Chewing the leaves of the herb while increasing the flow of saliva, also, protects against intestinal parasites. Moreover, betel leaf is a good source of calcium, carotene and iron; and also helps in digestion without any adverse effects (6).

  • Anti-cancer activity

Chewing betel leaves has also shown to prevent oral cancer by maintaining the level of ascorbic acid in the saliva. Ascorbic acid is an excellent antioxidant, which helps reduce the free radicals in the body, thus preventing cancer. Extracts of betel leaves are known to have gastro protective activity and help in preventing gastric ulcers (7).

  • Anti-oxidant activity

The leaf has the great potency to act as natural anti-oxidant. The anti-oxidant property is correlated with different biological activities like hepatoprotective, anti-diabetic, antiarthritis, anti-stroke and anticancer properties, since free radicals are involved in all these diseases (8).

  • Good for respiratory system and cough or cold

Betel leaf is beneficial to the throat and removes viscidity in human beings. As well as it helps in digestion and removes the bad smell of mouth. It is also good for respiratory system and used in treatments of various diseases such as bronchitis, cough and common cold (9).

Interesting Betel leaf drink recipe: (10)

Ingredients (*8 servings)

  • 4 Fresh Betel leaves
  • 1 Meetha Paan Masala (Refer notes)
  • 2 tsp Fennel Seeds
  • 2 tsp Dessicated coconut
  • 3 tbsp Gulkand
  • 3 scoops Vanilla Ice-Cream
  • 2-3 ice cubes
  • 1/4 cup Water
  • 2 tsp Sugar (optional)
  • 1 drop Green Food Colouring (optional)


  • Pass it through a sieve and collect the smooth refreshing coconut paan drink
  • Tear apart the paan leaves using your hand and add to a mixer.
  • In the same mixer jar, add all the other ingredients except for water. Pulse together for few seconds.
  • Add water and food colour if using and blend until smooth. Do a taste test to see if you need sugar as gulkand already has some sugar in it. I added about 2 tsp of sugar and blended it again.
  • Pour the coconut paan drink into the shot glasses and enjoy.


So it has been concluded that betel leaves contain many health benefits, curative and healing properties. Chewing the leaves of the herb while increasing the flow of saliva, also, protects against intestinal parasites. Moreover, betel leaf is a good source of calcium, carotene and iron; and also helps in digestion without any adverse effects.


  9. Chopra, R. N. and Chopra I. C. 1958. Indigenous Drugs of India. Pub- Academic Publishers 2nd Edition. pp. 372.

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