If you're even the slightest bit interested in health and nutrition, then you probably have come across the benefits of certain nuts for certain people. Although some people suffer from very serious nut allergies, those who are able to consume nuts should do so as consistently and safely as possible. Kola nuts are a type of nut that is worth adding to your diet plan. However, it's important to first know how to eat one properly.

What Are Kola Nuts?

Kola nuts – also spelled "cola" – come from the Cola acuminata and Cola nitidat trees, which are evergreen trees that are native to the tropical rain forests of Africa, primarily west Africa. They can be found extensively throughout Nigeria, where the kola nut is an important part of the country's traditions and that of individual tribes. A guest may present a kola nut to a host as a sign of hospitality.

For a long time, the kola nut was used as the main ingredient in Coca-Cola, as it's a caffeine-infused nut, but that has not been the case for many decades. Instead, today the nut's primary use is for herbal medicine, not just in Africa but around the world. It contains theobromine as well as nutrients like potassium, magnesium and calcium.

The Health Benefits of a Kola Nut

Today, kola nuts are known for their incredible health benefits. Due to the caffeine inside of the nut, many of the benefits are similar to the benefits of coffee or other healthy drinks with caffeine, like tea. These include:

  • A boost in your metabolism
  • Help with digestion
  • An increase in energy
  • Aids in circulation
  • Kills bacteria

However, there are more benefits to the kola nut that are worth examining. Keep in mind that you should always consult your doctor before incorporating the kola nut into your diet. The kola nut is known for:

  • Helping to minimize the risk of prostate cancer
  • Helping to reduce the effect of migraines
  • Helping to open airways for people with asthma or other breathing problems

Though there needs to be more studies to prove the effects, the kola nut is also said to help with:

  • Depression
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Dysentery
  • Diarrhea
  • Anorexia
  • Weight loss

The Misinterpreted Benefit of Bitter Kola in Pregnancy

Most soon-to-be mothers will do anything they can to ensure they'll have a healthy pregnancy. Since the kola nut has so many benefits for ordinary people, many think that it will help with pregnancy, including the relationship between bitter kola and female fertility. Though it can be OK in small doses (again, you must ask your doctor), too much of it can be harmful due to the caffeine. The line between a safe amount and too much is very close.

In fact, in Nigeria – where, throughout history, many women have used the kola nut during and after their pregnancies – there have been recent warnings by doctors regarding pregnant women and kola nuts. Based on these warnings, it's simply best to avoid kola nuts if you're pregnant or nursing, as the caffeine can be harmful to the baby.

What Does a Kola Nut Taste Like?

Kola nuts look like chestnuts and have a similar texture as well. They have a really bitter taste – similar to the cocoa bean, which tastes nothing like chocolate – but it becomes sweeter as you chew it.

Where to Buy Kola Nuts

Before you can even think of the different ways to consume kola nuts, you will have to know where you can go to buy them. Unless you're in Nigeria or other parts of west Africa, kola nuts are not particularly easy to come by.

These days, one of the easiest ways to buy kola nut supplements is online or in a store that sells vitamins and supplements, like GNC. If you buy them in a bottle like this, they will be a little different than the actual nut, coming in a pill-like or liquid form, and you can follow the instructions on the bottle to safely consume it.

Believe it or not, you can buy the actual kola nuts online too. You can also try to visit an international or special African grocery store to find them. Keep in mind that if you buy them this way, they will likely be more expensive than if you were to buy them in Nigeria. However, getting nuts through customs can be difficult, so that would be the best way to do it.

Eating Kola Nuts

After consulting your doctor, if you decide that incorporating kola nuts into your diet is something you want to try, there are several ways to consume kola nuts. If you don't buy them in a bottle as a nutritional supplement, then you can eat the actual nut either by chewing it or boiling it in tea.

How to Chew Kola Nuts

To chew kola nuts, you will first need to break the seeds out of their star-shaped shell, or pod. Crack the pod by placing a knife on top of the nut on its flat side. Hold it steady with one hand and push down on the knife with the heel of the palm of your other hand. Then, chew on the seeds but do not swallow them.

How to Drink Kola Nut Powder

The other way to consume kola nuts is by grinding the nuts into a powder, which can be placed in a liquid that you can drink. After following the first step for chewing kola nuts, put the nuts into a pestle.

Using the pestle, beat the nuts until they are turned into a fine powder, which should have a brown, nutty color. You can then put 1 teaspoon of the powder into coffee, tea or even water. You can also mix it with water, lime and/or honey. This will enhance the effects.

Combining Kola Nuts and Guarana

Guarana is a fruit that's native to Brazil and has seeds that give a similar effect as kola nuts. Some people like to mix these two herbs together to have a stronger effect.

Side Effects of the Kola Nut

Though kola nuts certainly have a lot of health benefits, it's important to be aware of the various risks and side effects, which vary from one person to the next. For instance, while kola can help blood pressure problems in some individuals, it can actually make it worse in others. First and foremost, the major risks that can happen are hives, an upset stomach and perhaps even some problems with breathing. Of course, the risks are more pertinent to those who already have medical conditions or are pregnant.

Additionally, there are common side effects with kola nuts. Because of the caffeine, these side effects are in line with that of caffeine and other caffeinated beverages. They can lead to insomnia or sleeping problems, so it's best not to consume them before bed. They can make you jittery as well as nauseous and increase your blood pressure. So, if this is something with which you already have issues, it may be best to avoid kola nuts.

Lastly, you should also be careful about using kola nuts with other drugs or herbal medicines you may be taking. For instance, it's not good to mix kola with anti-depressants, anxiety medications, alcohol, etc. Whether or not you're already taking any of these medications, be sure to ask your doctor before consuming kola nuts.

About the Author

Hana LaRock

Hana LaRock is a freelance content writer from New York, currently living in Mexico. When she's not writing, she enjoys traveling, reading, scrapbooking, and cooking new recipes as well as recipes from places that she has traveled. Visit her website at www.hanalarockwriting.com.