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Areca Seed (bing lang)

What is areca seed? What is it used for?

Areca seed is contained in the dried ripe fruit of the areca catechu, a tree that belongs to the palm family and is found in most of the world's tropical regions.

In China, areca seed is produced mainly in the Hainan, Fujian, Yunnan and Guangxi provinces. Externally, areca seed is yellowish-brown or reddish-brown in color, with marble-like striations on its surface. The seeds are harvested from the fruit after being boiled in water and dried, and the peel removed from the seed. The properties of areca seed will be discussed in this article. Areca peel is used for different conditions, and is discussed elsewhere.

According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, areca seed has pungent, bitter and warm properties, and is associated with the Large Intestine and Stomach meridians. Its main functions are to kill intestinal parasites (such as tapeworms, pinworms and round worms), move qi, reduce stagnation, and promote urination. It treats a variety of conditions, such as abdominal distention, constipation, diarrhea, malaria, and intestinal problems. In veterinary medicine, an extract of areca seed is used to treat tapeworms in dogs and cattle, and to treat intestinal problems in horses.

How much areca seed should I take?

The typical dosage of areca seed is between six and 12 grams, decocted in water and used as part of a larger formula, and taken with herbs such as pumpkin seed, poria and rhubarb. Used alone, however, and to kill tapeworms and intestinal parasites, much larger doses can be taken (up to 120 grams).

What forms of areca seed are available?

Dried, whole areca seeds can be found at many Asian markets and herbal shops. Powdered areca seeds and areca seed decoctions are also available, as are larger herbal remedies that contain areca seed.

What can happen if I take too much areca seed? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Areca seed should not be taken by patients who have diarrhea caused by spleen qi deficiency. Large doses can be toxic, as can long-term use; as a result, it should be taken with extreme caution. As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions associated with areca seed. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking areca seed or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.

References

  • Chen J. Encounter with endometriosis. Acupuncture Today March 2001. Available online.
  • Dharmananda S. Treatment of glaucoma with Chinese herbs. Available online at www.itmonline.org/arts/glaucoma.htm.
  • Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Jaenicke C (eds.) PDR for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company, 2000, pp. 38-39.
  • Tang W, Eisenbrand G. Chinese Drugs of Plant Origin. Heidelberg: Springer Verlag, 1992.
  • Zhang M, et al. Comparison between bao gong teng A and pilocarpine eyedrops in the treatment of primary glaucoma. Shanghai Medical Journal 1981;4(12):24-27.

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