Subject:Re: Help identify what this is?
Posted By: Bill H Tue, Jan 09, 2018
Sue is correct, in my opinion. I believe "pan" is a phonetic for what Indian betel-nut chewers commonly call the quids they chew, in which context this container also fits the mold of the classic "betel Box" design. Its latchable outer cover reveal an inner lid that doubles as a serving tray for condiments, such as powdered lime, spices and snuff, while the lower part of the box would contain freshly wrapped quids and a supply of leaves.
As explained by Wikipedia.org, though, it appears that the term "pan", actually spelled "paan", refers to the Indian pepper plant called "piper betel", the source of the leaves used to wrap quids containing dried fruit of the areca palm, which commonly is called "betel nut". I can add from experience in Southeast Asia, the chewers also usually add a bit of powdered lime (obtained from pounding up seashells) to cut the sharp taste of the mix.
As for the "kick" that chewers get from the typical quid, Wikipedia provides the pharmacological details, saying: "The areca nut contains the tannins arecatannin and gallic acid; a fixed oil gum; a little terpineol; lignin; various saline substances; and three main alkaloids—arecoline, arecaidine, and guvacine—all of which have vasoconstricting properties. The betel leaf chewed along with the nut contains eugenol, another vasoconstrictor. Tobacco leaf is often added to the mixture, thereby adding the effect of nicotine." Not a mix of drugs to be taken lightly, in my opinion.