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Thursday, August 10, 2017

THE TRADITIONAL VALUE AND HEALTH BENEFITS OF THE KOLA NUT


The Kola-nut serves both traditional values and health benefits in Africa

The Kola-nut serves both traditional values and health benefits in Africa



The kola nut has a very important place in the in many African traditions. It is the edible seed of the kola tree and commercially produced in Central and West Africa. It contains caffeine, and its extract is used in the production of many beverages. Originally it was part of the Coca-Cola formula, but not anymore.


The botanical names of the kola nut are cola nitida and cola accuminata. Both crops have great cultural relevance, particularly to people in eastern Nigeria. Kola nut is used to offer prayers to God. A popular belief says that “who brings kola nut brings life.”

The kola nut is a symbol of hospitality. People “apologise greatly if you have no kola nut to give to a visitor in your house,” reports Chief Obibuenyi M.O. Muoedu. He adds that women do not break kola nuts when men are present. “It is a big offence to do so.” Some soothsayers and traditional healers pray with the kola nut, break it and predict the future from the pieces.

Kola nuts are part of most spiritual gatherings; even Christian pastors pray over the seeds to start a ceremony. “Had Jesus come to eastern Nigeria, he would have used kola nut and palm wine in place of bread and wine during his last supper.” According to the International Journal of Science and Nature, kola nuts have been an “item of domestic and trans-Saharan trade for over eight centuries”.

Lately, the kola nut price has been rising fast in Nigeria. It currently costs five times more than one year ago. Retailers claim the high price is due to poor harvests because of climate change. Pests may also be a reason. These days, many people cannot afford kola nuts and only buy this seed for weddings, funerals and traditional ceremonies.

The kola nut is an international trade commodity. According to the Integrated Kolanut Producers, Marketers and Exporters Association of Nigeria (IKPMEAN), Nigeria accounts for 70 % of world output. The statistics are poor, however. 

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) assumes that two-thirds of the West African production stay in this world region. Export demand, however, can reduce the kola-nut supply in West Africa.

As the demand for this commodity is increasing, adequate research is necessary. The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) based in Ibadan, Nigeria, studies local crops, including kola nuts. More institutes should be established in the tropics to ensure an adequate supply of traditional crops.


By Muoedu Emmanuel Uzondu is a soil scientist and agriculturist based in Nkpor/Anambra State, Nigeria.



THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF KOLA NUT


You may be surprised to learn that the kola nut (aka kola-nut) is the origin of the word “cola,” and the tree on which it grows is believed among some Nigerian tribes to be the first tree on earth. This nut is how the first cola recipe received its caffeine kick -- along with real coca leaves

No wonder people thought it was “medicinal.” Today, your typical cola recipe uses an artificial flavoring plus added caffeine, but you can still find real kola nuts being used in higher end sodas, in products like energy bars, and as a natural medicinal remedy. 



Related topic: HOW AFRICANS SURVIVED ON TRADITIONAL MEDICINE


The Neem tree

The kola nut, also know as cola acuminate, is a caffeine-rich nut that is native to tropical Africa. In these regions, the nut is considered a symbol of hospitality and kindness. Though nearly tasteless on their own, kola nuts are often chewed before meals to help promote digestion and to help counteract possible ill effects from tainted drinking water.

Kola nut is a stimulant in its own right, containing 1.5% - 2% caffeine, plus theobromine, which increases cerebral circulation. Theobromine is the alkaloid compound that can be found in chocolate and is thought to contribute a sense of alertness and well-being. This combination of caffeine and theobromine may be a contributing factor for the mild sense of euphoria that’s often reported after chewing the nuts.

In addition to being a stimulant, kola nut can help increase oxygen levels in the blood and promote better concentration and a “clearing” of the head. Kola nut also serves to "drive" other herbs into the blood. It is why you will see this ingredient used in Jon Barron’s tinctures -- to help increase the effect of the entire formula, such as his Men's Formula and Women's Formula.

The kola nut may also help prevent and fight infections. Research published in the 2004 edition of “Phytotherapy Research” showed that kola nut was effective at reducing the growth and development of members of the Mycobacterium species, the bacteria responsible for illnesses such as meningitis and tuberculosis.

One of the oldest medicinal uses for the kola nut is to use it as a natural remedy for chest colds. And modern research has shown that it is effective in this regard. The kola nut helps by enlarging the alveolar ducts and sacs (small air bags in the lungs where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged with the blood), as well as by improving the strength of the fibers in the lung tissue.



More health benefits: THE PALM TREE: THE SUBSISTENCE OF LIFE IN AFRICA


The palm tree with fruits

                                           The palm tree


Kola nuts may even offer a natural weight loss benefit. In a study published in the Nigerian Journal of Physiological Sciences, it was found that steady intake of kola nut by rats can actually reduce food intake, and therefore body weight, without altering water intake. This is thought to be due to the caffeine in the nuts reducing the rats' appetites. 

Other studies have found that intake of kola nut can increase the body's metabolic rate by as much as 118%. Kola nut extracts also contain nonsteroidal plant compounds that have the ability to induce death of cancerous prostate cells and may modulate prostate growth and function.

Kola nuts are often ground into a powder. Because the whole nut stores caffeine much better than the powder form, it is recommended that the nut is ground right before use or preserved in tincture form. Kola nut powder can be added to coffee to increase the caffeine content, and can also be drunk in tea. The powder is also sometimes taken in capsule form.



Source: Baseline of Health Foundation

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