The kola nut is the fruit of the kola tree (Cola acuminata and Cola nitida), indigenous to West Africa. About the size of a chestnut, this little fruit is packed with caffeine. There is evidence that the kola nut trade has existed in Africa since the 14th century.
Kola nuts have a bitter taste when chewed fresh. When they’re dried, the taste becomes milder and they reportedly smell of nutmeg.
The kola nut is used to flavor sodas and as a supplement to increase energy or improve health. But what are the health benefits of the kola nut?
1. Increases Circulation
The caffeine and theobromine in the kola nut may speed up the heart rate, which increases circulation. By stimulating heart rate and increasing circulation, kola nuts are able to boost oxygenation to certain essential parts of the body, including the skin, organs, and even the brain.
This is why kola nuts are sometimes referred to as cognitive boosters, as increased levels of oxygen in the brain have been connected with higher levels of cognition and concentration. This can also promote healing of wounds and cellular repair through the increased flow of oxygen and nutrients.
2. Aids Digestion
Kola nut powder and extract may help digestion. They promote the production of gastric acid, which increases digestive enzyme effectiveness in the stomach. The active ingredients of the kola nut are able to improve digestion and nutrient uptake, while also reducing constipation, bloating, cramping, and other, more serious, gastrointestinal issues.
3. Prevents Prostate Cancer
Although research is still in its early stages and is still a matter of debate in some circles, some of the phytoestrogens and phytoandrogens found in kola nuts are able to stimulate apoptosis in prostate cancer cells. This line of study is relatively new, but applications for other types of cancerous cells are also being explored.
4. Boosts Metabolism
Kola nut products contain caffeine, which may give a person’s metabolism a boost. While this can potentially be dangerous for people who suffer from pre-existing heart conditions, it can provide a necessary metabolic boost for those with a slow metabolism. This can actually optimize heart health, as caffeine can be a health stimulant in moderate doses. This also helps the metabolism optimize itself, which has a wide range of positive enzymatic and physiological effects on the body.
The significant level of caffeine found in kola nut extracts and supplements can be a risk for those who already suffer from high blood pressure or a sensitivity to caffeine. The risk of side effects may vary and increase, depending on how much of the nut is eaten. Possible side effects of the kola nut include: Increased blood pressure, Restlessness, Headaches, Insomnia, Nausea and Dehydration.
Keep in mind that it is always best to speak to a doctor before taking any supplements, including those containing kola nut.