A few of the questions asked fall more easily into the topics I discuss in the Friday posts, I’ll answer those questions as well but I’ll answer them on Fridays. One such question was sent in by Laura P. of San Antonio Texas.
Answer: This is a fair question. I have often compared drinking a 20oz soda to downing 22 pack of sugar – it’s true stat and it’s not at all healthy! I recommend drinking fresh, clean water whenever possible. Enjoy the occasional soft drink just do not allow yourself to drink this drink every time you are thirsty – that can lead to all kinds of problems! If you want to see some really interesting information about the Kola Nut just take a look below the following graphic.
You may not be surprised to learn that the kola nut (aka kolanut) is the origin of the word “cola,” but did you know that the tree on which it grows is believed by some Nigerian tribes to be the first tree on earth. Apparently even mother nature enjoyed a Coke and a smile!
Seriously though, this nut is how the first cola recipe received its caffeine kick. So it is no wonder many people thought it was “medicinal.” Today, your typical cola recipe uses an artificial flavoring plus added caffeine. This does not give you the same phytonutrient benefit as the old drinks made with the actual kola nut but you can still find real kola nuts being used in higher end soft drinks, specialty ‘health’ drinks and in products like energy bars. Actually, you can also find it as a common ingredient in many natural medicinal remedies.
The kola nut, also known as cola acuminate, is a caffeine-rich nut that is native to tropical Africa. In these regions, the nut is considered a symbol of hospitality and kindness. Though nearly tasteless on their own, kola nuts are often chewed before meals to help promote digestion and to help counteract possible ill effects from tainted drinking water.
The kola nut is a stimulant in its own right, containing 1.5% - 2% caffeine, plus theobromine, which increases cerebral circulation. Theobromine is the phytonutrient alkaloid compound that can be found in members of the Malvaceae, or the mallows plant family. These are a family of flowering plants estimated to contain over 4000 species. Among the most well-known members of this family are cotton, okra, marshmallow, cacao, kola nut and hibiscus). The Theobromine these plants contain naturally contributes a sense of alertness and well-being to us when we eat them. The combination of caffeine and theobromine may be a contributing factor for the mild sense of euphoria that’s often reported after chewing the kola nuts or eating chocolate.
In addition to being a stimulant, the kola nut can help increase oxygen levels in the blood and promote better concentration and a “clearing” of the head. The kola nut also serves to "drive" other herbs into the blood. It is why you will see this ingredient used in many medicinal tinctures to help increase the effect of the entire formula.
The kola nut may also help prevent and fight infections. Research published in the 2004 edition of Phyto-therapy Research showed that the kola nut was effective at reducing the growth and development of members of the mycobacterium species, the bacteria responsible for illnesses such as meningitis and tuberculosis.
One of the oldest medicinal uses for the kola nut is to use it as a natural remedy for chest colds. And modern research has shown that it is effective in this regard. The kola nut helps by enlarging the alveolar ducts and sacs (small air bags in the lungs where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged with the blood), as well as by improving the strength of the fibers in the lung tissue.
Kola nuts are often ground into a powder. Because the whole nut stores caffeine much better than the powder form, it is recommended that the nut be ground right before use or preserved in tincture form. Kola nut powder can be added to coffee to increase the caffeine content, and can also be consumed in tea. The powder is also sometimes taken in capsule form.