Cola acuminata and Cola nitida, trees of the cocoa family (Sterculiaceae) native to tropical Africa and cultivated extensively in the American tropics and resembles the chestnut.
Kola nuts are an important part of the traditional spiritual practice of culture and religion in West Africa, particularly Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The Igbo of southeastern Nigeria employ the nut in various social rituals. The presentation of a plate of kola nuts is the central aspect of the visitation rituals practiced by the tribes. Kola nuts are used as a religious object and sacred offering during prayers, ancestor veneration, and significant life events, such as naming ceremonies, weddings, and funerals, and infant naming ceremonies. They are also used in a traditional divination system called Obi divination. For this use, only kola nuts divided into four lobes are suitable. Obi divination is the methodology of obtaining an answer as guidance for situation or outcome of current events.
Only kola acumulata and not kola nitida is used for this mystical divination because usually has only two lobes, it is mainly for eating and industrial uses. But Kola Acuminata usually have two to six lobes or even more. It has been used for spiritual purposes and mystical rituals.
It is chewed in many West African countries, in both private and social settings. It is often used ceremonially, presented to chiefs or guests. They were used as a form of currency in such West African groups as the Malinke and Bambara of Mali and Senegal. They are still used as such today in certain situations such as in negotiation over bride prices or as a form of a respect or host gift to the elders of a village should one move to a village or enter a business arrangement with the village.
In some areas of West Africa, kola is perhaps the second most important indigenous cash crops and is especially useful in alleviating poverty among rural people. In the past, kola was even used as currency and part payment for taxes.
Europeans found out about kola nuts 1500s, when Portuguese ships arrived on the coast of what is now Sierra Leone, Lovejoy relates. And while the Portuguese took part in the trade, ferrying nuts down the coast along with other goods, by 1620, when English explorer Richard Jobson made his way up the Gambia, the nuts were still peculiar to his eyes. Of course, this ignorance did not last. By the late 19th Century, kola nuts were being shipped tones to Europe and the United States
The kola nut is mentioned in the At the Drive-In song "Enfilade" on the album Relationship of Command.
The kola nut is repeatedly mentioned in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's novel "Half of a Yellow Sun," which also features the phrase:
"He who brings the Kola nut brings life."
One extremely popular medicinal drink was Vin Mariani, a French product consisting of coca extract mixed with red wine. A French chemist, Angelo Mariani, created it in 1863, and Pope Leo XIII was a devotee, appearing on Vin Mariani posters; Queen Victoria, Thomas Edison, and Arthur Conan Doyle were also said to be fans. But this was just one stimulating tonic among many, in an era when such nerve potions claimed positively glorious effects.
Even today in many french houses still kola brew is made and used as ideal nerve tonic, healthy energy restorer and stimulant.
Kola nut is containing caffeine and bitter flavor. Kola nuts are perhaps best known to Western culture as a flavoring ingredient and one of the sources of caffeine in cola and other similarly flavored beverages, medicine and energy drinks, although the use of kola in commercial cola drinks has become uncommon.
American and European soft-drink manufacturers, however, do not use the kola nut; instead, they manufacture synthetic chemicals that resemble the flavor of the kola nut. In the 1800s, a pharmacist in Georgia, John Pemberton, took extracts of kola and coca and mixed them with sugar, other ingredients, and carbonated water to invent the first cola soft drink. His accountant tasted it and called it "Coca-Cola". Cocaine (but not the other extracts from the Peruvian coca leaf) was prohibited from soft drinks in the U.S. after 1904, and Coca-Cola no longer uses either kola or coca in its recipe.
But, kola is so much more than a cultural symbol and a key market item in an economy. In folk medicine, kola nuts are considered useful for aiding digestion when ground and mixed with honey, and are used for coughs. In Brazil and the West Indies, the astringent-tasting nuts are used as a botanical drug to combat intoxication, hangover, and diarrhea. People have claimed it ‘sweetens stale water’, treats fatigue, hunger pangs, infections, various skin diseases and ulcers, toothaches and sore gums, morning sickness, irregular menstrual cycles, colic and assorted intestinal diseases, headaches, depression, flagging libidos, severe coughs, asthma, various eye diseases, and both dysentery and constipation.
Human use of the kola nut, like the coffee berry and tealeaf, appears to have ancient origins. Local laborers still commonly chew them as a stimulant to diminish sensations of hunger and fatigue. Small pieces of kola nut chewed before meals act as an aid to digestion. Chestnut-size nuts reputed to dispel all manner of illnesses, have travelled far and wide and their therapeutic reputation has travelled with them over centuries and across continents. By following the story of kola through the ages and across continents, it becomes clear that traditional practices sometimes demonstrate an extensive understanding of particular plants. Today millions upon millions of people ingest kola nut extract as one of the ingredients in products created by pharmaceutical, dietary and food and drink industries.
Benefits of Kola Nut
- Stimulate the body and increase heart rate.
- It can be used as metabolism booster and use of energy storage.
- Boost oxygenation to certain essential parts of the body, including the skin, organs, and even the brain.
-Promote healing of wounds and cellular repair through the increased flow of oxygen and nutrients.
- An appetite suppressant to a certain degree.
- Kola nut extracts increases fat-burning in the body.
- Certain compounds found in the kola nut may decrease the risk of prostate cancer.
- The kola nut also contains essential micronutrients such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
- Kola Nut has anti-oxidant property to wipe out free radicals and improve an effective immune response against foreign particles.
Side Effects: Cause increased Blood Pressure, Cause Sleeping Disorder, Cause Shakiness, Cause Nausea
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