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Indigenous to Western Africa, the cola tree is cultivated today in many tropical climates, including Central and South America, the West Indies, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia. Cola nuts are actually seeds removed from their seed coats. Traditionally, they are chewed raw or taken in pulverized or liquid extract form. Of the various species of cola nuts, the two most commonly edible kinds are Cola acuminataand Cola nitida.
Cola contains caffeine and related chemicals, and for this reason is a stimulant. For thousands of years, people in Africa have chewed the seeds to enhance mental alertness and fight fatigue. Centuries ago, Arabs traded gold dust for cola nuts before starting out on long treks across the Sahara.
Cola nut has been used in folk medicine as an aphrodisiac and an appetite suppressant, and to treat morning sickness, migraine headache, and indigestion. It has also been applied directly to the skin to treat wounds and inflammation. The tree's bitter twig has been used as well, to clean the teeth and gums.
Germany's Commission E recommends the following daily dosage of cola: 2 to 6 g of cola nut, 0.25 to 0.75 g of cola extract, 2.5 to 7.5 g of cola liquid extract, 10 to 30 g of cola tincture, or 60 to 180 g of cola wine. 1
- Blumenthal M, ed. The Complete German Commission E Monographs, Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, Mass: Integrative Medicine Communications; 1998:113–114.