Scientific Names of Cola Nut:    

Cola nitida A. Chev. , C. acuminata Schott & Endl. and related species [Fam. Sterculiaceae]


Powdered cotyledon tea; Alcohol extracts of cotyledon

Traditional Usage:    

– Anorexia
– Central Nervous System Stimulant
– Diarrhea
– Diuretic
– Dysentry
– Exhaustion
– Fatigue
– Headaches
– Melancholy
– Mental Fatigue
– Migraine
– Muscular Weakness
– Poultice
– Stomachaches
– Vascular Disorders


Cola nuts, Cola nitida A. Chev. , C. acuminata Schott & Endl. and related species [Fam. Sterculiaceae], are the fruit of a tree native to West Africa popularly used around the world today in soda drinks like Coca Cola, particularly valued for their stimulant effects. Cola is related to cocoa and contains the same methylxanthine stimulant alkaloids including caffeine, found in coffee, tea, cocoa and mate. For thousands of years, West Africans have traditionally chewed cola nuts for their stimulant effects. Similar to the use of Echinacea root by First Nation’s peoples, cola nuts were chewed on long journeys as an appetite and thirst suppressant, especially by soldieries. The German Commission E recommends cola nut for treating mental and physical fatigue and melancholy. In medicine, methylxanthines including caffeine, theophylline and theobromine, are used to treat pre-term apnea, chronic obstructive vascular disease, and especially acute breathing disorders. However, those with breathing disorders must use caffeine and other methylxanthines very judiciously because 3-10 grams can be lethal. Pharmacological studies show that methylxanthines relax bronchial smooth muscle, stimulate the central nervous system and cardiac muscle and are also diuretic. Caffeine is also sometimes used with analgesics to accelerate their pain-relieving effects, similar to how Ephedra is used in Chinese medicine to deliver and potentiate other herbal active ingredients. Xanthines are also known to stimulate gastric acid secretion and therefore shouldn’t be consumed in quantity by peptic ulcer patients. A related cola species, Cola attiensis, was found to be active against a visceral Leishmania isolate at a concentration of 50 micrograms/ml or less. Occurring most commonly in tropical America but also with increased frequency in AIDS patients, visceral leishmaniasis caused by Leishmania chagasi, an intracellular protozoon, is a long-lasting infectious disease characterized by weight loss, cough, fever, diarrhea, liver damage and lethargy.

Active Ingredients:    

Cola nut contains: Caffeine (0.6-3.0%), theobromine (up to 0.1%), other xanthine alkaloids, condensed catechin tannins, betaine, cellulose, enzymes, fat, fibre, starch, a glucoside, gum, protein, proanthocyanidins and anthocyanins including cyanidin and sugars.

Suggested Amount:    

Powdered cotyledons are recommended at the dosage of 1-3 grams or by decoction three times daily. The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia recommends the liquid extract (1:1 in 60% alcohol) at the dosage of 0.6-1.2ml, while the tincture of Cola (1:5 in 60% alcohol) is recommended at the dosage of 1-4ml. Alternatively, a supplemental volume to the German Pharmacopoeias, 6th edition recommends: the dry extract taken at the dosage of 0.25 -0.75 grams; fluidextract: 2.5-7.5ml; Tincture: 10-30ml and Cola wine: 60-180ml.

Drug Interactions:    

Cola strengthens the action of analgesics and other psychoactive drugs and caffeine-containing beverages.


Cola is contraindicated for persons with hypertension, cardiac disorders, gastric ulcers and duodenal ulcers. Pregnant and lactating women should also avoid the consumption of cola and other caffeine-containing beverages and foods due to reports of an association between birth defects and caffeine consumption, although there are conflicting reports documented on this topic.

Side Effects:    

Side effects of cola include sleeplessness or insomnia, anxiety, tremor, nervous restlessness, palpitations and withdrawal headaches. Cola can also cause gastric irritations in susceptible persons.


Atawodi SE, Mende P, Pfundstein B, Preussmann R, Spiegelhalder B. 1995. Nitrosatable amines and nitrosamide formation in natural stimulants: Cola acuminata, C. nitida and Garcinia cola. Food Chem Toxicol. 1995 Aug; 33(8): 625-30.

Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J 2000. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Copyright American Botanical Council. Publ. by Integrative Medicine Communications, 1029 Chestnut Street, Newton, MA 02464. Pp. 72-74.

Ibu JO, Iyama AC, Ijije CT, Ishmael D, Ibeshi M, Nwokediuko S. 1986. The effect of cola acuminata and cola nitida on gastric acid secretion. Scand J Gastroenterol Suppl. 1986; 124: 39-45.

Iwu MM, Jackson JE, Tally JD, Klayman DL. 1992. Evaluation of plant extracts for antileishmanial activity using a mechanism-based radiorespirometric microtechnique (RAM). Planta Med. 1992 Oct; 58(5): 436-41.

Newall CA, Anderson LA, and Phillipson JD. 1996. Herbal Medicines. A Guide for Health Care Professionals. The Pharmaceutical Press, London, pp. 84.