BETEL, a substance compounded of different ' ingredients, which is chewed in the east in the same way as tobacco is used in other parts of the world, but to much greater extent. All individuals, without exception of age or sex, begin at an early age to accustom themselves to betel, and it gradual ly becomes an article of such necessity, that those acquainted with the usages of the eastern nations affirm, they would more readily dispense with their ordinary quantity of food than with it. Europeans also, who have resided long in Ceylon or India, contract the same habit, and enjoy chewing of betel equally with the natives. Betel, or pawn, as it is denominated in Bengal, consists of part of the fruit of the areca palm, wrapped in the leaves of a kind of pepper plant called betel, smeared with a little shell lime ; and its name betel-nut is thence derived. The areca palm is a tree growing 40 or 50 feet high, with a straight round stem six or eight inches in diameter, covered with a smooth ash-coloured bark, marked with parallel rings. All the leaves, which are only six or seven in number, spring from the toN they are six feet long, declining downwards from a stalk of considerable length. The fruit or . nut is covered with a green shell or skin, thin, brit tle, and of the consistence of paper ; it is of an oval shape, the size of a small egg, and resembles a nut meg despoiled of its husk. When ripe, it appears in clusters of a reddish colour, forming a beautiful contrast with the vivid green of its leaves, and then falls off to sow itself in the ground. The betel plant is a species of vine, bearing a leaf, somewhat resem bling ivy ; it is called Piper betel by botanists, and is of the same genus as the Piper nigrum of Linnaeus. Its culture, which is carefully attended to, is ma naged in the same manner. Poles are planted in the earth, around which the betel twines itself, and as it runs up, the poles acquire greater height also. It is k creeping plant, seeking support from stronger vegetables, but it is said not to be destructive of them, like some other plants of a similar nature. Particular regard is paid to the cultivation of areca and betel throughout the countries of which they are natives, as we shall afterwards explain. Some years ago, it was found, on enumeration, that the number of trees, probably meaning the areca only, in Prince of Wales `s Island, amounted to 342,110. The lime used with the nut is called chunam, and is obtained from the calcination of shells, as producing the finest kind. But the fresh nut must be avoided ; it then
contains a white viscous matter, insipid to the taste, and occasioning delirium, like ebriety from wine, but losing this property when dried ; and it is em boiled or ram The latter has under gone no change ; the former is cut in slices, boiled with a small quantity of terra japonica,and then dried. Betel is compounded, therefore, of these three sub stances, with some additions or variations, according to the customs of the place where consumed; such as cardamoms, and coarse pounded tobacco, by persons of more depraved taste. The union of the three in gredients is supposed to correct the effects which each would produce singly ; the nut improves the bitterness of the leaf, and the lime prevents any injury to the stomach. When combined, the first consequences are reddening the saliva, giving a bright hue to the lips ; and, in progress of time, the teeth are rendered quite black. The saliva, however, will not be tinged, if the chunam be omit ted ; and its pernicious operation on the enamel of the teeth may be averted, by rubbing them with a preparation whereby they are coated with a black substance that does not readily yield to any dentri fice, and preserves them from corrosion. Its medi cinal effects are the dispelling of nausea, exciting an appetite, and strengthening the stomach. It pos sesses nutritious and enlivening qualities, which ren der it particularly acceptable to its consumers. The terra japonica, above alluded to, is not a universal ingredient ; it is used only in certain countries, and is generally supposed to be a preparation from the areca-nut itself. It consists of two varieties, the OM very astringent ; the other less so, and rather sweet, which is preferred by the betel-eaters. To obtain the former, the nuts are taken from the tree, and boiled some hours in an iron vessel ; they are then removed. and the water remaining is inspissated by continual boiling. The nuts being dried, undergo a second boiling, and, having been taken out, the wa ter is also inspissated, whereby the best terra japoni ca is obtained. The nuts are then dried, cut in equal and sold. Or it is obtained by in spissated decoctions of the wood of the keira tree, or Mimosa catechu. A great quantity of this sub stance is made in the Mysore, and some of infe rior quality in Bengal. Probably it is something of this same kind that is prepared in Sumatra, under the name of catacamber, and chewed along with be tel to give it an additional flavour.