Areca nuts are the seeds of Areca Catechu, Linn. (N.O. Palmae), a plant cultivated in tropical India, and in the Philippine and East Indian Islands. The seeds are about 25 millimetres long, and have the shape of a short, rounded cone. The surface is brown in colour, and marked with a network of paler depressed lines, running chiefly from the hilum. The seed is hard; a transverse section exhibits a marbled interior, dark brown lines alternating with white portions, the former being folds of the seed-coats, and the latter the endosperm. It has little odour, and an astringent, bitter taste.
Constituents.—The chief constituent of the seeds, and the one upon which their vermifuge action depends, is the liquid, volatile alkaloid arecoline (methyl-arecaidine), C8H13NO2, which forms crystallisable salts. Other alkaloids present in the drug are arecaidine, arecaine, guvacine, and choline. Arecaidine and arecaine are crystalline and isomeric, and the former can be converted into arecoline by introduction of the methyl group. The drug also contains 15 per cent. of a red amorphous tannin, 14 per cent. of fat, together with resin and mucilage.
Action and Uses.—Areca is mildly astringent, and is used chiefly in veterinary medicine as a vermifuge for tape worm. It is administered in the form of a confection consisting of the powdered seed and honey, syrup, or butter. The powder is employed in tooth pastes on account of its astringent effect upon the gums. In tropical countries betel is used as a masticatory. Arecoline hydrobromide is employed as a cathartic and anthelmintic in veterinary practice. Dose, 4 to 6 milligrams (1/15 to 1/10 grain). Its solutions (1 per cent.) contract the pupil of the eye.
Dose.—1 to 4 grammes (15 to 60 grains).
The British Pharmaceutical Codex, 1911, was published by direction of the Council of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.