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Indian textile industry finds fresh use for betel nut

Natural dye more sustainable option than alternatives harvested from wild

Adike chogaru, the syrup produced when young betel nuts are boiled, can be used to make a dye to produce a range of colors, from brown to pink, garnet and beige. (Photo by Shailesh Swarga)

KASARGOD, India -- In India, the world's largest producer and consumer of betel nut, known locally as areca, the fruit has long been chewed and used for religious and cultural ceremonies. But interest in utilizing the nuts to produce powerful, environmentally sound fabric dyes is beginning to grow.

The juice of the nuts, the fruit of the palm tree Areca catechu, which is common throughout the Asia-Pacific region, has long been known to stain chewers' teeth and places where they spit. However, it has also been used for years on a small scale as a base for dyes in Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar and Bhutan, as well as India.

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