BETEL, BE'TLE, or PAWN, a narcotic stimulant much used in the east. and particu larly by ail the tribes of the Malay race. It consists of a leaf of one or other of certain species of pepper, to which the name of betel-pepper is indiscriminately applied, plucked green, spread over with moistened quicklime (ehunam) generally procured by calcina tion of shells, and wrapped around a few scrapings of the areca nut (see ARECA). some times called the betel-nut, and also known as pinang. This is put into the mouth and che•ed. It causes giddiness in persons unaccustomed to it. excoriates the mouth, and deadens for a time the sense of taste. It is so burning that Europeans do not become habituated to it, but the consumption in the East Indies is prodigious. Men and women, young and old, indulge in it from morning to night. The use of it is so gen oral as to have become a matter of etiquette; a Malay scarcely goes out without his bytel-hox, which one presents to another as Europeans do their snuffboxes. The chew ing of B. is a practice of great antiquity, and can certainly he traced back to at least the 5th c. n.c. It rives a red color to the saliva, so that the lips and teeth appear covered with blood; the lips and teeth are also blackened by its habitual use, and the teeth are destroyed, so that men of twenty-five years of age are often quite toothless. Whether the use of B. is to be regarded as having any advantages except the mere pleasure afforded to those who have acquired the habit of it, to counterbalance its obvious disad.
vantages, is a question upon which difference of opinion subsist& Some have repre sented it as beneficially promoting the secretion of saliva, strengthening the digestive powers, and warding off the attacks of fever; whilst others pronounce against it an unqualified condemnation. Sir James Emerson Tennent, in his valuable and interesting
work on Ceylon, expresses the opinion that it is advantageous to a people of whose ordi nary food flesh forms no part, and that it is at once the antacid, the tonic, and the car minative which they require.
The name B. is often given to the species of pepper of which the leaves are ordina rily chewed in the manner just described, which are also called B. PEPPER or PAWN. Some them are very extensively cultivated, particularly cherka bale, $inakni, and C. climbing shrubs with leathery leaves, which are heart-shaped in the first and second of these species, and oblong in the third. They are trained to poles, trellises, or the stems of palms, and require much heat with moisture and shade; upon which account, in the u. of India, where the climate would not otherwise be suitable, they are cultivated with great attention in low sheds, poles being placed for their support at a few feet apart. Hooker mentions, in his Himalayan Journal, that these sheds are much infested by dangerous snakes, and that lives are therefore not unfrequently lost iu the cultivation of betel.—The genus cherka is one of those into which the old genus piper (see PEPPER) has recently been divided. The requisite qualities of B. are probably found in the leaves of numerous species not only of this but of other genera of the same family. The leaf of the ava (q.v.) is sometimes used.
BE'I'I( (Heb. "house"), used in the Old Testament as a part of the name of places, as "Beth-el,' house of God; " Beth-aram," house of the height; "Beth-esda," house of mercy. etc.