Paan (from Sanskrit parṇa meaning “leaf”) is a preparation combining betel leaf with areca nut widely consumed throughout Southeast Asia, East Asia (mainly Taiwan), and the Indian subcontinent. It is chewed for its stimulant and psychoactive effects. After chewing it is either spat out or swallowed. Paan has many variations. Slaked lime (chunnam) paste is commonly added to bind the leaves. Some preparations in the Indian subcontinent include katha paste or mukhwas to freshen the breath.
The origin and diffusion of betel chewing originates from and is closely tied to the Neolithic expansion of the Austronesian peoples. It was spread to the Indo-Pacific during prehistoric times, reaching Near Oceania at 3,500 to 3,000 BP; South India and Sri Lanka by 3,500 BP; Mainland Southeast Asia by 3,000 to 2,500 BP; Northern India by 1500 BP; and Madagascar by 600 BP. From India, it was also spread westwards to Persia and the Mediterranean.
Paan (under a variety of names) is also consumed in many other Asian countries and elsewhere in the world by some Asian emigrants, with or without tobacco. It is an addictive and euphoria-inducing formulation with adverse health effects. The spit from chewing betel nuts, known as “buai pekpek” in Papua New Guinea, is often considered an eyesore. Because of this, many places have banned selling and chewing “buai”.