You may be surprised to learn that the kola nut (aka kolanut) is the origin of the word “cola,” and the tree on which it grows is believed among some Nigerian tribes to be the first tree on earth. This nut is how the first cola recipe received its caffeine kick -- along with real coca leaves. No wonder people thought it was “medicinal.” Today, your typical cola drink uses an artificial flavoring plus added caffeine, but you can still find real kola nuts being used in higher end sodas, in products like energy bars, and as a natural medicinal remedy.
The kola nut, also know 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.
As already mentioned, kola nut is a stimulant, containing 1.5% - 2% caffeine, plus kolanin and theobromine, which increases cerebral circulation. Theobromine is the 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. The net result is that the stimulating components of kola nut can be used to improve the mental energy and stimulate the sex drive without whipping the adrenals. Thus, the addition of a small amount of kola nut to formulas can stimulate and prolong sexual urges and intensity while revitalizing libido both in men and women without exhausting the adrenals.
Kola Nuts as a Natural Infection Fighter
The kola nut may also help prevent and fight infections. Research published in the 2004 edition of “Phytotherapy Research” showed that 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.
Kola Nuts as a Natural Chest Cold Remedy
One of the oldest medicinal uses for the kola nut is 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 for Natural Weight Loss
Kola nuts may even offer a natural weight loss benefit. In a study published in the Nigerian Journal of Physiological Sciences, it was found that a 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%, which means that it may help “burn off” calories more quickly. Kola nut extracts also contain nonsteroidal plant compounds that have the ability to induce death of cancerous prostate cells and may modulate prostate growth and function.
Additional Health Benefits of Kola Nuts
In addition to being a stimulant, kola nut can help increase oxygen levels in the blood and promote better concentration and a “clearing” of the head. Kola nut, like cayenne, also serves to "drive" other herbs into the blood.
How to Take Kola Nuts
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 drunk in tea. The powder is also sometimes taken in capsule form.