Spice boxes

Spice boxes are used to hold items for making betel chew. The chew is prepared by taking a betel leaf, smearing it with slaked lime and wrapping it around thin slices of areca nut from the areca palm tree.

Other ingredients may be added: tobacco, dried orange peel, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, cumin and liquorice. The box has compartments for each component. Chewing betel has a refreshing, slightly stimulating effect. The items are placed between the cheek and teeth and slowly savoured.

Betel nut was used by men and women of all social standings.

Today it tends to be enjoyed mainly by older people.

It stimulates copious saliva, reduces the appetite and increases thirst. Saliva turns bright red, as do the mouth, lips and teeth. Eventually teeth turn black and fall out.

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