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Piper Betle

A masticatory, used all over the extreme Orient

USES.—A masticatory, used all over the extreme Orient, is composed of the leaves of this plant, a little slaked oyster-shell lime and a rounded slice of the bonga or areca nut; the Filipinos call this combination bayo, though the name is not of native origin; the Tagalos call it hitsú. The use of buyo by careless persons is decidedly repugnant, for the mixture of the lime and the pigment of the bonga imparts a blood-red or rather brick-red color to the saliva which they spit in mouthfuls into the streets and other public places with no thought of the feelings of others. Unless the mouth is carefully cleaned the teeth become encrusted with a sort of black enamel and the breath assumes a detestable odor. When used in small quantities and with proper toilet of the mouth, and this is the common practice among the Filipinos, buyo seems to be a very useful preservative of the teeth and a gingival and stomachic tonic. These properties are readily understood when we consider that the lime is antacid, the bonga astringent and tonic and the betel aromatic and stimulant.

The buyo leaf plays a very important part in the therapeutics of the infant of the Philippines: in its indigestions, colics and diarrhoeas the heated leaves are applied to the abdomen previously anointed with hot cocoanut oil. In bronchitis and laryngitis the heated leaves are applied over the chest or neck after rubbing the parts with oil. It undoubtedly produces good effects and the physicians of India recommend it in the same cases and in the same form as in the Philippines.

Applied to the breasts of parturient women it dries up the milk and in the same way tends to reduce any glandular enlargement.

Dr. Kleinstück of Java recommends the essence of the leaves in all sorts of catarrhs and as an antiseptic in doses of one drop to 140 of the vehicle. This essence is obtained by distillation; it is dark in color, has an acrid taste and an odor resembling that of tea. Its density is 1.020. The dried leaves contain onehalf per cent. of the essence and it is probable that the fresh ones contain a greater proportion.

BOTANICAL DESCRIPTION.—A plant with yellow flowers and scandent stem, climbing straight up trees or artificial supports. Leaves cleft at the base, acute, entire, glabrous, dark green. According to Blanco it is cultivated best in somewhat sandy soil. Pasay, near Manila, and Bauang, in Batangas, furnish a leaf most highly appreciated.

Reference book: The Medicinal Plants of the Philippines

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