Need proof that some researchers are desperate to treat halitosis? Just look at one of the strange new botanical remedies scientists are suggesting for bad breath: Piper betle, also known as the betel vine. This stuff, which is a creeper vine grown in Southeast Asia, is commonly used to make betel quid and paan, two chewing-tobacco-like stimulants that stain teeth and definitely do not alleviate oral odor.
What does betel do?
The backstory of this strange development begins in the state of Ohio and in Mumbai, India, where two teams of Proctor and Gamble scientists recently investigated the effects of P. betle extract on oral bacteria in vitro (that is, in a dish).
What they found - and published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology - is that this extract appeared to prevent bacteria from producing the volatile sulfur compounds that give bad breath its nasty smell.
The authors concluded that this remedy for halitosis, which is apparently widespread in Asia, may be effective.
However, there's more to P. betle than its role as a traditional medicine for oral odor. This stuff has a more common use - namely, as a chewing tobacco alternative.
Betel vine leaves are a key ingredient in betel quid and paan, two popularly chewed stimulants used all across Southeast Asia. These are made by wrapping areca nut in betel leaves. (If tobacco is then added, it is called "gutka.") The resulting wad is then chewed and the excess fluid spit out.
Make no mistake: The CDC states that this product is a known carcinogen, on par with chewing tobacco. It causes oral cancers, mouth lesions, reproductive issues, addiction and bad breath.
Over time, these chews also stain the teeth a deep, almost black shade of red. (A Google Image search of the phrase "betel nut teeth" will make you shudder.)
So if you have bad breath, skip the betel and stick to specialty breath freshening products that are proven to alleviate oral malodor and help whiten teeth.