According to Wikipedia, Bitter Kola(also known as Kola nut or cola nut) “refers to seeds of certain species of plant of the genus Cola, placed formerly in the cocoa family Sterculiaceae and now usually subsumed in the mallow family Malvaceae (as subfamily Sterculioideae)”. It grows in Central and West African rainforests and is native to Africa. Its extract contain caffeine.
Apart from the common perception of bitter kola by Western culture as a “flavoring ingredient and one of the sources of caffeine in cola and other similarly flavored beverages”, the kola nut serves numerous cultural, medicinal and spiritual purposes in West Africa.
The bitter kola has a bitter flavor and contains caffeine. It is chewed in many West African countries including Nigeria, in both private and social settings.
“Oji” in the Igbo parlance, the kola nut or bitter kola is used by Igbos to welcome guests and also used in ceremonies. In folk medicine, kola nuts have the health benefits of aiding digestion when ground and mixed with honey, and are used as a remedy for coughs.
Did you know that…
In the 1880s, a pharmacist in Georgia, John Pemberton, took caffeine extracted from kola nuts and cocaine-containing extracts from coca leaves and mixed them with sugar, other flavorings, and carbonated water to invent Coca-Cola, the first cola soft drink. As of 2016, the cola recipe no longer contained actual kola nut extract.
Main article: Coca-Cola formula
Health Benefits of Bitter Kola
There are numerous health benefits of bitter kola. Although this flowering plant has been eaten by West Africans for years, scientists are recently discovering the health benefits of bitter kola. Some of which sourced from online medical articles like WebMD Medical Reference, MedicalNewsToday are:
1. Combats Infections
Bitter kola has been used over the years to fight infections ranging from common cold to hepatitis. A study conducted in 2018 showed that bitter kola can help combat coughs, bacterial infections, and viral infections. One study reported in the Journal of Biosciences and Medicines indicates that the use of kola nut extract might stop the growth of harmful bacteria. Eating bitter kola when an infection starts may help combat the infection and make you feel better more quickly than usual.
2. Reduces Inflammation
Bitter kola seeds have been chewed by Africans to fight against inflammatory conditions like arthritis. A study conducted in 2008 showed that patients with osteoarthritis in their knees showed significantly reduced inflammation when eating bitter kola compared to a placebo. A contributing factor to this might be the high level of potassium in kola nut
3. Boost to Metabolism
The bitter kola contains caffeine, therefore it may give a person’s metabolism, a boost.
4. Aid to digestion
Kola nut powder and extract may help digestion. They are thought to promote the production of gastric acid, which increases digestive enzyme effectiveness in the stomach.
Increase in circulation: The caffeine and theobromine in the kola nut may speed up the heart rate, which increases circulation.
5. Fights Diabetes?
Early studies suggest that a chemical called kolaviron, which is found in bitter kola, may protect against hypoglycemia in people with type 2 diabetes. Although this first study was done on rats and has not yet been reproduced on humans, these early findings are promising.
6. Boost to energy levels
The kola nut naturally stimulates the central nervous system, which may increase alertness and boost energy levels.
7. Decreases Migraine
The bitter kola may be helpful for people who have migraine headaches. Migraines often affect the blood vessels in the head and caffeine has been used for headache pain.
The theobromine and caffeine contained in the kola nut may dilate or widen blood vessels in the brain, which might decrease migraine pain.
8. Helps with Asthmatic Condition
Although it may not be recommended as a treatment for respiratory conditions, kola nuts might be useful for people with certain breathing problems, such as asthma.
The caffeine in kola nuts may act as a bronchodilator, which means it opens the airways to make breathing easier.
Side Effects of Bitter Kola
Although there are many undeniable health benefits of bitter kola, as most drugs are, bitter kola has its fair share of side effects. Here are some of them:
While the use of bitter kola can help to stay awake at night, when overused, since bitter kola contains caffeine, it can lead to poor quality sleep or sleeplessness or in other words, Insomnia.
2. Anxiety and Nervousness
Since bitter kola can affect the central nervous system, it can lead to anxiety, shakiness or nervousness
When bitter kola is over eaten, it can cause stomach upset or nausea.
Since caffeine can be addictive in nature when taken constantly, bitter kola which contains a fair amount of caffeine can also be addictive and people who take it constantly can get to a point that they can not do without taking it creating a dependency pattern.
5. Mouth Cancer and Gastrointestinal Cancer
The excessive use of bitter kola can likely cause mouth cancer and gastrointestinal cancer in one.
6. Headaches and Dizziness
Kola nut or bitter kola can cause headache, dizziness, ringing in the ear. This is due to the high caffeine amount contained in kola nuts.
7. Rapid heart Rate
Bitter kola can lead to irregular heart beat and agitation
8. Increased blood pressure
As bitter kola are active stimulants to the body, it can raise one’s blood pressure. Therefore it is pertinent for people who already have high blood pressure or are taking blood pressure medication to check with their doctor before using bitter kola or any product containing bitter kola.
Bitter kola can cause dehydration and increased thirst for water.
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