Traditional Malay medicine encompasses various kinds of ritual ceremonies intended to communicate with the world of spirits to determine whether the nature of an illness is physical or psychological. In such ceremonies, the aim is to summon and exorcise the spirits causing illness. A ritualist serves as a medium, and a small ensemble often provides the musical component.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Betel Nut

Betel Nut
The areca palm, first described by Theophrastus (374 – 287 B.C) in about 340 B.C, is cultivated in Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. Its unbranched trunks can reach fifty feet but is only about one and a half feet around, with a cluster of up to a dozen palm fronds sprouting from the top.

The fruit, about the size of an egg, has a tough rind that contains a hard seed or nut. The fruit is picked in the fall, before it is fully ripen and is husked, boiled and finally sun-dried until it turn dark brown or black.

The seed of betel nuts is used for medicinal purpose. The seed when it chewed is intoxicating. However, it can be used for urinary bleeding or to treat intestinal worms. It also can treat, fever and diarrhea too. The nuts are chewed which was dried and broken down into smaller, usually in wrapped with betel leaves, along with some lime and spices for flavoring. Chewing the nut releases brightly yellow colored keratin.

The stimulating ingredient in betel nuts is the alkaloid arecoline a drug used by veterinarians as a worming agent. For more than two thousand years the natives of the regions where the betel palm have used this drug. Betel chewing was recorded in China by the fourth century, where the nut then as now, was known under its Malay name “pinang.”

Those who enjoy betel prepare to chew the dried pieces of the nut of the areca palm, by wrapping it in the fresh leaf of the ‘daun sirih’ smeared with a lime paste and perhaps flavored with cloves, tamarind or other spices such as ‘gambir’. The used of the ‘daun sirih’ and lime increases salivation and help to bring out the active alkaloids of areca nut. When the betel nuts and leaves are chewed a large amount of red saliva is produced, which temporarily colors the gums and lips.
Betel Nut
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