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The Indian Paan - a Traditional Indian Mouth Freshener and Digestive

Rajan is a botany and chemistry major. He has worked as a poultry breeder for 23 years, breeding layer and broiler parents.

The Current Scenario - Update : 22 August 2015

The paanwala today, a few have become tech-savvy and have outlets in airconditioned malls and shops. Some have their own websites where paan can be ordered and delivery is made as per the customers' choice at their homes.

One paanwala in New Delhi, Pandey Paan, claims to have served all politicians and all Indian Presidents since Indian Independence. He serves over 75 varieties of paans and all his products are tobacco-free.

Pandey has served paans to President, Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton & former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

About Paan

Paan is a traditional digestive and mouth freshener used in India, since ancient times. It is chewed and eaten usually after meals but it can be consumed at any time of the day.

Paan is consumed in many Asian countries including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Philipines, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos,

Paan has several ingredients that go into its preparation. Four things that are necessary to make a paan are :

  • Betel leaf
  • Catechu paste
  • Areca nut
  • Slaked lime paste

Different variations of paan are built from here. Different regions in India also have their own variations.

After adding the various ingredients to the betel leaf, it is folded into a triangular shape called a "Bida" or "Gilauree".

Some people add tobacco to the pan which then makes the paan harmful to health.

Paan was invented by the scholars of Ayurveda thousands of years ago. Reference to paan found in the ancient Indian Vedic text " The Bhagavata Purana" goes back to about 5000 years. It references Lord Krishna as having eaten paan.

The popular tradition of paan eating was started by Queen Noor Jehan, mother of Emperor Shah Jehan, who got the famous Taj Mahal constructed.

Betel leaves

betel leaves the foundation of paan making ingredients

betel leaves the foundation of paan making ingredients

Varieties Of Betel Leaves

There are 3 types of betel leaves that are used in making pan. They are:

  1. Kalkatta - A dark green coloured leaf
  2. Banarasi - A light green coloured leaf
  3. Maghai - A leaf available in both shades of green but having smaller leaves than the above two varieties.

Kalkatta leaf is the most popular of all.

The Paanwala

The person who makes paan is called "paanwala". Paan can be bought at almost every street corner of India. The pan shop is not a big or elaborate structure. In fact, it is a small wooden structure about 5 feet by 5 feet. You can see one such structure in the picture below.

Different Types Of Paan

Some of the main types of paan that are prepared are :

  • Sada Paan - It is the simplest type of paan. Most of the time areca nut, catechu paste and slaked lime paste is added to the betel leaf. Menthol powder, cardamom or clove can be added if the customer so prefers.
  • Meetha Paan - It is a sweet paan with along with the above some spices like fennel seeds, cinnamon powder etc, gulkand, tutty fruity etc being also added.
  • Tambakhu Paan - It is a sada pan to which tobacco leaf powder is added.
  • Trento/olerno paan - It is a mint flavored paan.

Within these broad types, the leaves can be interchanged or different combinations of ingredients can be made as per the customer's choice.

Some more types of paan can be seen in the pictures below.

Ingredients Used In Paan

In the picture below, you can see some of the ingredients used in making paan. They are :

  • Betel leaf - the leaf of the vine Piper betle.
  • Areca nut- the seed of the plant Areca catechu. Both roasted and unroasted seeds are used. It is also called betel nut.
  • Katha - catechu paste made from the bark of the plant Acacia catechu.
  • Slaked lime paste - made with water.
  • Gulkand - rose petals candied in sugar.
  • Grated coconut.
  • Spices - fennel seeds, cardamom, cinnamon powder, cloves, nutmeg powder etc.
  • Tutty fruity.
  • Syrup of powdered rose leaves.
  • Menthol powder
  • Camphor powder.
  • Dried dates.
  • Hara Patta - dried green leaves.
  • Tobacco powder - This is ONLY USED for those who are used to consuming tobacco and ask specifically for its addition to their paan.

Different Ingredients Used In A Paan

Making a paan

paanwala making a paan

paanwala making a paan


Paan Chewing - Some Research & Views

Though the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), accept scientific evidence confirming that chewing paan and consuming areca nut is cancer-causing, there is research that underlines the health benefits of betel leaf and some of the ingredients used in paan, barring tobacco of course, which does cause cancer.

Read the following :

Read about the medical benefits of some of the ingredients that are used in paan

Read about the medical benefits of the Betel leaf. You can read the entire research article here. It will download as a pdf file.

Read about the benefits of betel leaf chewing.

More About Paan

Paan is also served in traditional ceremonies like marriages, receptions and religious festivals. It is a refreshing indulgence any time of the day. Eating an occasional pan is a treat some people enjoy. Consuming paan regularly stains the teeth and gums permanently a reddish colour because of the catechu paste.

For many of the regulars, these paan shops have become a meeting place for friends to get together for a chit chat especially in the evenings or at night. Many paanwalas have installed small television sets that serve to entertain their customers whenever there is a cricket match going on and one can find hordes of people crowded around the paanwala's shop during such matches.

Truly, for the paanwalas the business is as brisk as ever and most of them keep their shops open well into the night to serve their clientele.

Some Of My Other Hubs On Health


The information provided in this hub is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult your physician, or health care provider before taking any home remedies, supplements or starting a new health regime.

Tobacco use is not suggested here in any way.

© 2013 Rajan Singh Jolly


Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on March 30, 2020:

Peggy, the paan leaf or other ingredients on their own or collectively do not cause cancer. The addition of tobacco as one of the ingredients does. Appreciate your concern. Thank you for reading the hub.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 30, 2020:

I never knew about paan before reading this. I think that I would be cautious if the World Health Organization and some others believe that it might cause cancer. That would scare me away even if others tout the benefits of using it.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on July 09, 2018:

Thank you Shaloo.

Shaloo Walia from India on February 14, 2018:

quite informative!

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 10, 2013:

you can find betel leaves at your local paanwala.

nadeem on June 10, 2013:

Where I find Betel Leaves tree

nadeem on June 10, 2013:

Where I find Betel Leaves tree

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on March 16, 2013:

Oh good! And I hope your friend can at least guide you where you can get it. Thanks for reading.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on March 16, 2013:

Although we frequent Indian restaurants, I've yet to see this dish. Sounds like a good way to freshen up the palette after the intense flavors of an Indian meal. I'll ask the owner of one restaurant, who is a friend of mine, whether he can offer this. Voting this Up and Useful.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on March 14, 2013:

Thanks for stopping by Rasma. I appreciate it a lot.

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on March 14, 2013:

Voted up and interesting. Love these informative hubs of yours. Had never heard of this. Passing this on.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on March 13, 2013:

Thanks Kathryn. I appreciate the read and comments.

Kathryn from Windsor, Connecticut on March 12, 2013:

I have never heard of Paan. When I first saw the word, I thought it was that bread, but that's not it (Naan is the bread I was thinking about). It's interesting that there are so many ingredients that can be added to it.

It is so interesting to read about things like this that I have never heard of, and to imagine what life is like there. Just like Bill said, I have learned more about the Indian culture from you than from any other source.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on March 11, 2013:

@ Bill - I'm thrilled with your comments my friend. My effort is just a drop in the ocean. Since I have learned a bit about other cultures reading hubs and other articles it is my endeavor to share some info on Indian traditions and culture as well. I believe it truly helps us understand others better and of course brings us closer as you say.

I truly appreciate your comments and always good to see you.

Thanks my friend and have a nice day.

@ Carol - I always like your honest comments, my friend. I know you are there to encourage me on like our friend, Bill. It is always good to see you and I appreciate the read and share.

@ Mahavir - I'm glad you like this. It's just that I like to share bits of our culture with readers who possibly may never visit India and even if they do might not get familiar with certain aspects of our culture.

It is always good to see and get your comments. Thanks.

@ Jason - It feels nice to be appreciated and I'm encouraged by the fact that I'm sharing some aspects of Indian culture with readers across the world who are so appreciative. Thanks my friend, for the visit and comments.

Jason F Marovich from Detroit on March 11, 2013:

This is an outstanding hub. The information about Paan is useful and interesting and presented alongside eye-catching colors in the incredible photos you chose to use.

Mahaveer Sanglikar from Pune, India on March 11, 2013:

Another great Hub from you. I appreciate your efforts in creating such great hub, thank you.

carol stanley from Arizona on March 11, 2013:

Though I probably will never try this..I always enjoy your sharing new things. As always you do such a great job.....Keep writing. Voting UP and sharing.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 11, 2013:

I say this in all honesty: I have learned more about Indian culture from you than ever before during my life. Thank you for that. Your articles are very important in bringing us closer.

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