Cola Nut - Or the Origin of the Second Word in "Coca Cola"
I was pleasantly surprised to find Cola Nuts being sold by some of the local groundnut & peanut vendors. In the manner of a good host in Cameroon I immediately stocked up on Cola Nuts in order be able to serve my peers appropriately. And maybe also to observe the faces and grimaces of the people trying Cola Nut for the first time – the fruity thing is quite bitter, after all.
Well, it turns out that in Madagascar, the nut is known for different properties than in Cameroon. Or maybe, they are the same properties, just interpreted differently: Here, Cola Nuts are chewed in order to increase the sexual proficiency. While that spells tough times for the expansion of Viagra pills into Madagascar, the guy walking around and offering Cola Nuts is also quite out of luck.
As a lazy scientist, this prompted me to do some short research on Wikipedia, and it turns out that Cola Nut was indeed used to provide the caffeine in early Coke and was the namesake for the second word in the now omnipresent brand.
However, this little gem of information does not answer our question for the uses of Cola Nut. The chemical composition listed on Wikipedia is: Caffeine, Theobromine, Theophylline, Phlobaphens, Epicatechin, D-Catechin, tannic acid, sugar, cellulose, and water.
We all know that Caffeine is the mother lode of all alchemistic ingredients, so I don’t think I have to discuss that here, but move on to the other ingredients.
Theobromine what makes Chocolate dark and tasty, and as the Greek name already says, it’s “Food of the gods”. It does help to widen the blood vessels, aids urination and is a heart stimulant. Therefore it is used to treat high blood pressure and other circulatory problems, and it has even been patented for medical use in cancer prevention.
Theophylline is used for the therapy of respiratory diseases like COPD and asthma, increases heart muscle contractility and efficiency, and helps prevent sleep – so basically, it is similar to caffeine as well.
Phlobaphene colours the nut red, and does not have any human biological activities.
Epicatechin & D-Catechins are also found in dark chocolate and protects the (mouse) brain before and after a stroke, and the catechins in general are therapeutic candidates to prevent the cognitive decline caused by HIV.
Tannic acid has been used as a treatment for many toxic substances, such as mushroom poisonings in the past and is still consumed to medicate bleeding, diarrhoea, dysentery, bloody urine, coughs, and seemingly even cancer. Tannic acid is also used to produce anti-histamins and anti-tussives, and is also used in anti-allergen sprays.
Cellullose is just indigestible plant-stuff, dietary fiber.
Taken together, it the Cola nut is just like dark chocolate with caffeine – a nice bitter snack with good health benefits. Maybe I should start a business with Cola Nuts, and then stating that the Malagasy use it to increase sexual activity certainly won’t hurt ;-)