August 28, 2020

If you haven’t heard much about bitter kola, you wouldn’t be the only one. Of all the superfoods out there – from quinoa to chia seeds, goji berries to avocado – bitter kola is one of the lesser-known. But if you’ve never tried bitter kola yourself, you’re seriously missing out. 

While you’re unlikely to find bitter kola stocked to the max in your local supermarket, it’s worth sourcing out. And just because you’ve never actively bought it before doesn’t mean you’ve never tried it, as it’s often used as a flavouring for sodas. Don’t think that bitter kola is unhealthy for that reason, though, as it certainly is.

In case you’re wondering, bitter kola is a type of nut, and is often used in supplement form for boosting energy levels and overall health and wellbeing. It’s derived from the evergreen kola tree, which is a native African plant species. In its homeland, bitter kola has been used for centuries for medicinal purposes, and some cultures even see it as symbolic. There are plenty of reasons why you should celebrate bitter kola yourself – and everything you need to know is coming right up. 

1. Supports healthy digestion

Digestive issues are incredibly common – about as common as a cold, maybe even more so. Whether you’re struggling with bloating, constipation, gas or abdominal pain, treating the problem naturally is usually the best course of action.


Bitter kola has been used for years as a digestive aid, because it is thought to promote the production of gastric acid, which supports the digestive enzymes in the stomach. Because of this, the body can more easily and thoroughly break down food, ensuring healthy digestion. 

2. Improves circulation

We all need oxygen to survive – it’s one of the most basic things we learn in biology. Oxygen is essential for the proper functioning of our whole bodies, from the internal organs to the extremities and brain. 

Bitter kola can improve oxygenation by increasing circulation of blood

According to research, adding bitter kola in your diet can improve blog circulation around the body, enabling improved oxygenation. An improved circulation can reduce the risk of heart disease, keep skin healthy and younger-looking, and improve the functioning of the brain.


Oxygenation also helps cells to more effectively repair themselves, promoting faster wound healing and helping to maintain brain health into old age. It’s no wonder that bitter kola can impact your overall health, knowing this information. 

3. Boosts metabolism

Bitter kola is a great source of caffeine. While we don’t need too much caffeine (or we’d be bouncing off the walls), when it’s consumed in moderation, caffeine can raise metabolism by around 10%, speeding up fat burn. Caffeine is also well-known for its ability to offer an energy hit, and it does this by stimulating the heart to pump blood around the body at a faster rate. If you have a slow metabolism, research suggests that supplementing with bitter kola can improve your metabolism and even your heart health in the long run. 

4. Inhibits harmful bacteria

Bitter Kola has antibacterial benefits

Though research into the antibacterial benefits of bitter kola is still fairly new, one study shows promise, suggesting that the kola nut may be able to prevent harmful bacteria from growing and accumulating in the body. According to the study, bitter kola is capable of inhibiting several different strains of bacteria, and may have both antibacterial and chemotherapeutic potential. It’ll be interesting to hear more about this in the future. 

5. Reduces prostate cancer risk

One fascinating bitter kola study looks at how this tree nut may decrease the risk of prostate cancer. Bitter kola contains compounds called phytoestrogens, which have shown promise in killing cancer cells, preventing these cells from being able to multiply and form cancerous tumours in the prostate. While this evidence so far is promising, more studies are needed before we can definitively say that bitter kola makes for an effective cancer treatment. 

6. Supports weight loss

Evidence supports the idea that adding bitter kola to your diet, as well as exercising frequently and reducing your calorie intake, can help you to burn calories faster and lose weight at a faster rate. There are two ways that bitter kola can help you to shed pounds: first, the high caffeine content of this nut can supress appetite and make you feel fuller for longer; and second, bitter kola’s fat-burning properties help to speed up metabolism and promote calorie burn. 

Bitter kola aids in digestion

By consuming bitter kola regularly, you’ll be able to reduce your food intake as you simply won’t feel hungry as frequently. Try adding some bitter kola to your breakfast if you find yourself reaching for the unhealthy stuff a couple of hours before lunchtime. 

7. Increases energy levels

We already know that bitter kola is a fantastic source of caffeine, which is great for getting you out of that mid-afternoon slump at work. If you’re the sort of person who can’t function without caffeine, skip the morning cup of joe and consider bitter kola to help you stay awake and alert throughout the day.


Caffeine can increase the release of adrenaline, which speeds up your heart beat and results in increased blood flow around the body, producing an energy spike. No matter what daily activities you have in place, consuming bitter kola with your breakfast should help you to stay attentive and productive from morning to evening. 

12 Amazing Health Benefits of Bitter Kola You Need to Know

8. Relives osteoarthritis symptoms

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common degenerative diseases around the world. It’s characterised by pain and inflammation of the joints and currently doesn’t have a cure, requiring lifelong treatment to keep symptoms at bay. 

Anti inflammatory benefits of bitter kola are used to treat osteoarthritis

Those who have suffered with osteoarthritis over several years may experience issues with movement and discomfort. Promisingly, there are many natural remedies emerging when it comes to effectively treating osteoarthritis from home.


Thank to its potent anti-inflammatory properties, bitter kola has proved itself in a number of studies to reduce and even relieve common osteoarthritis symptoms, including inflammation, pain, and restricted movement of the joints. 

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9. Reduces glaucoma risk

Glaucoma is caused by nerve damage to the eye, and, in severe cases, can result in blindness. This nerve damage is usually caused by a gradual increase of pressure behind the eye. One study on bitter kola found that this humble nut, when included in eye drops, can reduce the eye pressure that leads to glaucoma when used on a twice-daily basis.


More research is needed to determine why exactly this happens, but it’s theorized that the caffeine in bitter kola may have something to do with it. Though eye drops were considered the best solution, the study also noted that bitter kola oral supplements can also relieve stress on the eyes.

10. Improves migraine symptoms

Caffeine content of bitter kola can help decrease migraine pain

Most of us have experienced migraines before – they’re debilitating headaches that can result in nausea, sickness, and a strong aversion to light. Though migraines are more common in children and teenagers, many adults are chronic migraine sufferers, too.


If you want to avoid over-the-counter medication for migraines, bitter kola has shown promise as a natural migraine treatment. The high caffeine content of the nut is thought to help somewhat. Because migraines usually affect the blood vessels in the head, and caffeine has “vasoconstrictive” properties that cause the blood vessels to narrow and restrict blood flow, it’s thought that it can lessen migraine pain.


It’s worth being aware, though, that being exposed to caffeine on a daily basis may result in the brain building up a tolerance to the compound, so if you’re a migraine sufferer, limit your caffeine use and only take bitter kola when necessary. 

11. Increases sexual desire     

Despite the stigma that surrounds it, sexual dysfunction is a very common problem. It’s understandable if you don’t want to seek help from a doctor, and research suggests that supplementing with bitter kola may prove so effective that you don’t need to.


In several recent studies, men who took bitter kola supplements every day found that they had an increased sex drive and an improved sexual performance. Most researchers put this down to bitter kola’s ability to speed up blood flow around the body, which offers natural aphrodisiac effects.

12. Improves asthma symptoms

Bitter kola strengthens lung tissues and manage asthma symptoms

As we know, bitter kola is an anti-inflammatory agent, and is effective in treating physical inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. The anti-inflammatory properties of bitter kola also makes it an effective treatment for people who suffer from asthma, a respiratory condition that’s characterised by wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath.


For years, bitter kola has been used to manage common asthma symptoms, and it’s thought that chewing on the nut can strengthen lung tissues, helping to maintain the respiratory tract. In people with good lung health, bitter kola can be useful in treating infections and chesty colds when they arise. 

Conclusion

If you’re keen to give bitter kola a go, take a look around your local area to see if it’s available, and where. Check marketplaces that sell ethnic foods, as you’re much more likely to find bitter kola here than in your local supermarket. To know what you’re looking for, bitter kola is around the size of a chestnut. 

Market places selling ethnic foods

As you’d guess by the name, bitter kola has a slightly bitter taste that takes some getting used to. The longer you chew bitter kola, the sweeter it gets. You may enjoy it raw, but many people roast it and added it to spice mixes or savoury dishes.

For an even easier alternative, if you’re not very adventurous when it comes to trying new foods, pay a visit to your local health store and look for bitter kola supplements. The most common supplement forms of bitter kola are syrups and capsules, and you can usually get a lot for your money. Shop online to get the best deals – just make sure to read reviews carefully before making a purchase.

It’s easy to see why bitter kola is starting to become a more common natural health food, and, chances are, these nuts are going to make a name for themselves in the future. Though it’s still early days when it comes to the research conducted on the health benefits of bitter kola, it’s clear to see that it’s a budding superfood to look out for. 

About the author

Rachel Perono

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