Evergreen tree growing to 65 ft (20 m) with dark green leaves and yellowish-white flowers. Large woody seed pods contain 5–10 white or red seeds (nuts).
Habitat & Cultivation
Native to West Africa, kola nut is cultivated widely in the tropics, especially in Nigeria, Brazil, and the West Indies. The seeds are harvested when ripe and dried in the sun.
Kola nut contains up to 2.5% caffeine (generally higher than coffee), theobromine, tannins, phlobaphene, and an anthocyanin.
History & Folklore
Chewed for their digestive, tonic, and aphrodisiac properties, kola nuts have been an integral part of western and central African life for thousands of years. Kola nuts are used in huge quantities today to flavor soft drinks.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Kola nut stimulates the central nervous system and the body as a whole. It increases alertness and muscular strength, counters lethargy, and has been used extensively both in western African and Anglo-American herbal medicine as an antidepressant, particularly during recovery from chronic illness. Like coffee (Coffea arabica), kola is used to treat headaches and migraine. It is diuretic and astringent, and may be taken for diarrhea and dysentery.
C. nitida, which grows in Africa, Brazil, and the West Indies, is used in the same fashion.
Do not take if suffering from high blood pressure, peptic ulcers, or palpitations.