27 Sep 2023


Bersirih, nyirih or menginang is a Malayonesian tradition of chewing materials such as nut, betel, gambier, tobacco, clove and limestone. Menginang tradition or chewing betel nut is widespread among Indonesian ethnic groups, especially among the Javanese, Balinese and Malay people; dating back to more than 3000 years. Records of travelers from China showed that betel and areca had been consumed since the 2nd century BCE.
In the Malay archipelago, the menginang or betel nut chewing has become a revered activity in local tradition; being a ceremoniously conducted gesture to honour guests. A complete and elaborate set of sirih pinang equipment is called tepak, puan, pekinangan or cerana. The set is usually made of wooden lacquerware, brass or silverwares; and it consists of the combol (containers), bekas sirih (leaf container), kacip (press-knife to cut areca nut), gobek (small pestle and mortar), and ketur (spit container).
The Sirih Pinang has become a symbol of Malay culture, with the Malay oral tradition having phrases such as "The betel opens the door to the home" or "the betel opens the door to the heart". Menginang is used at many formal occasions such as marriages, births, deaths, and healings. A number of Malay traditional dances — such as the South Sumatran Tanggai dance — are in fact describing the dancers bringing cerana or tepak sirih equipment, ceremoniously presenting an offering of betel nut to the revered guest.

Effects on health

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) accept the scientific evidence that chewing betel quids and areca nut is carcinogenic to humans.The main carcinogenic factor is believed to be areca nut. A recent study found that areca-nut paan with and without tobacco increased oral cancer risk by 9.9 and 8.4 times, respectively.

Effects of chewing paan during pregnancy

Scientific teams from Taiwan, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea have reported that women who chew areca nut formulations, such as paan, during pregnancy significantly increase adverse outcomes for the baby. The effects were similar to those reported for women who consume alcohol or tobacco during pregnancy. Lower birth weights, reduced birth length and early term were found to be significantly higher.

Source: Wikipedia