Wild Betal LeafThe plant originates from the Indian subcontinent but is now a widespread tropical herb or undershrub reaching up to one meter high with a short thick trunk. It has been naturalized in many wet tropical parts of the world and is often a weed in such areas. In southeast Asian countries, particularly Thailand and Indonesia, it is called 'bai sem'. In some countries, such as Malaysia and the Philippines, it is used in cooking. The leaves are usually dried or cooked before use. They can be eaten raw but they have a strong taste. In Indonesia, they are very commonly used in cooking various kinds of Soto recipes. In the Philippines, the leaves are used as one of the main ingredients in tinola. In Thailand, they are eaten together with papaya salad. The leaves are also cooked with chicken or duck, added to rice porridge/congee which is popularly known as "kai-nom" among Thai people, or made into a spicy som tam known as "som tam Lao".
The leaves are also crushed and made into a poultice to soothe the itching caused by chickenpox or poison ivy. Leaves can be dried, frozen, or cooked fresh. Betel leaf is also used in some parts of India (especially Kerala) for adding to "pidiyan" (mutton curry). The leaves are pushed inside the wet curry and taken along with it. Some people might prefer not to eat the stem of the leaf while having this dish. Betel leaves are also used traditionally as a plate on which to serve betel leaf rolls.
Historically, the leaves were believed to possess medicinal properties and were used for curing ailments such as hypertension, headache, stomachache, and to improve blood circulation. Betel can also act as an appetizer, carminative (stomachic), expectorant (sharpl), a stimulant.
The tip of the stem is cut off and the leaf portion is placed over the placed splashes to prevent them from getting oxidized, while fresh leaves are preferred for this purpose. The classic combination with areca nut comes from the Sanskrit tradition where people would place a few slaked lime paste chips in the mouth. Betel leaf is also used as an offering to Hindu deities, especially Ganesha.
People typically chew betel leaves with some type of "dosh" (which can be tobacco, catechu, or mixtures thereof), which serves as a stimulant after the meal. The quid often consists of 1-4 betel leaves per quid and is popular in parts of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. The plant originated from the Indian subcontinent but is now a widespread tropical herb or undershrub reaching up to one meter high with a short thick trunk. It has been naturalized in many wet tropical parts of the world and is often a weed in such areas.