Areca catechu L. (Arecaceae): a review of its traditional uses, botany, phytochemistry, pharmacology and toxicology.J Ethnopharmacol. 2015 Apr 22; 164:340-56.JE
Areca catechu L. (Arecaceae), widely distributed in South and Southeast Asia, is a popular traditional herbal medicine that can be chewed for the purpose of dispersing accumulated fluid in the abdominal cavity and killing worms. The present paper aims to provide an up-to-date review on the traditional uses and advances in the botany, phytochemistry, pharmacology and toxicology of this plant. Furthermore, the possible trends and a perspective for future research of this plant are also discussed.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
A literature search was performed on A. catechu based on classic books of herbal medicine, PhD. and MSc. dissertations, government reports, the state and local drug standards, scientific databases including Pubmed, SciFinder, Scopus, the Web of Science, Google Scholar, and others. Various types of information regarding this plant are discussed in corresponding parts of this paper. In addition, perspectives for possible future studies of A. catechu are discussed.
The seeds of A. catechu (areca nut) have been widely used in clinical practice in China, India and other South and Southeast Asian Countries. Currently, over 59 compounds have been isolated and identified from A. catechu, including alkaloids, tannins, flavones, triterpenes, steroids, and fatty acids. The extracts and compounds isolated from A. catechu have many pharmacological activities. These include antiparasitic effects, anti-depressive effects, anti-fatigue effects, antioxidant effects, antibacterial and antifungal effects, antihypertensive effects, anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects, anti-allergic effects, the promotion of digestive functions, suppression of platelet aggregation, regulatory effects on blood glucose and lipids, etc. Although arecoline is the primary active constituent of A. catechu, it is also the primary toxic compound. The main toxicities of arecoline are the promotion of oral submucosal fibrosis (OSF) and cytotoxic effects on normal human cells, which involve inducing apoptosis.
As an important herbal medicine, A. catechu has potential for the treatment of many diseases, especially parasitic diseases, digestive function disorders, and depression. Many traditional uses of A. catechu have now been validated by current investigations. However, further research should be undertaken to investigate the clinical effects, toxic constituents, target organs, and pharmacokinetics and to establish criteria for quality control for A. catechu-derived medications. In addition, it will be interesting to investigate the active macromolecular compounds and active constituents other than alkaloids in both raw and processed products of A. catechu.