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Natives of Taiwan have been chewing betel nuts for perhaps 4,000-4,500 years; human remains found on the southern tip of Taiwan have shown tooth damage caused by chewing the nuts. Records of early contact between Taiwan's aboriginal people and Han and European explorers also refer to the practice of chewing betel nuts. The practice briefly fell out of favor in the 1960s and 1970s, but greatly increased in popularity in the 1980s and remains highly popular today.

In Northern Taiwan, betel nut vendors cut an incision in the nut, insert some limestone paste, and insert a small piece of the stem from the lou hiu flower. In the south, a whole nut is served wrapped in a lou hiu leaf. In either location, the lou hiu will cause a burning sensation in the mouth and dizziness for new chewers, but regular usage changes the sensation to mild intoxication and relaxation. Betel nuts are particularly popular in the winter, as chewing them has been shown to raise body heat. Chewing betel nuts produces a mouthful of red-colored saliva; unprepared tourists are often surprised to see nut-chewers apparently spitting blood on the streets.

Be"tel nut` (?).

The nutlike seed of the areca palm, chewed in the East with betel leaves (whence its name) and shell lime.


© Webster 1913.

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