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, as mentioned above, is the phytonutrient alkaloid compound that can be found in chocolate and is thought to contribute a sense of alertness and well-being. This combination of caffeine and theobromine may be a contributing factor for the mild sense of euphoria that’s often reported after chewing the nuts.
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.
The kola nuts may even offer a natural weight loss benefit. In a study published in the Journal of Physiological Sciences, it was found that steady intake of kola nut by rats can actually reduce food intake, and therefore body weight, without altering water intake. This is thought to be due to the caffeine in the nuts reducing the rats' appetites. Other studies have found that intake of kola nut can increase the body's metabolic rate by as much as 118%. Kola nut extracts also contain nonsteroidal plant compounds that have the ability to induce the death of cancerous prostate cells and may modulate prostate growth and function.
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.
Let me ask you a question I ask all of the folks that show up to hear me speak:
“If I handed you 22 packets of sugar right now would you sit there and eat them?”
No. Neither would I. But then answer this question…
“If I handed you an ice cold, 20 oz. bottle of your favorite soda would you sit there and drink it?”
Well if that 20 oz. soda was sweetened with real sugar, cane sugar or corn syrup then you drank the same 22 packs of sugar! Think about that the next time the ‘soda bug’ bites!