The kola nuts belong to the family of trees referred to as Malvaceae made up of about 125 species. They grow abundantly in the Tropical Rainforests in Africa. The trees can grow as high as 65 feet . They are evergreen. Malvaceae also grow in the humid, tropical parts of the world. Furthermore, some species are cultivated in Brazil, Indonesia, and Jamaica.
Kola nuts have a bitter taste which necessitates getting used to. The biochemical contents are many. The highest content is caffeine. Small amounts of starch, and many other chemicals are also present. Kola nuts are reputed to possess fat burning property. Hence their use in some weight reduction pills.
The Uses of Kola nuts:
Kola nuts are chewed by individuals or in group setting for socialization. They are chewed mainly for their stimulating and euphoric properties. They are also chewed as an aphrodisiac. However, it is not uncommon for young, educated urban city dwellers to frown and look down on chewing kola nuts. They regard chewing kola nuts as a filthy habit since some species cause the teeth to stain red. Furthermore, chewers tend to spit excessively.
The stems of the trees are used in the building industry for houses, for building canoes which are used for fishing, for carving, and making furniture.
Soft Drinks and Wine Industry:
In Brazil, Indonesia, Jamaica, and West Africa, kola nuts are important component of some soft drinks and wine. In the early days of Coca Kola in the U.S. of America, cola nuts were important ingredients in the soft drink. Currently, cola nuts have been replaced by artificial tasting substances.
Some species of kola nuts are used as spices to enhance the taste of food. Kola nuts are also chewed as an appetizer before meals. It is also claimed that kola nuts have been used to purify drinking and cooking water.
In Africa, the pods of the kola nuts have been used for centuries to ease labor pain. Kola nuts are used to relieve hangover,diarrhea, and nausea. The bark of the tree and the seeds are dried, powdered separately, and springled on open wounds to enhance healing. The roots are chewed to clean the teeth and discourage bad breath. Kola nuts induce gastric juice secretion, hence they are chewed as appetizers before meals. Kola nuts have been used to treat asthma and hooping cough.
Chewing kola nuts have been known to raise body temperature, increase respiratory rate, and increase blood pressure. Frequent chewing of certain species of kola nuts causes the teeth to stain red. Moreover, frequent kola chewing is linked to oral cancer. Kola nut chewing also causes sleeplessness.
In West Africa, it is traditional to offer kola nuts to visitors and guests at parties as a form of good will. Kola nuts are also included in the package of dowry payment from the family of the groom to the family of the bride.
In West and East Africa, West Indies, particularly Jamaica, some South American countries, particularly Brazil, and Miami, Florida in the U.S. of America kola nuts are used in spiritual ceremonies. They are also used for divination and invocation of sprits.
Kola nuts provide good economy for the countries in which they are grown and cultivated.