Throughout South and Southeast Asia, the areca nut, sometimes called the betle or betel nut, and leaves from the betel bush are sometimes chewed producing an intoxicating effect. This custom historically transcended social class and frequently involved rituals that helped govern social interaction, while perplexing foreigners.
Early Western travelers saw only affects that were, to them, fairly repulsive: blackened teeth, red-stained lips, and an abundance of spitting that left trails of red splotches on the ground. Yet, from India to the West Pacific, it has been a habit enjoyed by millions for at least 2,000 years from its first documented use in India. The offering of betel was a sign of goodwill to guests; affection in courtship’s; and honor at court. Chewing the areca nut or betel leaves has been fast giving way to Coca Cola and similar products, except in the more remote gions.