Areca nuts

Chinese: 槟榔

Pinyin: Bīn Láng

Parts used: Dried ripe seed

TCM category: Herbs that expel parasites

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): BitterPungent

Meridian affinity: StomachLarge intestine

Scientific name: Areca catechu

Other names: Areca palm nut, Betel palm nut, Indian nut, Pinang palm nut

Use of areca nuts (Bin Lang) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitionner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Remove impurities, soak in water, cut in thin slices and dry.

Dosage: 3 - 10g

Main actions according to TCM*: Destroys parasites. Regulates Qi circulation. Promotes urination.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which areca nuts may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Intestinal parasites Taeniasis Ascariasis Fasciolopsiasis Abdominal pain Diarrhea Edema Malaria

Common TCM formulas in which areca nuts are used*:

Key TCM concepts behind areca nuts (Bin Lang)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), areca nuts are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that expel parasites' category. Herbs in this category are used to treat roundworms, tapeworm, hookworm and other intestinal parasites. In most cases, these herbs should be combined with other herbs to assist their action such as 'Purgative herbs that drain downward' or Qi tonics. Typically these herbs should only be prescribed for a short period as they often have some level of toxicity.

Furthermore areca nuts are plants that are Warm in nature. This means that areca nuts tend to help people who have too much "cold" in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Hot in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much cold in their body are said to either have a Yin excess (because Yin is Cold in nature) or a Yang deficiency (Yang is Hot in Nature). Depending on your condition areca nuts can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Areca nuts also taste Bitter and Pungent. The so-called "five elements" theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Bitter ingredients like areca nuts tend to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing heat, drying dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements. On the other hand Pungent ingredients tend to promote the circulations of Qi and body fluids. That's why for instance someone tends to sweat a lot when they eat spicy/pungent food.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what organs and meridians they target. As such areca nuts are thought to target the Stomach and the Large intestine. In TCM the Stomach is responsible for receiving and ripening ingested food and fluids. It is also tasked with descending the digested elements downwards to the Small Intestine. The Large Intestine on the other hand receives the "impure" parts of the digested food from the Small Intestine, absorbs the remaining fluids and excrete the remainder as feces.

Research on areca nuts (Bin Lang)

Areca catechu has potential for the treatment of many diseases, especially parasitic diseases, digestive function disorders, and depression.1

Sources:

1. Peng W, Liu YJ, Wu N, Sun T, He XY, Gao YX, Wu CJ. (2015). Areca catechu L. (Arecaceae): a review of its traditional uses, botany, phytochemistry, pharmacology and toxicology. J Ethnopharmacol , 22;164:340-56. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2015.02.010.