Betel Quid Chewing in South-East Asia Paper Example

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1889 Words
Date:  2022-12-04


The culture of betel quid chewing is widespread in South-east Asia. As a result, betel chewing has become a cultural identity that is integrated into the South-East Asian Cultures. It is primarily consumed as a stimulant as well as a treatment to minor illnesses. In recent years research on the betel chewing has intensified due to its cultural and health aspects. Despite the health risks that have been associated with betel chewing, there are no severe interventions taken to reduce the risk and creates awareness among the users. The paper examines the extent to which the traditional betel quid chewing is embedded in the culture of the people living in South-East Asia. It will also seek the interventions and legislation by the international institution over the quid chewing culture.

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Background of Betel-quid chewing

The betel-quid has two significant components that are, the Areca nut and the betel leaf which are produced by the areca palm tree and the betel vine respectively. It is not clear when the betel chewing culture began although it is estimated to be at least 2000 years ago. For years it has been claimed that the culture originated from India; however, the ongoing linguistics and archeological evidence is making that claim uncertain (Ahuja & Ahuja, 2011). Nonetheless, various accounts are explaining the origins of the custom. It is estimated that the tradition spread from the Asian Island to mainland Vietnam in the first millennium B.C. Then Thailand inherited the culture from the neighboring countries (Rooney, 2010). The Laos and Cambodia were also influenced to inherit the culture. Historically the areca palm tree was domesticated in the Malaysian archipelago. Although ancient archeological works did not show any evidence of betel vine leaf, the human skeleton found in Duyong Cave in the Philippines showed evidence of betel chewing dating around 3,000 B.C. In 1978 Gorman discovered carbonized areca- like grains in the Spirit Cave Thailand, but it was not confirmed whether they were domesticated (IIAS, 2012).

A more recent account on betel quid chewing culture is the Vietnamese folktale known as The Story of the Betel and the Areca Nut. The literary work was widely known as the only betel chewing work and even referenced in betel chewing publications. However, in 2004 another source The Origin of Betel Chewing was discovered, and it was written in French, German and English. Five other tales are less popular, and although each presents its characters uniquely, they are all told by Viet ethnic group. Different ethnicities including Dao, Tay, and Thay occupying northern Vietnam, Co, Katu, and Sedang from central Vietnam and Khmer from the south contribute their narratives on betel chewing (IIAS, 2012). There are other folktales from Thailand which explain the origin betel chewing. The Monk Turned into a Lime Pot to describe the unique way of preparing betel rolls in Vietnam. Other versions of the tale provide detailed information about the areca tree, betel-vine, betel quid, and quid remains.

Components of the Betel Quid

The composition of the betel quid varies from one country to another, but the primary ingredients are used across all culture. These components include the betel leaf, areca nut, and slaked lime. The use of dried areca instead of fresh areca nut is widely used in Northern Thailand and slightly in Laos and Cambodia. White lime is commonly used in the north and central Vietnam while in other regions the pink lime is prevalent across all the betel chewing areas in South East Asia (IARC Monograph, 2018). When preparing the betel quid, lime or calcium oxide is ground and mixed with water forming a paste (calcium hydroxide) so that it can be chewed easily. Lime is obtained from different source depending on the country or region. In Thailand, Laos and Vietnam lime are obtained from mountain lime. In the South-East, Asia Island lime is mainly obtained from seashells and mollusks such as snails and corals while in Philippines fit is derived from freshwater shellfish. Turmeric and cumin are added to the lime giving it a pink or reddish color (IIAS. 2012). In some of the areas especially those that use the pink lime, tobacco s added to the quid. The pan masala a manufactured betel quid is unpopular in South-East Asia apart from southern China.

Tools Used in Preparing Betel Quid in Difference Countries and Cultures

There is a specific tool used by betel chewers while preparing the betel quid. A knife or a cutter is used in cutting the areca nut into four parts and also for cutting the slaked lime container. In Laos and Cambodia, five tools are commonly used in preparing the betel quid they include the Cambodia-areca cutter, lime tube, betel box, spittoon, and betel mortar. Vietnam has a unique set of nine tools including the Vietnam-areca knife, lime pot, bronze betel box, wooden betel box, spittoon, betel bag, lime tube, betel mortar and the betel cloth (IIAS, 2012). The betel services styles and the material used are country-specific the handicraft skills, patterns, and the decorative motif is unique depending on the culture and the local history of the people.

There are two types of lime containers used in the South-East Asia mainland. The first type is the highly decorated lime tube that is commonly used in Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos. They are either made of bronze or silver and have a stupa-shaped lid, and it is always 15 cm or less tall. The second type is the Vietnamese lime pot made of ceramic or porcelain they resemble the areca nut or the globe. There are two types of the globe-shaped lime pots the first type has a curved handle and is found in North and South Vietnam and the second type has a nodule shaped handle and is commonly found in central Vietnam. Most of the Vietnamese pots have a spatula hole while others are decorated with calligraphic poems (Rooney, 2010).

The Buddhist sects to a greater extent, influence the shape and the design of the lime container. The Theravada sect is common in Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos and these countries, the tube lid is stupa shaped. The Mahayana sect was widely followed in Vietnam, and since the pagodas did not include a tower, they chose to make areca nut shaped pots. However, the areca nut shaped pots are not used today (IIAS, 2012).

In Vietnam and to some extent in Cambodia and Laos there were different designs and shapes of the areca nut cutters. Some of the models were commonly used in the loyal courts and aristocratic family dynasties that had been dethroned. However, those designs have disappeared from contemporary society and instead common sharp knives are now used. In Vietnam, the use of areca nut cutter was not every day, but today due to technological developments, advanced sharper areca nut cutters are being used (Rooney, 2010). The areca knife has replaced the Vietnamese areca cutter.

Traditional and Modern Preparation of Betel Quid

Traditionally in Vietnam betel quid was not prepared by anyone since it was considered a high art; thus it was prepared by highly skilled ladies from one bonne Maison. On the contrary, today casual preparation of quid has become common because people are no longer concerned with skillful preparation (IIAS, 2012). Nonetheless, specially prepared quid is highly regarded in rituals, wedding ceremonies, religious celebrations, as well as in daily offering dedicated to spirits and ancestors. The preparation of the particular betel quid is done in various ways, but it is not easy to distinguish between the most elegant methods.

In China mainly Hu-an province where betel chewing was not frequent, a new trend of betel chewing has emerged and is spreading among young people. However, in the Yuan province near the Vietnam border, the betel chewing culture has been rejected by many young people and the areca palm trees are now used for aesthetics. In the Jiang-bin district in Vietnam in Kwuan-xi province has both Vietnamese and Chinese inhabitants (IIAS, 2012). Although the betel chewing culture is still popular among the old people, the culture is declining among the young generation.

Health Impacts of Betel Quid

Betel quid is among the most abused substance around the world. It is estimated that approximately 10% of the world population which is about 600 million people is chewing the material. The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified betel quid as a Group 1 carcinogen (Cheong, Vatanasapt, Yi-Hsin, Zain, Kerr & Johnson, 2017). South and South East-Asia are the areas with the highest consumption of the substance in the world thus being in the highest prevalence of the health risks associated with the waste of betel quid.

The consumption of betel quid is associated with both positive and negative health impacts. Since betel quid is a stimulant, it triggers mild euphoria when chewed and it due to this feeling that many people use the substance (Arora & Squier, 2018). Although betel is not a narcotic and is not addictive, it can precipitate the development of a habit. According to the universal food classification the areca nut and the betel leaf are complimentary; thus they do not have any side effects when consumed together. It is also believed that the betel leaf helps in relieving illness such as headaches and fever. The areca nut when chewed produces alkaloids and tannin. Arecoline is the principal alkaloid produced and it parasympathetic stimulating effect in the nervous system which induces a feeling relaxations to the user. Also, arecoline triggers the secretion, smooth muscle activity, salivation and induces thirst but suppresses the appetite of the users (Hossain, Anwar, Akhtar & Numan, 2017). It also leads to the reddening of teeth, saliva, and feces. Consumption of the areca nut is believed to aid in the digestion and the absorption of food. Betel leaf has been used in treating several illnesses including boils, constipation, and headaches in people. Veterinaries also use it in treating various ailments in animals such as mastitis and rheumatism. In some cultures it has been reported that when consumed, the areca nut prevented belching after eating, diarrhea, dysentery, and scurvy (Arora & Squier, 2018. In some societies, it is believed to aid in menstruation, stimulate physical activity. It is also used in Chinese medicine to control internal parasites such as tapeworms and roundworms.

Consumption of betel has various negative health impacts in the users. The areca net is the primary ingredient in betel quid. When consumed it forms nitrosamines with the saliva leading to the development of the oral preneoplastic disorders which have a significant probability of developing into cancer (Cheong, Vatanasapt, Yi-Hsin, Zain, Kerr & Johnson, 2017). Whether used together with tobacco or alone areca nut it has been confirmed that it causes various types of cancer including oral, pharyngeal and esophageal cancers. Recent discoveries have associated pancreatic tumor with the use of betel quid mixed with tobacco. Additionally, it has been associated with lung cancer, but there is limited evidence to prove indeed that it causes this type of cancer (Cheong, Vatanasapt, Yi-Hsin, Zain, Kerr & Johnson, 2017). According to epidemiological studies conducted in the recent years have identified betel quid as a precipitating factor to various health conditions including obesity, metabolic syndromes, cardiovascular diseases, liver cirrhosis, and type 2 diabetes among other requirements.

Moreover, the Journal of the American Dental Association Report indicated that the consumption of the betel quid increases oral submucous fibrosis in the users. The condition makes the mouth stiff and eventually disables jaw movement. When betel quid i...

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Betel Quid Chewing in South-East Asia Paper Example. (2022, Dec 04). Retrieved from

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