Piper betle L.

Last updated: 11 March 2015

Scientific Name

Piper betle L.


Artanthe hexagyna Miq, Betela mastica Raf, Chavica auriculata Miq, Chavica betle (L.) Miq, Chavica chuvya Miq, Chavica densa Miq, Chavica siriboa Miq, Cubeba seriboa Miq, Piper betel Blanco [Spelling variant], Piper rubroglandulosum Chaveer, & Mokkamul, Piperi betlum (L.) St.-Lag. [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Sirih, sirih melayu, sirih cina, sirih hudang, sireh carang, sirih kerakap (Malay); serasa, be, cabe (Semang); kerekap, kenayek (Jakun); jerak, (Sakai) [2][3]
English Betel pepper, betelvine, betel leaf vine, bettle leave pepper, vine pepper [2][4]
India Paan (Hindi); vetrialai (Tamil); tambuli, tambulavali, nagini, nagavalli (Sanskrit) [5]
Indonesia Sirih (Indonesian); suruh (Javanese); seureuh (Sundanese); bodeh [2][3]
Philippines Ikmo (tagalog); buyo (Bikol); mammon (Bisaya) [2]
Cambodia Mlu [2]
Laos Ph'u [2]
Thailand Phlu, pelu [2] [3]
Vietnam Trau, tr[aat]u kh[oo]ng, trau chay, trau luong, tho lau dang, mjau, lau [2] [4]
Papua New Guinea Daka [2]
France Betel, poivre betel, betel, chavique betel [2][4].

Geographical Distributions

Piper betle is native to central and eastern Malesia [2]. Some author said it is originated from Malaysia [3][4][6][7]. It grows in warm and humid climatic conditions. It can be found in lowlands, villages, and sometimes grows wild in forest undergrowths [4].

Botanical Description

P. betle is a plant in the family of Piperaceae. It is is a dioecious, woody, perennial plant, climber up to 5-20 m long. It has a similar growth habit as pepper plant. This plant need a support such as a pole or an upright wood crags to climb. Without the support system it will grow as an understory ground cover. [2][8]

The stem is swollen at the nodes. Vertical branches vegetative, grow with adventitious roots to adhere for climbing but the horizontal branches are generative and without roots. [2]

The leaves are arranged alternately, leathery texture and rather variable. The leaf singular with a short petiole which measure 1.0 - 2.5 cm long, leaf blade ovate to ovate oblong measuring 5-20 cm x 2-11 cm, cordate at base, rounded or oblique with an entire margin, acuminate at apex, with 2-3 pairs of arcuate veins from the base and one pair from the midrib which is 1-3 cm above the base. The leave is shiny bright green in colour. [2][8]

The inflorescence is cylindrical with a pendulous spike. The peduncle is 1-6 cm long. The male spike measures up to 12 cm long and crowded with small flowers with 2 stamens while the female spike is up to 5 cm x 5 mm long and crowded with 3-5 stigmas in a female flowers. [2]

The fruit is a fleshy drupe and measures up to 5 cm x 1.5 cm in dimension. The seed suborbicular with 3-5 mm in diametre. [2]



P. betle leaves or as known as ‘sirih’ always used as a masticatory or chewing food in mixture with other ingredients which sweetens the breath after taking a meal. Three common ingredients that are used to chew together with betel leaf are the seed from the areca palm (Areca catechu L.) and lime. There is also other possible ingredients such as gambier (Uncaria gambir (Hunter) Roxb.), tobacco, palm sugar and various spices such as cardamom and clove. [2]



Figure 1: The plant of P. betle.


Figure 2: The leaves of P. betle. 



Figure 3: The growth habit of P. betle.

Soil Suitability and Climatic Requirement

The plant is suited to the warm humid tropical climate and found to be too tender to grow outside the tropics. It best grown on well-drained soils with high organic matter contents. It requires about 20-30% shade for maximum crop growth. The plant needs about 2,000 to 3,000 mm of annual rainfall. [8]

Field Preparation

Land Preparation

The planting area must be rotovated to improve the soil structure and eliminate the weeds. The first rotovation is also done to prepare the area for liming activity if the pH of the area is low (acid soil). The second ploughing must be carried out after application of the liming material to ensure the material is well incorporated into the soil to obtain the optimum effect. [8]

Production of Planting Materials

Stem cuttings are used to propagate the plant. The stem cuttings having 3-4 internodes will start to produce new shoots 8 weeks after sowing. The germinated cuttings are then ready for field planting when the newly germinated shoots are about 4-5 cm. These planting materials should be raised under shade and gradually exposed to full sunlight when it is ready for field planting. [8]

Field Planting

The recommended planting distance is 2.5 m between rows and 2 m between plants in the row. This will give the population density of about 2,000 plants/ha. The long planting poles or compatible trees are required since it is a creeping herb. [8]


Figure 4: Field planting of P. betle.

Field Maintenance


Organic and inorganic fertilisers are usually applied in P. betle cultivation. The organic manure (chicken dung) at the rate of 5-8 t/ha is incorporated into the planting bed about seven days before planting. The compound fertiliser NPK Green (N:P:K = 15:15:15) at the rate of 800 kg/ha should be given at six months intervals. [8]

Weed Control

The weeds are normally controlled manually by using grass cutters during the initial stages of crop growth. The organic mulch such as dry grasses are given around the planting points to control weeds. The mulch also helps to conserve moisture and reduce the soil temperature, especially during the drier months. Very minimal weed problem is observed when the plants are fully developed. [8]

Water Management

The plant requires constant moist soil, but not water logged for maximum foliar growth. Hence, frequent light irrigations are given. The quantity of irrigation water should be such that the standing water should not remain for more than half an hour in the bed. If water logging by heavy rains or excess irrigation occurs, drainage should be arranged immediately. The best time for irrigation is morning or evening. [8]

Pest and Disease Control

Currently, there are no serious pest and disease problems on the field planting of P. betle. [8]


The leaves of the plant are ready to be harvested at about 12 months from planting. At this stage the plant will grow to about 300-400 cm on the pole or support plants. Harvesting are normally done at two weeks intervals and lasts for several years. The leaves are tied in a bundle of about 40 leaves each. The potential yields of the leaves are about 19,000 bundles/year. [8]



Figure 5: The harvested P. betle leaves nicely packed ready for market.

Postharvest Handling

Running water should be used to clean the harvested P. betle leaves. It is then nicely arranged in pack of about 10 leaves. Four packs are then tied together to form a bundle. It is then immediately sent to the market. [8]

Estimated Cost of Production

The total cost of production for a hectare of P. betle is estimated to be about RM 22,000. This includes the cost of land preparations, agriculture inputs and labour. With the fresh yield averaging 19,000 bundles/year, the cost of production is about RM 1.20 per bundle. The production cost was estimated based on the cost of current inputs during writing of this article. [8]

Chemical Constituent

Essential oil of P. betle leaves has been reported to contain monoterpenes (e.g. α-pinene, β-myrcene, L-limonene, cis-ocimene, trans-ocimene, chavicol, eugenol, β-elemene, methyl-eugenol, acetyleugenol and trans-β-ocimene), sesquiterpenes (e.g. trans-caryophyllene, α-humulene, germacrene D, germacrene B, globulol, γ-cadinene and cis-caryophyllene), and others (e.g. camphene, phenyl acetylaldehyde, linalyl acetate, decanal, cyclohexene,4-methyl-, undecanal, bicyclo[4.1.0]hept-3-en-, γ-muurolene, ledene, 4-allyl-1,2-diacetoxybenzene, ionene, 5-(2-propenyl)-1,3-benzodioxole, 2-methoxy-4-(2-propenyl) acetate-phenol, safrole, chavibitol acetate, β-phellandrene, allylpyrocatechol diacetate and eugenyl acetate). [9][10][11][12]

Aqueous extract of P. betle leaves has been reported to contain monoterpenes (e.g. hydroxychavicol), organic acids (e.g. stearic, palmitic and hydroxybenzeneacetic) and esters (e.g. hydroxyl ester of stearic, palmitic and myristic). [13]

Aqueous methanol extract of P. betle leaves has been reported to contain eugenol, chavibetol acetate, allylpyrocatechol monoacetate, and allyl pyrocatechol. [14]

Ethanol extract of P. betle leaves has been reported to contain phenolics (e.g. chavibetol and 4-allyl pyrocatechol). [15]

Petrol extract of P. betle leaves has been reported to contain β-sitosterol, β-sitosteryl palmitate, dotriacontanoic acid, tritriacontane, stearic acid, and cepharadione A. [16]

Petrol and dichloromethane extract of P. betle stems has been reported to contain β-sitosterol, piperine, and piperlonguminine. [16]

Petrol and dichloromethane extract of P. betle roots has been reported to contain β-sitosterol and β-sitosteryl palmitate. [16]

P. betle also has been reported to contain piperbetol, methylpiperbetol, piperol A and piperol B, and hydroxychavicol. [17][18]

Plant Part Used

Leaves, roots.

Traditional Use

The chewing of P. betle leaves acts as a gentle stimulant and beyond all other uses, it sweetens the breath. The Ayurvedics prescribe it to treat halitosis, bronchitis and elephantiasis. This plant is used for the treatment of dysentery, fever, gastritis, rheumatism and leucorrhoea. It is also used to eliminate body odour. [3]

P. betle leaves, in which their lateral nerves make a complete loop rejoining the midrib, are believed to be more potent medicinally than the leaves in which these are not obvious. These leaves known as ‘sirih bertemu urat’ are used in the treatment of ailments which are difficult to cure. The Ayurvedic claim that the leaves are anthelminthic, aphrodisiac, carminative and laxative. They are also known to be stomachic and tonic. The Yunani regard the leaves as a styptic and a vulnerary. They prescribe it to improve the appetite and taste, to strengthen teeth and as tonic for the brain, heart and liver. In Vietnam, the leaves in the form of a collutory made of the extract are claimed to have antibacterial properties. Malays find the P. betle quite useful for administering medicine but beyond that, the P. betle leaf is apparently selected as a vehicle for its own stimulant value. [3]

The Indians add the extract of the leaves to medications to treat the mucous membrane lining of the mouth, nose and stomach. The leaves are used in various ways to relieve constipation in children. In the Philippine Islands, the heated leaves are applied to the abdomen, while in India the stalks of the leaves with oil are used in place of an enema. Malays usually eat the leaf with ‘gambir’ to treat diarrhoea. The extract is also prescribed in a mixture ingested to treat gonorrhoea. In India, betel leaves are used as a masticatory which the taste is warm, aromatic and bitter together with scraped areca nut and lime. [19] The leaf too, is traditionally chewed in combination with the betel nut as stimulant [20].

The leaves are used externally as poultice in various ways. The lowest branches of the vines produce relatively juiceless, deformed leaves. There may be more rubefacient action in these leaves compared to the more juicy ones. These are used in lotions and paste which are applied to ulcers, swellings and wounds. A poultice of the leaves as well as a wash with the decoction is used in treating burns, impetigo, furunculosis, eczema and lymphangitis. The leaves are used as lotion to treat nose ulcer and are also applied to the body during confinement. The extract of the leaves is further used as ear-drops and eye-drops. Malays apply the heated leaves to chests to relieve cough and asthma. Malays and Indians apply the leaves to the breast to arrest lactation. The oil obtained from the leaves is used as an external application for treating catarrh and breast abscesses. The oil is used in Indonesia as pessary insertion during confinement. The leaves have been used as a remedy for stomach ailments, infections, toothache, inflammations, arthritis, joint pains, worm infections and headaches [20].

The leaf and root, mixed in oil, are believed to have been used as a salve or ointment to treat hard tumours and scirrhi [3]. In Ayurvedic medicine, chewing with areca nut is a good remedy against bad breath. It is also believed to have aphrodisiac, immune boosting and anticancer properties and the leaves are also used to cure indigestion, tropical cure for constipation, as a decongestant and as an aid to improve lactation [8][21][22][23].

Preclinical Data


Platelet inhibition activity

Hydroxychavicol (HC), a phenolic compound of P. betle was reported to be a potent inhibitor for cyclooxygenase activity, reactive oxygen scavenger and inhibited platelet calcium signalling, thromboxan B2 production and aggregation. HC could be a potential therapeutic agent for prevention and treatment of artherosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases through its anti-inflammatory and antiplatelet effects, without effects on haemostatic functions. [17]  

Antibacterial activity

Allylpyrocatechol isolated from methanol extract of P. betle fresh leaves showed antimicrobial activities against various obligate oral anaerobes using plate and broth minimum inhibition concentration (MIC) assay, bio-film assay, saliva chip model and conductometric method. [14]

Antidiabetic activity

Aqueous and ethanolic extracts of P. betle leaves administered to fasted normoglycaemic rats showed hypoglycaemic activity by increasing the rats’ blood glucose levels. In glucose tolerance test, both extracts administered to streptozotocin (STZ)-induced diabetic rats showed insulinomimetic activity by lowering the rats’ blood glucose levels. [24] 

Antioxidant activity

Aqueous extracts of three varieties of P. betle leaves inhibited the scavenging activities of DPPH, superoxideand hydroxyl radicals plus inhibited lipid peroxidation. [25]

Antifertility activity

Alcoholic extract of P. betle leaf-stalk administered to male Swiss albino mice significantly decreased the body weight, organs weight, sperm counts, sperm motility, and fructose and cholesterol levels in tissues after 30 and 60 days of extract treatment. However, this effect significantly resumed to normal after 30 and 60 days of withdrawal of the extract. No toxicity was observed in all metabolically active tissues of mice. [26]

Radioprotective activity

Ethanol extract of P. betle leaves administered to rat showed protective effect on γ-ray induced lipid peroxidation and DNA damage of mitochondria in rat’s liver with its significant immunomodulatory and superior radical scavenging activities. [15]  

Protective and healing activity

Allylpyrocatechol, a phenol compound of P. betle administered to indomethacin-induced stomach ulceration rats showed anti-oxidant and mucin protecting activities. [27]


No documentation.

Clinical Data

No documentation.


No documentation.

Poisonous Management

No documentation.

Line drawing



Figure 6: The structure of P.betle with a female flower. [2]


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