STEERING clear from stress is almost impossible in today’s high-pressure society. Before resorting to prescription drugs, bitter kola may be an option worth trying out.

Interestingly, a study comparing the invigorating effect of bitter kola and kola nut found bitter kola a better option to reduce the feelings of stress and anxiety without having to visit the doctor’s clinic.

Researchers found that both contain antioxidant and thus have the potential for scavenging free radicals, hence arresting oxidative stress. However, extracts of bitter kola were seen to be more potent than that of kola nut.

Antioxidants are compounds that counteract the damaging effects of free radicals. Free radicals, products of normal cell processes, can wreak havoc in their quest to hook up with other molecules, which could be lipids, protein, or DNA.

The free radicals’ actions can damage the molecules they react with, sometimes destroying them. This process is known as oxidative stress or oxidative damage.

Antioxidants help to protect joints, blood vessels, eyes and the brain, in addition to helping slow the aging process, both internally and externally.

Humans, and all animals, have complex antioxidant defense systems, but they are not perfect in fending off stress; oxidative damage will occur. So, foods like apples, bitter kola and other fruits and vegetables, rich in antioxidants, may be especially helpful in warding off these diseases.

The 2017 study was documented in the Journal of Medicinal Plants Research. It was entitled “Comparative studies on the possible antioxidant properties of ethanolic seed extracts of Cola nitida (kola nut) and Garcinia kola (bitter kola) on hydrogen peroxide-induced oxidative stress in rats.”

Stress can cause anxiety, depression, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Often, people resort to medications that promote calming effects in dealing with anxiety. However, these calming effects are temporary and unwanted side effects may occur.

The antioxidant properties of ethanol extracts of kola nut and bitter kola were tested in Wistar albino rats made to develop stress. Blood samples of the animals were collected and used for biochemical tests.

Conversely, the treatment with extracts of both kola nut and bitter kola shows a remarkable increase in blood level of vitamin C level, suggesting that these extract may contain natural vitamins C which is potent anti-oxidant. But, the antioxidant effect of vitamin C was also noticed to be more in bitter kola than kola nut.

“This finding indicated that the extracts could contain antioxidant and thus have the potential for scavenging free radicals, hence arresting oxidative stress. This may justify their local use in the management of some liver disorders and stress-related conditions,” they declared.

Kola nut is effective for refreshing the mouth due to their unique bitter taste, and the twigs are used in pharmaceutical preparations. Traditionally, the leaves, flowers, twigs, fruit follicles, and bark of kola nut tree are used to prepare a tonic as a remedy for dysentery, coughs, diarrhoea, vomiting and chest complaints.

Conversely, bitter is usually used to treat throat infections, cough, and stomach upset. Recently, its applicability as an adaptogen (rejuvenating, stimulating and/ or anti-stress agent) has been reported.

The seed has been shown to help organisms to adapt to stress by influencing multiple regulatory systems responsible for stimulus-response coupling such as the immune system. It is also a potent remedy for liver disorders and hepatitis, as well as an aphrodisiac and fertility-enhancing substance.

A professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Toxicology, Ebenezer Farombi at College of Medicine, Ibadan, stated that taking two bitter kola nuts a day is able to ensure the body has enough kolaviron, its main constituent, which keeps many diseases away.

According to Farombi “its intrinsic antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties will prevent any disease that has oxidative stress and inflammation as an undertone.”

Moreover, the toxicology expert advised on regular intake of bitter kola to counteract the negative effects of many heavy metals in the environmental pollutants.

Environmental pollutants both in the air and through foods, oil spillage, gas flaring and indiscriminate use of pesticides and herbicides had been implicated in many diseases, including cancers.

Meanwhile, many herbs and spices have some of the highest antioxidant content. These include black pepper, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, holy basil, and turmeric. Cloves showed the highest level of antioxidant content of all spices.


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