The paan leaves are generally chewed either by itself or in combination with slaked lime, betel nuts (areca variety) and other spices like aniseed and sometimes tobacco etc.
Preparation of paan is an art and the secret technique is passed down from generation to generation. Chewing the leaves and nuts promotes red colored stimulating salivation. This has been in practice for thousands of years. It was a craze among aristocrats.
There are several ways a paan can be folded. This is a special branch of the paan culture. Asian history is incomplete without the paan.
Paan is an antiseptic that freshens the breath and is also an ayurvedic aphrodisiac medicine. Myriad are the uses of paan. It cures headaches, joint pain and arthritis as well as toothaches. In some places it serves the purpose of an antibiotic and a digestive medicine. It cures constipation, congestion and helps in lactation. It even helps in ridding the body of worms. Unani stream of medicine claims that paan is a sweet smelling stimulant that prevents flatulency. It stops bleeding. Applying heated paan as a foment, especially in the case of children cures stomach troubles. Drinking betel leaves boiled with black pepper can cure indigestion.
Reference to the use of betel leaf goes back more than two thousand years, in an ancient Pli book of Srilanka, ‘Mahawamsa’. In the Vedas too there is reference to paan being the first offering to the guru. Paan is found in Shrimad Bhagavat as Lord Krishna used to chew. This evidence is of 5000 years ago. In the Shrimad Bulath Pdhaya is a special dance mentioned in the Kohomba Kankariya of Srilanka. Here the sacred and practical are entwined in poetic beauty excellence.
The Tradition of eating paan was popularized by Noor Jehan, the mother of Emperor Shah Jehan.Empress Noor Jehan discovered that by adding some ingredients to paan and eating it gives a natural red colour to the lips, catechu (Kattha) and quick lime (chuuna).