Betel Nut Chew with Grandma – My Experience

In Thailand, it’s a common thing to see older women chewing betel nuts – a tradition that has been around for thousands of years. But since it’s hard to find younger people who chew betel nuts these days, this tradition will eventually die.

Betel nut chew is a mix of three main ingredients: betel nut (areca nut), betel leaf and limestone paste. These three ingredients need to be combined to provide a stimulant and psychoactive effect.

I have watched my wife’s grandmother fixing her betel nut chew many times before, but this day I decided to try it out.

Betel (areca) Nuts

Just like coconut, betel nut grows on a palm tree that can grow up to 30 meters high. My in-laws have a betel palm tree growing in their backyard, and the fruits naturally fall from the tree when they are fully ripe.

Peeling betel nut

Here’s my wife’s lovely grandmother peeling the nuts.

Cutting betel nut

After peeling she cut the nuts in smaller pieces.

The most common thing is to chew the nuts wrapped in a betel leaf along with limestone paste, but since grandmother can’t chew good enough, she grinds the ingredients to a powder which she sucks on. Some make a paste of the nuts and wrap it in a betel leaf and chew it like tobacco.

Limestone paste on betel leafe

After putting the nuts in the grinding pipe, she put limestone paste on a betel leaf and folds it into a suitable size.

When all ingredients combined, she grinds it into a coarse powder.

As my wife does in the picture.

Ready with a dose in my palm, I took a pinch at a time and sucked on it. I also chewed the small pieces softly with my front teeth. The nut has a distinctive taste, producing lots of red saliva when chewing/sucking – which you eventually spit out. After a few minutes, I felt some kind of alertness similar to caffeine and nicotine, and after about 30 minutes I got a headache that lasted the entire day.

I had to spend the night drinking paracetamol instead of Singha beer. I’m done with betel nut.

6 thoughts on “Betel Nut Chew with Grandma – My Experience

  1. Uzumaki May 7, 2017 / 12:28 pm

    Not sir if you’re aware but beetle nut has been linked to oral cancers. It’s a real problem in Asia so if younger generations are abandoning it that’s a good thing.

    • Anders May 7, 2017 / 12:42 pm

      Hi! That is very true Uzumaki.

  2. Jekka Swetha May 7, 2017 / 6:43 pm

    Here , we call it JARDA PAAN..
    My Ammamma means my Grandmother also takes it without adding betel nuts. She used to take Paan with those betel nuts a few years ago.But now she is 90yrs old.Now she adds only Jarda (Tobacco) , Chuna (Limestone paste).
    But, Chewing Tobacco/Betel nuts/Paan is really a bad Habit..not good for health.. Causes cancer.

    Here I want to share my experience. I remember that When I was in 8th standard..I chewed PAAN.Yes!!!( Only lime stone paste on Betel Leaf).And immediately my Tongue turned into color. That was the first n last time.. chewing betel leaf in my life. Actually it was the curiosity . I wanted to know about this RED..RED color at that age.!!!!

    • Anders May 7, 2017 / 6:54 pm

      Thanks for sharing your information, Jekka.

  3. Senchu May 19, 2018 / 6:46 pm

    Well, anything in moderation is medicine is my take on this subject, betel nut was a primordial ingredient in south Indian meal. It adds the 6th taste to a complete meal that aids in digestion.

    I still make ground betel nut in its traditional way for after meal consumption today.

    I was intrigued by the hand tools used by your grandma in law. Is there a way to procure the nut cracker and tubular grinder. Is there a specific name for them?


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