Semen Arecae (Bing Lang)
What is Semen Arecae (Bing Lang)?
Semen Arecae (bing lang, 槟榔), also known as Betel Nut, refers to the seed of Areca catechu, a type of palm tree. With a long history in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Basin, the use of Semen Arecae can be traced back as far as 2000 years. Native to India, Asia, the Philippines and parts of Africa, Semen Arecae has been used recreationally and medicinally since the 1st century AD.
Many people chew on Semen Arecae for the boost of energy it provides. Traditionally, Semen Arecae is wrapped in leaves with a limestone paste and chewed on. With natural alkaloids that release adrenaline and a sweet, spicy taste, Semen Arecae acts as a mild stimulant to its users. Some may add tobacco or flavourful spices to it.
Chewing Semen Arecae is a time-honoured custom for 10 – 20% of the world’s population. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), around 600 million people today still use Semen Arecae. It is one of the most popular psychoactive substances in the world, in fourth place after nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Semen Arecae falls under the category of ‘Herbs that expel parasites’. Such herbs are used to treat roundworm, tapeworm, hookworm and other intestinal parasites. Typically, such herbs should only be prescribed for a short period as they often have some level of toxicity.
Warm in nature, Semen Arecae can help individuals with too much Cold in their body, such as those experiencing a Yin Excess or a Yang Deficiency, to restore a harmonious yin-yang balance. Bitter and pungent, Semen Arecae can cleanse the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements. The herb can also promote the circulations of qi and body fluids. In particular, Semen Arecae targets the large intestines and the stomach.
Functions and Benefits of Semen Arecae (Bing Lang)
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shows that Semen Arecae has the following health benefits.
Semen Arecae can expel a wide variety of intestinal parasites, such as tapeworm, roundworm, pinworm, hookworm and fasciolopsis, through its purgative actions. Thus, this herb can help to treat various intestinal parasitic diseases such as taeniasis.
Semen Arecae can promote digestion and the movement of qi in the stomach and intestines. This helps to treat symptoms of indigestion such as bad breath, food stagnation, abdominal distention and constipation.
By inducing diuresis and promoting the movement of qi, Semen Arecae can also treat oedema and difficulty in urination. To treat swelling and pain in the feet that is induced by Cold-Dampness, the herb is often combined with other meridian-warming herbs, Cold-dispersing herbs, damp-resolving herbs or qi-moving herbs to enhance its effectiveness. In addition, Semen Arecae can also check malaria and relieve nausea.
Used as a stimulant to increase alertness, Semen Arecae has also been used as a stimulant for libido, appetite and saliva flow. Semen Arecae is particularly useful for dry mouth sufferers too. With antibacterial qualities, this herb is used as an ingredient in some oral healthcare products. It is thought to keep gums and teeth strong, and to prevent cavities.
Research suggests that Semen Arecae may be used to aid recovery from stroke as it may help to improve speech and bladder functions. The herb may also help to manage symptoms of schizophrenia, lower blood pressure levels, and treat symptoms of depression by decreasing cortisol levels.
How to Use Semen Arecae (Bing Lang)
The recommended daily dosage of Semen Arecae is 3 – 10g. When used to expel intestinal parasites, you may take up to 30 – 60g.
Semen Arecae can be used dried, stir-baked or fresh. You can also boil, bake or roast it to consume it as a snack.
Cautions and Side Effects of Semen Arecae (Bing Lang)
Semen Arecae should not be used by individuals experiencing loose stools, pregnancy, or Qi Deficiency in the middle jiao.
Over-consuming Semen Arecae may cause side effects such as diarrhoea, vomiting, shortness of breath and stupor. Also, some studies have associated the usage of Semen Arecae with cancer in the mouth and esophagus, an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and obesity. A study reports that users of Semen Arecae are at a higher risk for oral submucous fibrosis, a condition that can cause stiffness in the mouth and eventually the loss of jaw movement. Chewing Semen Arecae may trigger gum irritation, tooth decay, and cause teeth to become permanently stained.
We strongly recommend you to consult your healthcare provider before deciding to add Semen Arecae to your healthcare routine.
Here is a summary for Semen Arecae (Bing Lang):
- Herb name (Chinese): 槟榔
- Herb name (Pin Yin): bīng láng
- Herb name (English): Areca Seed
- Herb name (Botanical): Semen Arecae
- Origin of species: Areca catechu L.
- Part(s) of herb used: Seed
- Geo-specific habitat(s): Hainan, Fujian, Yunnan, Guangxi, Taiwan
- Taste(s) & Properties: Bitter, pungent; Warm; Administrates the Stomach and Large Intestine Meridians
- Actions: Relieves pain associated with intestinal parasites; Eases difficult defaecation or indigestion; Eases water retention symptoms, especially in the lower limbs
Liu, D. L., Wang, X. Y., Yang, B., & Zhnag, H. (2013). Review of pharmacological effects and toxicological information of Arecae Semen. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi= Zhongguo Zhongyao Zazhi= China Journal of Chinese Materia Medica, 38(14), 2273-2275. [Accessed on 4th February 2023]
Peng, W., Liu, Y. J., Wu, N., Sun, T., He, X. Y., Gao, Y. X., & Wu, C. J. (2015). Areca catechu L.(Arecaceae): A review of its traditional uses, botany, phytochemistry, pharmacology and toxicology. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 164, 340-356.[Accessed on 4th February 2023]
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