Cola Nut

A genus of about 125 species of evergreen, tropical African trees. Cola has been used for centuries as a masticatory in Africa, being exported from the western tropics into arid regions via camel traders, who chewed the seeds to maintain alertness on long, monotonous journeys. Though bitter at first, seeds have the after-effect of making other foods and drinks taste sweet. Cola nuts are important in social ceremony in Africa, S America, and Asia, and are often chewed before meals to aid digestion. Cola nuts contain up to 1.25-2.4 percent caffeine (3.5 percent in C. nitida), some theobromine, and "cola-red", a pigment that dyes the mouth and teeth; obtained from various species, including C. acuminata (Abata cola), C. anomala (Bamenda cola), C. nitida (gbanja cola), and C. verticillata (Owé cola). Trees fruit at 12-15 years old, producing 10-16kg (22-35lbs) annually until 70-100 years old, and are often planted as shade trees for cocoa. The name Cola probably comes from kolo, the Mandingo name for the plant. "Cola" is now a household name for cola-flavored soft drinks.

Grown in western Africa, the West Indies, Brazil, and Java, cola nuts are high in caffeine and traditionally are chewed or used in ground or extract form to fight fatigue and enhance mental alertness. Cola nuts have also been used as an aphrodisiac, an appetite suppressant, and a treatment for migraines, morning sickness, and indigestion. In 1898 North Carolina pharmacist Caleb D. Bradham created a beverage made of cola nut extract, carbonated water, sugar, vanilla, oils, and pepsin, and called it Brad's Drink, later changing its name to Pepsi-Cola and securing the trademark.

Evergreen tree with glossy, pointed, oblanceolate leaves, 7-30cm (3-12in) long. Five-lobed cream flowers, about 3cm (1¼in) across, usually with purple-red markings inside, are followed by compound fruits, to 17cm (7in) long, containing up to 10 seeds ("nuts"), 4-5cm (1½-2in) long.

Common Name:
Cola Nut
Other Names:
Bissy Nut, Caffeine Nut, Cola, Cola Seeds, Gbanja Cola, Goora Nut, Guru Nut, Kola, Kola Nut, Kola Seeds, Kola Tree
Botanical Name:
Cola nitida syn. C. vera, Cola acuminata
Native Location:
W Africa
Rich, well-drained soil in sun.
By seed sown when ripe at 20-24°C (68-75°F); by hardwood cuttings in sand at 21-24°C (70-75°F)
Seeds are taken from ripe fruits and used fresh or dried for liquid extracts, powder, tablets, and tinctures.
20m (70ft)
10-17m (30-55ft)
Min. 13-15°C (55-59°F)
Kola nut—popularly known as cola today—is internationally renowned as the primary ingredient in cola drinks, most notably Coca-Cola™ and Pepsi™. For centuries, however, native people used kola nut as a stimulant and digestive aid and to combat headaches and exhaustion. Indigenous to Africa, Brazil, and the Caribbean, the kola nut traveled on slave ships to the United States—where it was enthusiastically adopted by American settlers as a remedy for depression and an antidote for fatigue. Caffeine—kola nut's primary ingredient—is responsible for much of the herb's stimulating effects. (Theobromine, a secondary ingredient, also has mild stimulating and digestive actions.) By the mid-1800s, American pharmacists commonly sold extracts of kola nut, especially in the South, and as one apocryphal tale has is, a Georgia pharmacist named John Pemberton brewed the very first batch of Coca-Cola™. Pemberton allegedly combined kola nut and coca (Erythroxylum coca, from which cocaine is extracted) with sugar and carbonated water—a very potent brew indeed! And an illegal one today. There is no cocaine in any commercial cola drink, but kola nut is still a primary ingredient. The "caffeine kick" kola nut delivers (40 mg of caffeine in one can of soda) is less than half that of a brewed cup of coffee (100 mg of caffeine), but it's still a substantial jolt—as anyone who has tried to kick the cola habit can testify to.
Parts Used:
An astringent, bitter-sweet, anti-depressant herb that has a stimulant effect, especially on the heart.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally, in tonics, for exhaustion, low energy, and poor appetite; also for diarrhea. Not given to patients with hypertension, palpitations, or peptic ulcers. Chewed fresh or made into a hot drink as an energy and digestive stimulant in countries of origin.
To treat inflammation and wounds; to suppress hunger; to reduce physical and mental fatigue; to prevent migraine and morning sickness. Germany's Commission E has approved the use of cola nut to treat lack of stamina.
Kola nut has antidepressant, digestive, diuretic, stimulant, and tonic properties. It is taken internally as a stimulant and to treat asthma (in children), diarrhea, fatigue, headaches, poor appetite, low energy, migraines, and upset stomach.
Kola nut is available as dried, powdered seeds and in capsules, cola drinks, liquid extracts, and tinctures. To make a tea, pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of powdered seeds and steep for 5 minutes. Drink 1 cup a day.
Typical Dose:
A typical dose of cola nut may range from 2 to 6 gm per day.
Kola nut has a mildly stimulating effect on the heart. If you have heart disease, consult your practitioner before taking kola nut. Do not take the herb if you have high blood pressure, or if you have been advised to avoid caffeine. Overconsumption of kola nut may cause insomnia, indigestion, irritability, jitteriness, moodiness, and stomach cramps.
Possible Side Effects:
Cola nut's side effects include insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, gastric irritation, and nausea
Drug Interactions:
Taking cola with these drugs may have an unpredicatable effect on blood sugar levels:
Acarbose, (Prandase, Precose)
Acetohexamide, (Acetohexamide)
Chlorpropamide, (Diabinese, Novo-Propamide)
Glicalzide, (Diamicron, Novo-Gliclazide)
Glimepiride, (Amaryl)
Glipizide, (Glucotrol)
Glipizide and Metformin, (Metaglip)
Gliquidone, (Beglynor, Glurenorm)
Glyburide, (DiaBeta, Micronase)
Glyburide and Metformin, (Glucovance)
Insulin, (Humulin, Novolin R)
Metformin, (Glucophage, Riomet)
Miglitol, (Glyset)
Nateglinide, (Starlix)
Pioglitazone, (Actos)
Repaglinide, (GlucoNorm, Prandin)
Rosiglitazone, (Avandia)
Rosiglitazone and Metformin, (Avandamet)
Tolazamide, (Tolinase)
Tolbutamide, (Apo-Tolbutamide, Tol-Tab)
Taking cola with these drugs may increase the risk of side effects due to a buildup of caffeine in the body:
Cimetidine, (Nu-Cimet, Tagamet)
Cinoxacin, (Cinobac)
Ciprofloxacin, (Ciloxan, Cipro)
Disulfiram, (Antabuse)
Ephedrine, (Pretz-D)
Ergotamine, (Cafergor, Cafergot)
Estrogens (Conjugated A/synthetic), (Cenestin)
Estrogens (Conjugated/Equine), (Congest, Premarin)
Estrogens (Conjugated Equine) and Medroxyprogesterone, (Premphase, Prempro)
Estrogens (Esterified), (Estratab, Menest)
Estrogens (Esterified) and Methyltestosterone, (Estratest, Estratest H.S.)
Ethinyl Estradiol and Desogestrel, (Cyclessa, Ortho-Cept)
Ethinyl Estradiol and Ethynodiol Diacetate, (Demulen, Zovia)
Ethinyl Estradiol and Etonogestrel, (NuvaRing)
Ethinyl Estradiol and Levonorgestrel, (Alesse, Triphasil)
Ethinyl Estradiol and Norelgestromin, (Evra, Ortho Evra)
Ethinyl Estradiol and Norethindrone, (Brevicon, Ortho-Novum)
Ethinyl Estradiol and Norgestimate, (Cyclen, Ortho Tri-Cyclen)
Ethinyl Estradiol and Norgestrel, (Cryselle, Ovral)
Fluconazole, (Apo-Fluconazole, Diflucan)
Fluvoxamine, (Alti-Fluvoxamine, Luvox)
Gatifloxacin, (Tequin, Zymar)
Gemifloxacin, (Factive)
Levofloxacin, (Levaquin, Qiuxin)
Lomefloxacin, (Maxaquin)
Mestranol and Norethindrone, (Necon 1/50, Ortho-Novum 1/50)
Mexiletine, (Mextil, Novo-Mexiletine)
Moxifloxacin, (Avelox, Vigamox)
Nalidixic Acid, (NegGram)
Norfloxacin, (Apo-Norflox, Noroxin)
Ofloxacin, (Floxin, Ocuflox)
Pefloxacin, (Peflacine, Perflox)
Riluzole, (Rilutek)
Sparfloxacin, (Zagam)
Terbinafine, (Lamisil, Lamisil AT)
Trovafloxacin, (Trovafloxacin)
Verapamil, (Calan, Isoptin SR)
Taking large amounts of cola with these drugs may increase the risk of hypertension (high blood pressure):
Ephedrine, (Pretz-D)
Iproniazid, (Marsilid)
Moclobemide, (Alti-Moclobemide, Nu-Moclobemide)
Phenelzine, (Nardil)
Selegiline, (Eldepryl)
Tranylcypromine, (Parnate)
Taking cola with these drugs may increase central nervous system stimulation:
Albuterol, (Proventil, Ventolin)
Clobenzorex, (Asenlix)
Diethylpropion, (Tenuate)
Epinephrine, (Adrenalin, EpiPen)
Fenoterol, (Berotec)
Modafinil, (Alertec, Provigil)
Phentermine, (Adipex-P, Ionamin)
Pseudoephedrine, (Dimetapp Decongestant, Sudafed)
Taking cola with thses drugs may cause or increase gastrointestinal irritation:
Celecoxib, (Celebrex)
Ibuprofen, (Advil, Motrin)
Indomethacin, (Indocin, Novo-Methacin)
Ketoprofen, (Orudis, Rhodis)
Ketorolac, (Acular, Toradol)
Naproxen, (Aleve, Naprosyn)
Piroxicam, (Feldene, Nu-Pirox)
Rofecoxib, (Vioxx)
Taking cola with these drugs may interfere with the absorption of the drug:
Alendronate, (Novo-Alendronate, Fosamax)
Amitriptyline, (Elavil, Levate)
Amitriptyline and Chlordiazepoxide, (Limbitrol)
Amitriptyline and Perphenazine, (Etrafon, Triavil)
Amoxapine, (Asendin)
Chlorpromazine, (Largactil, Thorazine)
Clomipramine, (Anafranil, Novo-Clopramine)
Desipramine, (Alti-Desipramine, Norpramin)
Doxepin, (Sinequan, Zonalon)
Fluphenazine, (Modecate, Prolixin)
Imipramine, (Apo-Imipramine, Tofranil)
Lofepramine, (Feprapax, Gamanil)
Melitracen, (Dixeran)
Mesoridazine, (Serentil)
Nortriptyline, (Aventyl HCl, Pamelor)
Perphenazine, (Apo-Perphenazine, Trilafon)
Prochlorperazine, (Compazine, Compro)
Promethazine, (Phenergan)
Protriptyline, (Vivactil)
Thiethylperazine, (Torecan)
Thioridazine, (Mellaril)
Thiothixene, (Navane)
Trifluoperazine, (Novo-Trifluzine, Stelazine)
Trimipramine, (Apo-Trimip, Surmontil)
Taking Cola with these drugs may be harmful:
Alendronate, (Fosamax, Novo-Alendronate)—May reduce drug effectiveness
Clozapine, (Clozaril, Gen-Clozapine)—May cause increased psychotic symptoms
Dipyridamole, (Novo-Dipiradol, Persantine)—May reduce drug effectiveness
Ergotamine, (Cafergor, Cafergot)—May increase drug absorption
Etodolac, (Lodine, Utradol)—May increase risk of liver damage
Lithium, (Carbolith, Eskalith)—May cause drug levels in the body to rise, heightening "lithium tremor", when high amounts of caffeine are taken over time and suddenly stopped.
Riluzole, (Rilutek)—Increases risk of drug side effects
Selegiline, (Eldepryl)—May increase risk of arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
Theophylline, (Elixophyllin, Theochron)—May increase toxic effects of the drug
Lab Test Alterations:
  • May increase urine 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid concentrations.
  • May increase urine catecholamine concentrations.
  • May increase bleeding time due to antiplatelet activity.
  • May increase plasma catecholamine levels
  • May increase urine creatine levels.
  • May alter test results with dipyridamole thallium imaging studies.
  • May increase or decrease blood glucose levels
  • may increase blood lactate levels when combined with ephedrine (a constituent of Ma-Huang).
  • May cause a false positive diagnosis of neuro-blastoma, when diagnosis is based on tests of urine vanillylmandelic acid (VMA) or catecholamine concentrations, because caffeine can increase both of these.
  • May alter results of pulmonary function tests, including forced expiratory volume at one minue (FEV1) and midexpiratory flow rates.
  • May increase serum urate test results determined by the Bittner method.
  • May increase urinary calcium levels.
  • May increase urine vanillylmandelic acid (VMA) concentrations.
  • May increase two-hour postprandial glucose test if caffeine is ingested during test.
  • May cause a false positive diagnosis of pheochromocytoma, when diagnosis is based on tests of urine vanillylmandelic acid (VMA) or catecholine concentrations, because caffeine can increase both of these.
Disease Interactions:
  • May worsen anxiety disorders.
  • May worsen bleeding disorders.
  • May trigger irregular heartbeat.
  • May worsen gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), irritable bowel syndrome, and ulcers.
  • May contribute to insulin resistance and raise blood sugar following a meal.
  • May play a role in glaucoma by increasing the intraocular pressure ("eye pressure").
  • May raise blood pressure in those with hypertension.
  • May contribute to osteoporosis by encouraging the body to excrete calcium.
Supplement Interactions:
  • May increase therapeutic and adverse effects of caffeine when taken with herbs and supplements containing caffeine, such as Cola nut, Guarana, and Maté.
  • May increase urinary calcium excretion.
  • Increased risk of serious life-threatening or debilitating effects, such as low blood pressure (hypotension), heart attack (myocardial infarction), stroke, seizures, and death when used< with Ma-Huang.
  • Increased risk of ischemic stroke when combined with Ma-Huang and Creatine.
  • Possible decreasesd beneficial effects of creatine on athletic performance due to inhibition of phosphocreatine resythesis.
Economic Uses:
Extracts added to soft drinks, baked products, and liqueurs.
Encyclopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright © 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited. pp 175-176
The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg,MD and Barry Fox,PhD Copyright©2007 Barry Fox,PhD. Pp. 111-114, 156-157
The Modern Herbal Primer by Nancy Burke Copyright©2000 Yankee Publishing, Inc. pp. 144-145