- Botanical name: Areca catechu
- Common name: Areca, Betal nut
- Family: Palmae, palm family
- Part used in Chinese medicine: seed
- Major Chinese medicine actions:
- Expels parasites, promotes the movement of qi downward,
reduces accumulations, resolves food stagnation, promotes urination
Photo Credits: (top to bottom)
Photo 1: Areca catechu; author Pratheepps; permission under GFDL
Photo 2: Areca catechu; 01/2007; author J.M.Garg; permission under GFDL
Photo 3: Areca catechu; 01/2007; author J.M.Garg; permission under GFDL
Photo 4: Areca catechu forest; 08/2004; author vegafish; permission under GFDL
Growing and Propagation
These palms can grow 65-90 feet tall and do well in a variety of soil types. They prefer high humidity and good sunlight with part shade. Propagation is preformed using pre-germinated seeds and will only be successful with seed that is very ripe (“ready to drop”) when picked and planted while fresh. Saplings need to be grown in shade and do not survive well in strong sun. The palms bear fruit when they are 10-15 years of age and a productive areca catechu palm will provide fruit for 45-75 years.
Harvesting and Preparation
For medicinal use, the seeds are harvested when ripe, in the winter and spring. They are dried in the sun and crushed into chunks, or soaked in water then sliced and dried. When the sliced herb is dry-fried at a moderate temperature, its medicinal action is slightly reduced. This preparation of the herb is used when treating weak or elderly patients. Depending on at what stage of growth the Areca nuts are harvested, and whether the harvested herb is used fresh, sun-dried or heated, different medicinal actions of the herb become more predominant. In general, good quality Bing Lang consist of large seeds that are heavy, solid and unbroken.
Though the Areca palm is now cultivated in southern China, it was originally imported from the warmer regions of south and southeastern Asia. This is reflected in its alternate name, Hai Nan Zi, meaning “southern ocean seeds”.
The tree is often incorrectly referred to as the betel palm or betel nut tree. The leaves from Piper betel plant are often chewed together with areca nut and edible lime (known as calcium hydroxide, limbux, or slaked lime). By association, the areca nut has become known as the betel nut.
There are over 200 genera and about 2600 species contained in the palm family, most of which grow in tropical or subtropical climates. Cultivated Areca catechu trees are primarily grown for their betel nuts.