- Kola Nut
Kola nut is actually the fruit of the kola tree. This is an evergreen tree that is a shade bearer. In other words, trees of this species like to grow under the canopy of larger trees. Kola tree grows up to a height of anything between 9 meters and 12 meters and occasionally even reaches 27 meters. The trunk is up to 1.5 meters across having slender prop ups that are often lengthened to 1 meter in older trees. In many cases, the buttresses are absent and the trunk is not erect all the time and is tubular. The bark of Cola nitida has a grayish or grayish brown hue and is coarse having fissures that run lengthwise. The bark of this tree exudes a sap that is pinkish red and fibrous; its color darkens to brown when exposed to air.
Kola tree bears simple leaves that appear alternately having petioles that are about 1.2 cm to 10 cm in length. The shape of the leaves vary from more or less oblong to broadly oval, while the apex is unexpectedly and curtly pointed (acuminate). At the base, the leaves are either rounded or having rounded tip. The margins are wavy either hairless or somewhat without bristles. They have deep green nerves on the sides measuring about 6 cm to 10 cm. The flowering part of the plant is an auxiliary and appears as haphazardly split panicles that are about 5 cm to 10 cm in length – much smaller in length compared to the leaves. The flowers have only one reproductive part (unisexual), comprising five parts, but do not have any petals.
The male flowers are about 2 cm in diameter and their calyx is cup-shaped. They are intensely lobed with several stamens and appear in two whorls. On the other hand, the calyx of the female flowers is approximately 5 cm in diameter having five carpels and several simple anthers at the bottom. The fruits of the kola tree are oblong or oval shaped appearing in sacs that measure about 13 cm x 7 cm. They are green hued, glossy on the surface, have a smooth texture, but lumpy having large nodules. As many as four to eight seeds appear in each carpel and they are oval or semi globoid in shape. The kola nuts are extremely thick and hard and they are found in a range of colors. Maroon, deep brown and brown are the most common colors of kola nuts. Each kola tree produces approximately 120,000 nuts annually. Kola nuts may be consumed in a number of ways, including eating them separately, employing them in the form of a spice as well as using them in soda beverages.
Kola nuts are nuts that contain caffeine and are produced by the trees of species Cola nitida and Cola acuminate belonging to the cocoa family (Sterculiaceae). These trees are indigenous to tropical Africa and are widely cultivated in the tropical regions of America. This evergreen tree has an appearance akin to that of the chestnut tree. The kola nuts are harvested manually and left in the sun to dry for commercial purpose – primarily in the form of an ingredient in medications and soft drinks. Nevertheless, soft drink manufacturers in America as well as in Europe never use kola nuts, but produce synthetic chemicals that have the essence of kola nut.
It is worth mentioning here that the kola trees are indigenous to Angola, Togo and Sierra Leone in Africa. However, currently these trees are grown in almost all regions of the world having tropical climatic conditions. In West Africa, people have been traditionally using kola nuts for medicinal purposes since a long time. It is believed that when the native Africans were taken as slaves to America, they carried kola nuts with them to the new continent.
In Africa, the native of the kola trees, people use the nuts in the form of an exchange medium. In addition, local labourers also chew the kola nuts with a view to lessen the feeling of hunger as well as exhaustion. They also chew small portions of the nuts having an astringent flavour prior to having their meals to facilitate digestion of the food. People in Brazil and the West Indies use the nuts in the form of a herbal medication to treat diarrhea, hangover and intoxication. People belonging to the Igbo tribe of south-eastern Nigeria use the kola nuts in a variety of their social ceremonies. In effect, one of the major visitation rituals followed by these tribes includes presenting a plate of kola nuts.
The kola nut is native to Africa, and earlier it was extensively used for manufacturing carbonated soda. In contemporary times, kola nuts are mainly employed in the form of a dietary supplement in producing formulas for weight loss and energy. Nevertheless, it is suggested that before you take any dietary supplement containing kola nuts, you need to undertake the basic preventative measure with a view to keep away from developing the side effects caused by the excessive use of these nuts as well as problems which are likely to occur owing to medical conditions that you might be enduring from before. Kola nuts provide us with several benefits and some of them are discussed below.
A number of studies undertaken in recent times show that kola nut is an excellent source of caffeine, theobromine and theophylline. It is known that the substance called theophylline facilitates in unwinding the muscles as well as widen the bronchioles in people suffering from asthma and bronchitis. Then again, theobromine helps to expand the blood vessels and also lower elevated blood pressure. Kola nuts contain caffeine and other stimulants which not only lower high blood pressure within the lungs, but also supply us with energy and are particularly beneficial for individuals who are enduring chronic fatigue and weariness.
Caffeine contained by the kola nuts restrains hunger, aid in digestion and losing additional body weight. In addition, kola nuts have also been commonly employed to cure persistent migraine headaches. Kola nuts also help in augmenting the metabolic process and supply us with additional energy required by the body to recover from exhausting exercises – this is one reason why kola nuts may be effectively employed in any weight-loss program. Findings of some scientific studies have hinted that kola nuts considerably enhance the gastric acid levels, thereby promoting healthy digestion. At the same time, one may also use kola nuts in the form of a remedy for nervous diarrhea. People belonging to a number of cultures in Africa were of the belief that chewing kola nuts on a regular basis prior to taking meals facilitated digestion.
Kola nuts are also believed to enhance the essence of any food consumed after eating it and also have the ability to turn rancid water into pleasant water. Kola nuts are dried, pounded into a powdered form and applied to cuts to heal them quickly. Kola nut is also known to be effective for treating hypertension as well as in combating several types of toxins. This herb is also employed in the form of a useful medication to treat venereal ailments, rheumatism, infections of the urinary tract, congestive heart failure as well as hepatitis.
Besides offering several health benefits, using kola nuts also have a number of disadvantages or risks. It has been found that a number of products contain high amounts of kola nut and using them may possibly result in undesirable side effects, especially if they are taken on a regular basis.
There was a time when the kola nut formed the major ingredient in all cola drinks. It is rumoured that the famous drink Coke is prepared using a secret formula that includes using kola extracts, coca extract, sugar, caffeine, lime extract, vanilla, caramel color as well as glycerin.
Habitat and cultivation
The Cola nitida tree has its origin in the tropical rainforests. This tree requires a hot and humid climate to thrive, but also has the aptitude to tolerate an arid season when growing in places where the ground water level is somewhat high. It is also possible to cultivate Cola nitida in more arid regions where ground water is accessible relatively easily. This tree usually provides shade and likes to grow under the canopy of larger trees, but thrives better and its branching crown bears more fruits when cultivated in open spaces. While Cola nitida is usually a forest tree of the plains, it has also been found to grow naturally at places higher than 300 meters above the sea level, especially on deep, fertile soils and in places receiving plenty of uniformly distributed rainfall.
In order to grow this tree properly, it is necessary to undertake weeding on a regular basis, which may be done either manually or by using herbicides. While the plants may require some irrigation, it is necessary to remove the water and you need to have an excellent drainage system to do this. Watering the plants in excess may actually harm the growth of the Cola nitida plants. When you are not cultivating this species under sufficient shade, the plants respond excellently to fertilizers. In order to shield the Cola nitida plants from powerful gales, you generally need to provide them with windbreaks.
Chemical analysis of the kola nut has revealed that it encloses alkaloids, of which about 1.25 per cent is caffeine and theobromine, a volatile oil, tannin, starch, theophylline, sugar, kolanin (a blend of caffeine and kola red), fatty substances, protein as well as a number of antioxidants, such as phenolics and anthrocyanin.
Side effects and cautions
Kola nuts should not be used in certain conditions. For instance, pregnant women ought to consult their physician prior to using kola nuts since a number of contradictions regarding their use during pregnancy exist. In addition, this herb may also prove to be extremely strong for people who are very sensitive to caffeine. Even people with a history of strokes, digestive problems, anxiety disorders, diabetes, insomnia, heart ailments and high cholesterol should keep away from using kola nuts.
In case you are feeling nervous or have problems in falling asleep, you either need to lessen the dosage of this herb or stop taking it completely. It may be noted here that unadulterated or genuine kola nut actually works to make the action of analgesics, beverages containing caffeine as well as other psychoactive medications stronger. Individuals who have allergic reactions on consuming peanuts or any other type of nut may also be allergic to kola nuts.
Collection and harvesting
Kola nuts are usually harvested during the period between October and March. These nuts are collected manually with harvesters plucking them from the branch of the Cola nitida trees. All over the world, including the Western world, kola nuts are harvested by people for their use. It is possible to store kola nuts for a long period provided they are kept in a chilly and dry place.