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Although many people are familiar with the world ‘cola’, they may not realize that the source of that name is actually the Cola genus, which includes the kola tree, which is where the kola nut comes from. The tree is native to the tropical rainforests of Africa and contains caffeine, which makes it desirable as both a food source and an element in alternative medicine for some cultures around the world. Kola nuts are used as flavoring agents in soda of many varieties, which is where the name ‘cola’ came from. Culturally, kola nuts are often chewed or eaten in traditional ceremonies. While the most common application in western cultures is as the flavoring agent explained above, its medicinal benefits have begun to make it a popular dietary supplement for health, despite its slightly bitter taste. Kola nut can be found in energy drinks, dietary supplements, and performance enhancers. Some of the health benefits of the kola nut are discussed below.
One of the unique effects of the kola nut, largely due to its caffeine content, is its ability to stimulate the body and increase heart rate. 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 slow metabolisms. 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.
By stimulating heart rate and increasing circulation, kola nuts are able to boost oxygenation to certain essential parts of the body, including the skin, extremities, 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. Kola nuts were traditionally consumed because they “cleared the mind”. This can also promote healing of wounds and cellular repair through the increased flow of oxygen and nutrients.
For thousands of years, kola nuts have been chewed or consumed by indigenous cultures in Africa both in ceremonies and in the treatment of digestive upset. 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.
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.
The roots, stem, and leaves of the kola tree have been found to have volatile compounds that can prevent certain bacterial infections in the human body. These bacterial infections include those responsible for causing a wide range of respiratory illnesses, including bronchitis, meningitis, and tuberculosis. Kola nut extracts are available in most health stores, but the nuts themselves have not been directly connected to this medicinal benefit.
The significant level of caffeine found in kola nut extracts and supplements can be a risk for those who already suffer with high blood pressure or a sensitivity to caffeine. Side effects include shaky hands, upset stomach, and insomnia, as caffeine is a powerful stimulant. Consult a medical professional before pursuing an active kola nut addition to your dietary regimen.
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