Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Medicinal properties of Adacka/ Arecanut, Betel Nut

Scientific Name: Areca catechu L
Parts used: Inflorecsence, seeds

Commercial importance: Areca Nut is aromatic and astringent and is said to intoxicate when first taken. Areca Nut is made into a dentifrice on account of its astringent properties. Catechu is often made by boiling down the seeds of the plant to the consistency of an extract, but the proper Catechu used in Britain is produced from the Acacia catechu. The flowers are very sweet-scented and in Borneo are used in medicines as charms for the healing of the sick. The nut has long been used for removing tapeworms and thread worms The action of Arecain resembles that of Muscarine and Pilocarpine externally, internally used it contracts the pupils. Arecoline Hydrobromide, a commercial salt, is a stronger stimulant to the salivary glands than Pilocarpine and a more energetic laxative than Eserine. It is used for colic in horses.

How to cultivate 

Arecanut is propagated only by seeds. Being a perennial crop, adequate care should be taken in selecting the planting material. There are four steps in selection and raising of arecanut seedlings viz., selection of mother palms, selection of seed nuts, germination and raising the seedlings and selection of seedlings.

Selection of site:

Select sites with deep well drained soil without high water table. Provide adequate irrigation facilities

Selection of mother palms:

The criteria for the selection of mother palm are; early bearing, regular bearing habit, large number of leaves on the crown, shorter internodes and high fruit set.

Selection of seed nut:

Fully ripened nuts having weight of above 35 g should be selected. The nuts selected should float vertically with calyx-end pointing upwards when allowed to float on water. These nuts produce the seedlings of greater vigour.

Primary and secondary nurseries:

For obtaining good germination, the seed nuts should be sown as whole fruits. The nuts should be sown immediately after the harvest in soil or sand and watered daily to get early and good germination. The nuts should be sown at 15 cm distance in vertical position with calyx end just covered. The beds may be mulched lightly using areca leaf or paddy straw. After six months in primary nursery, the seedlings are to be transplanted to secondary nursery beds of 150 cm width, 15 cm height and convenient length. A spacing of 30 cm between the seedlings is considered to be optimum for a growth period of one year in the nursery. Polythene bags (25x15cm, 150 gauge) filled with potting mixture (top soil : FYM : sand = 7:3:2) can also be used to raise secondary nursery. Sprouts of 3 months old should be used. The secondary nursery should be given a basal dose of decomposed farm yard manure@ 5 tonnes per ha. Areca sprouts and seedlings are very delicate and do not withstand exposure to direct sunlight. Hence, proper shade should be provided to the nursery. The shade may be either of coconut or arecanut leaves spread over a pandal or by planting some fast growing green manures or banana. The nursery should be watered regularly in the summer and proper drainage should be provided in rainy season. The nursery should be kept clean by periodical weeding.

Selection of seedlings:

Select good seedlings for transplanting in the main field when they are 12-18 months old. Selection of seedlings can be based on the selection index. Multiplying leaf number by 40 and subtracting the seedling height gives the selection index. Select seedlings with higher selection index values.

Field Planting

Selection of site and layout:

The crop thrives well in humid areas protected well against hot sun and heavy wind. Since the areca palm does not withstand either water logging or drought, the site selected should have proper drainage and adequate source of water for irrigation. Arecanut palm cannot withstand extreme temperature and exposure to direct sun. So the site selected should have protection from southern and western sides. The soil depth and the depth of water table are other two parameters to be considered while selecting the site. The soil should be deep (preferably not less than two meters) and water table should be sufficiently low for better root development. Aligning the rows in north-south direction with a deviation of 35ยบ towards south-west lowers the incidence of sun-scorch.


This depends on the rooting pattern of the crop along with the fertility and depth of the soil. The studies conducted at different places with different spacing have revealed that a spacing of 2.7 m X 2.7 m is optimum for arecanut. This was justified by the root distribution studies also.

Depth of planting:

In well-drained soils and in the fields where proper drainage can be provided, deep planting is preferred. Deeper planting provides a firm anchorage and larger volume of space for root development. In areas where water table is high, shallow planting is preferred. Thus in well-drained soils, planting at a depth of 90 cm are recommended and in heavy soils planting at a depth of 60 cm is recommended.

Season of planting:

In areas where South-West monsoon is severe, planting in the month of September-October is recommended. In other areas planting can also be done in the months of May-June.


For better growth and development of the plants proper drainage is essential. The number of drainage channels depends upon the soil type. In light soils the number of channels may be less and in heavy soils the channels should be dug in each row for proper draining of the excess water. The channels should be at least 15 – 30 cm deeper than the depth at which the seedlings are planted.


The palms are highly susceptible for sun scorching. The seedlings should be given protection against the direct exposure to sun. This may be done by either covering the plants with areca or coconut leaves or by raising crops like banana in between two rows of arecanut. Sun scorching is mostly seen during October – January. During this period even the stems of young palms have to be protected. For this a quick growing shade plant can be planted on Southern and Western sides of the garden.

Cultural Operations: Keep the garden free of weeds and break up surface crust by light forking or digging after cessation of monsoon during October-November. In slopes, prevent soil erosion by terracing. Sow seeds of green manure-cum-cover crops such as Mimosa invisa, Stylosanthes gracilis and Calapagonium muconoides in April-May with the onset of pre-monsoon rains. Cut and apply them to the palms in September-October.

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