Kola nut

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Kola Nut (Cola) is the nut of the kola tree, a genus of trees native to the tropical rainforests of Africa, classified in the family Malvaceae, subfamily Sterculioideae (or treated in the separate family Sterculiaceae). It is related to the South American genus Theobroma, or cocoa. It is an evergreen tree, growing up to 20 m tall (about 60 feet), with glossy ovoid leaves up to 30 cm long and star shaped fruit.[1]

Contents

Uses

The kola nut has a bitter flavor and contains caffeine. It is chewed in many West African cultures, individually or in a group setting. It is often used ceremonially, presented to tribal chiefs or presented to guests.[2] It is preferred among African Muslims, who are forbidden to drink alcohol. Chewing kola nut can ease hunger pangs. Frequent chewing of the kola nut can also lead to stained teeth. Among the urban youth of West Africa, kola nut is becoming less popular.

Outside mainland Africa, some species are cultivated for their nuts in Brazil, Jamaica and elsewhere in the humid tropics.

Kola nuts are often used to treat whooping cough and asthma. The caffeine present acts as a bronchodilator, expanding the bronchial air passages.

Kola nuts are perhaps best known to Western culture as a flavouring ingredient and one of the sources of caffeine in cola and other similarly flavoured beverages.[3]

Pharmacological effects

Kola nuts contain about 2 percent to 3.5 percent caffeine, are of bitter flavor, and are commonly used in cola soft drinks, such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi. They have effects similar to other xanthine-containing plant products such as chocolate, tea, coffee, guarana and yerba mate. They have stimulant effects on the central nervous system and heart. Animal experiments indicate that kola nuts have analeptic and lipolytic (fat-burning) properties, and stimulate the secretion of gastric juices. Human studies show kola nuts have positive chronotropic and weak diuretic effects. In humans it enhances alertness and physical energy, elevates mood, increases tactile sensitivity and suppresses the appetite. Autonomic changes include increased body temperature, increased blood pressure and increased respiratory rate. Effects may last up to 6 hours after ingestion. In medicine the refined extract is used as a cardiac and central-nervous-system stimulant.[4]

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