Sopari also spelled as Supari is also known as Areca nut or Betel nut. It's Botanical name is Piper betel (LINN.) and also known as, Chavica Betel, Artanthe Hixagona.
The Areca nut is the seed of the Areca palm (Areca catechu), which grows in much of the tropical Pacific, Asia, and parts of east Africa. It is commonly referred to as "betel nut" as it is often chewed wrapped in betel leaves. The areca nut is not a true nut but rather a drupe. It is commercially available in dried, cured and fresh forms. While fresh, the husk is green and the nut inside is so soft that it can easily be cut with an average knife. In the ripe fruit the husk becomes yellow or orange and, as it dries, the fruit inside hardens to a wood-like consistency.
Areca nuts are chewed with betel leaf for their effects as a mild stimulant, causing a mild hot sensation in the body and slightly heightened alertness, although the effects vary from person to person. The effect of chewing betel and the nut is relatively mild and could be compared to drinking a cup of coffee. The areca nut contains tannin, gallic acid, a fixed oil gum, a little terpineol, lignin, various saline substances and three main alkaloids: Arecoline, Arecaidine and Guvacine which have vasoconstricting properties. The betel leaf chewed along with it contains eugenol, also a vasoconstrictor. Many chewers also add small pieces of tobacco leaf to the mixture, thereby adding the effect of the nicotine, which causes greater addiction than the drugs contained in the nut and the betel.
Betel nut also has its own position in medicinal applications. The leaves are stimulant antiseptic and sialogogue; the oil is an active local stimulant used in the treatment of respiratory catarrhs as a local application or gargle, also as an inhalant in diphtheria. In India the leaves are used as a counter-irritant to suppress the secretion of milk in mammary abscesses. The juice of 4 leaves is equivalent in power to one drop of the oil.
Chewing the mixture of areca nut and betel leaf is a tradition, custom or ritual which dates back thousands of years from South Asia to the Pacific. It constitutes an important and popular cultural activity in many Asian and Oceanic countries, including India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Taiwan, Myanmar, Cambodia, the Solomon Islands, Thailand, Laos, the Maldives and Vietnam. It is not known how and when the areca nut and the betel leaf were combined together into one psychoactive drug. Archaeological evidence from Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines suggests that they have been used in tandem for four thousand years or more.
Formerly in India and Sri Lanka it was a custom of the royalty to chew Areca nut and betel leaf. Kings had special attendants carrying a box with the ingredients for a good chewing session. There was also a custom to chew Areca nut and betel leaf among lovers because of its breath-freshening and relaxant properties. Hence there was a sexual symbolism attached to the chewing of the nut and the leaf.