Bitter Kola: Nutrition, Benefits, Uses, and Side Effects

Bitter Kola Nutrition, Benefits, Uses, and Side Effects

Bitter Kola also known as Garcinia kola, is a plant common in western and central Africa. Bitter kola is highly valued for its medicinal purposes. All parts of the plant are used for medicinal purposes, although the seeds are the ones commonly used and are the most popular parts of the plant. here we will discuss the Nutrition, Benefits, Uses, and Side Effects of Bitter Kola.

Bitter kola belongs to the Guttiferae family. Bitter kola is eaten raw and is commonly called Aku ilu in Igbo, Orogbo in Yoruba, and Namigin Gworo in Hausa. The bitter kola has a bitter taste when chewed which changes into a sweet taste afterwards.

The early productions of Coca-cola contained Bitter kola, hence, the similar name. However, the current production of this popular drink is no longer flavoured with actual Bitter kola.

In African traditional medicines, Bitter kola has been used for its antimicrobial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. It has been used to treat HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, Ebola and Diabetes. When Bitter kola is eaten in large quantities though, its harmful effects become evident.

Bitter kola is used as a symbol of welcome in most parts of Nigeria. It is also a core part of ceremonies during weddings. Some people in Nigeria and Africa believe that carrying and eating Bitter kola will chase away evil spirits.

Nutrition of Bitter kola

Bitter kola contains various nutrients that are beneficial to the body. Some of these nutrients include Vitamins A, C, E, B1, B2, B3, carbohydrates, fibre, protein, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, caffeine, and also other antioxidants.

Benefits of Bitter kola

Bitter kola has many benefits to man. Some of these benefits include:

1. Infection

Bitter kola helps to fight infections in the body. It can fight bacterial and viral infections, as well as cold, cough and even hepatitis. The antibacterial properties of Bitter kola were found to be due to bioactive compounds present in it. These include Saponins and tannins.

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2. Antimalarial properties

Bitter kola contains an antioxidant known as kolaviron, which is shown to have antimalarial properties. Traditional medicines healers have used Bitter kola in treating malaria for years.

Science now has research to back it up concerning the antimalarial properties of Bitter kola.

3. Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis refers to the breakdown of cartilage in joints. It is a degenerative disease and could make bones rub against each other, causing severe pain. The hip, spine and knee are the most affected joints.

Studies have shown that Bitter kola helps to reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis. It helps to reduce pain and inflammation in the joints. It also increases joint mobility.

4. Enhances sexual performance

Another benefit of Bitter kola is that it enhances sexual performance, especially in men. It boosts libido, sperm count, erection and ejaculation.

If one or two of the seeds is eaten at least two minutes before sexual intercourse, the man will be able to last longer in bed.

5. Weight loss

Bitter kola suppresses appetite and increases one’s thirst, which is a good combination when desiring weight loss. It also contains fibre like Agbalumo, another superfood ideal for weight loss. The fibre makes one feel full quickly and makes one avoid eating unnecessarily.

Being overweight and obese are leading causes of chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes, arthritis and stroke. Eating Bitter kola can also make one lose belly fat and prevent belly fat gain.

6. Healthy lungs

Bitter kola contains saponin which cleanses the lungs. It helps to protect the lung tissues and provides a healthy respiratory system. It expands the alveolar ducts and sacs and detoxifies the lungs.

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7. Diabetes

Bitter kola helps to reduce blood sugar. It contains fibre that makes one full quickly and prevents sugar spikes. This is a property of another superfood Bitter leaf. Bitter kola is ideal for those with diabetes mellitus as it reduces blood sugar when eaten.

8. Improves eye health

Another benefit of Bitter kola is that it improves eye health and prevents glaucoma. Glaucoma is an eye disease that can cause blindness.

The nerve of the eye is damaged due to high eye pressure. Application of eye drops of Bitter kola extract reduces intraocular eye pressure and ocular hypertension.

9. Anti poison

Bitter kola is used for treating food poisoning. When food poisoning is suspected, Bitter kola can be chewed. Bitter kola also detoxifies the body.

In the case of a snake bite or scorpion sting, eating eight pieces of Bitter kola instantly will neutralize the poison. Then more medical attention can be sought.

10. Pregnancy

Contrary to what people believe, Bitter kola actually helps during pregnancy. It relieves the pregnant woman of nausea and vomiting. It also makes the uterus healthy and provides overall strength for the mother.

Side effects of Bitter kola

1. High blood pressure

Blood pressure can be raised by consuming Bitter kola. It contains caffeine which may be a cause of this. Hence, someone with hypertension should steer clear of Bitter kola

2. Blood clotting

Bitter kola can interfere with the blood clotting mechanism of the body when consumed in large quantities. Blood clotting slows down and this may cause excessive bleeding. An individual going for surgery should avoid eating Bitter kola

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3. Pregnant women

Due to its high amount of caffeine, pregnant women are advised not to consume Bitter kola in large quantities. Caffeine can affect the baby in the womb by affecting its weight, activities, sleeping patterns and appetite. It could also affect the blood pressure of a pregnant woman by increasing it. More so, it can cause a miscarriage.

4. Anxiety

Individuals with anxiety need to avoid Bitter kola as it may worsen symptoms in people with anxiety. Excessive consumption of Bitter kola can cause sleep and anxiety disorders, increased hostility, and psychotic symptoms.

5. Bitter mouth

Bitter kola causes your mouth to be bitter and leaves a bitter aftertaste after consumption and after drinking water with it. Not many people find this palatable. A bitter mouth can make one lose appetite.

6. Headaches

Excessive consumption of Bitter kola can cause headaches. It makes one lose sleep due to its caffeine content. When one loses too much sleep, headaches may manifest.

7. Diarrhoea

Bitter kola can make one have diarrhoea or worsen an already existing case of diarrhoea.


Bitter kola is an important plant with various benefits. However, it must be consumed with caution and not excessively, so that one will not fall into its side effects.

Be moderate in your consumption, and consult your physician if you want to introduce a new food into your diet.

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