There are numerous bitter kola health benefits, especially the seed. Garcinia kola has been consumed for years in Africa for various purposes.
This plant, called the “wonder plant” has various economic and health benefits. Though bitter kola has leaves, bark and other morphological parts, the seed is the most used part due to its higher nutritional and photochemical content.
Earlier this year, American rapper Meek Mill praised the impact of bitter kola and how it fixed his chronic stomach issues after two years.
Bitter kola is found mostly in West and Central Africa. Nigeria and Cameroon are the two major countries where many species of this plant are grown. Other countries such as Benin, Sierra Leone also have an abundant distribution of the plant.
*Note: Kola nut should not be confused with bitter kola. Bitter kola has more of phenolic compounds (flavonoids, saponins etc) and less of theobromine, caffeine than kola nut.
Content of Bitter Kola
The main nutrient of the bitter kola seed include moisture, crude fats, crude fibre, protein and nitrogen-free extracts (or carbohydrates). Moisture content is high and helps to preserve the kernel. The hull content is removed by peeling before chewing the seed.
Bitter kola health benefits can also be attributed to its several minerals and microelement content, especially potassium and phosphorus. There is also documented large value of vitamin C.
There is also a reasonable amount of other minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, and zinc.
Flavonoids are the major phytochemicals in the seed, but there are also considerable amounts of saponins, tannins, glycosides, and alkaloids.
Major Bitter Kola Health Benefits
There are many documented health benefits of taking bitter kola.
1. Antioxidant: The flavonoid content of bitter kola are natural antioxidant, protecting the central nervous system from oxidative stress. They help to eliminate free radicals from the body by converting them to harmless waste. Additionally, they help to strengthen the immune system.
2. GIT disorders: Tannins in the bitter kola is a good astringent. It is helpful in treating diarrhoea and dysentery.
3. Aphrodisiac: Chewing the seed is believed to increase libido and sexual performance in men.
4. Antimicrobial activity: Benzophenone in bitter kola such as kolanone, and flavonones have shown good inhibitory activity against both gram positive and gram-negative microorganisms e.g. Bacillus, Clostridium, Salmonella, Escherichia, Klebsiella,
Pseudomonas, Staphylococcus etc.
5. Respiratory infection: The seed is used in herbal formulation to treat cough, asthma and other chest discomfort.
6. Antidote to snake: This seed is used to scare away dangerous reptiles such as snakes.
7. Anti-Parasitic activity: Bitter kola has been found to inhibit Trypanosoma brucei responsible for African trypanosomiasis, also called sleeping sickness.
8. The seed has been used to treat measles and mumps in children.
9. Osteoarthritis: The anti-inflammatory action of the bioflavonoid has been used to treat osteoarthritis of the knee.
Furthermore, studies on anti-malarial activity of kola on laboratory mice yielded positive results. It suggests that bitter kola can potentially be used to treat malaria.
The anti-cancer activity of a flavonoid compound in bitter kola called kolaviron bioflavonoid complex (KV). This compound has been discovered to have anti-inflammatory, sedative, and anti-carcinogenic activity. It is still being studied for the use of treating multiple sclerosis, hepatocellular cancer. (Science Direct)
The KV is also believed to have anti-diabetic and anti-lipidemic effect.
Side Effect of Bitter Kola
For all the bitter kola health benefits, there are also some side effects which might not be favourable.
Consumption of a high dose of the plant can cause insomnia due to the presence of caffeine in the seed. The caffeine content is high, just as in kola nut, and is as much as two glasses of coffee.
Elevated blood pressure can occur as a result of the stimulant content of bitter kola.
Is bitter kola good for pregnancy
Bitter kola is good for women, even pregnant women. Small quantity is recommended as large doses are not good for the uterus in women. The seed can help to curb nausea and vomiting in pregnancy.
Bitter kola interacts with medications:
A study suggests that bitter kola may reduce the effect of quinine. There are concerns that taking bitter kola with medications can render some drugs ineffective.
Though there is limited research and literature about the interaction of bitter kola with drugs, It is strongly advised to avoid taking bitter kola with medications. Always consult your doctor about any supplement you want to take while you are on any medication.