At home in the tropical regions of West Africa, the Kola tree is a relative of the Cocoa tree, which can grow up to a stately height of 65 m. The nuts are arranged in seed pods similar to those of cacao. Everybody has heard of Kola, yet few are aware of it. Kola in fact contributed the stimulating action of its seeds to the original Coca Cola recipe, though today all natural substances have been removed and replaced by artificial ingredients. Thus, today all there is left of Kola in the famous beverage is half of the name. In West Africa, Kola enjoys a much revered status as a sacred plant. 'Kola brings life' is a common saying in West Africa where Kola nuts are ceremonially shared as a sign of peace and honour, to welcome friends or strangers, to seal agreements and even to seek favour with the family of one's bride to be. These customs are particularly common among the tribal people, but e.g. in Nigeria the ceremonial sharing of Kola nuts is a respected sign of peace and concordance at all levels of society.
Kola nuts are rich in caffeine and are used for their stimulating effect, e.g. in cases of mental or physical exhaustion, mental strain while studying, or as an energy booster. They also suppress feelings of hunger and thirst and may be used as a diet aid. In West Africa, Kola nuts are used as a digestive aid. A little piece of nut chewed before the meal is not only said to improve digestion but also makes the meal taste better. It may help allay headaches and migraines and has diuretic and astringent properties.
Kola nuts can be used to enhance concentration and mental clarity during long rituals and meditation. They can energise prayers or spells. Kola nuts are generally considered as a bringer of peace and may help reaching a decision or agreement among a group of people. It also has a reputation as an aphrodisiac, probably thanks to its energy boosting effect.