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Bissy, bissy, bissy
published: Wednesday | February 26, 2003

KOLA NUT (or bissy) extract is popularly used around the world in some soft drinks. Bissy (Cola acuminata, C. nitida) is native to Africa, and is cultivated extensively in the tropics, particularly in West Africa, West Indies, South America, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

The tree grows about 40-60 feet high, has yellow flowers, spotted with purple; the leaves are pointed at both ends. There are 125 species of this plant. Though it is called a "nut", the part of this plant consumed is the cotyledons of the fleshy seeds. When fresh it is nearly white but on drying it undergoes a fermentative change, turning reddish brown and losing much of its astringency. Fresh kola seeds have a bitterish, astringent taste, but this is lost during the drying, the dried seeds being almost odourless and tasteless.

Kola (or Cola) is related to cocoa and contains the same methylxanthine stimulant alkaloids including caffeine and theobromine, found in coffee, tea, cocoa and mate. Small and medium doses render one capable of warding off physical and mental depression and exhaustion. Large doses produce overstimulation, and thus tend to destroy the usefulness of the drug. Their consumption is not considered habit forming.

For thousands of years, West Africans have traditionally chewed cola nuts for their stimulant effects, as a necessity and a luxury. The kola nut has particular uses in the social life and religious customs of West Africa. It

was used as a declaration of war (red nut), and as a symbol of peace (white nut). It figured in courtship and marriage, compacts of friendship, as a mark of hospitality, and was put into the graves of the dead to nourish them on their long journey.

Primary constituents of fresh kola seeds include caffeine (0.6 to 3.0 per cent), theobromine (up to 0.1 per cent), other xanthine alkaloids, tannins, proanthocyanidins and anthocyanins such as "kola red". The phenolics and anthocyanins are likely to provide antioxidant activity. Specimens of African kola yielded more caffeine (2.24 per cent) than Jamaican kola (1.93 per cent).

The properties of kola are the same as caffeine, modified only by the astringents present. Fresh kola nuts have stimulant action apart from the caffeine content, but is often used for the stimulation caffeine supplies.

The action of kola has been compared to that of coffee and cocoa, but it differs even from these, and from that of the two principles-caffeine and theobromine-contained in it.


A small seed piece is chewed before each meal to promote digestion.

The powder is applied to cuts.

Used to treat fevers, malaria and in cases of dysentery; thought to trender putrid water palatable.

The masticated kola nut is used to allay hunger, prevent thirst, open the appetite, and sustain strength; as a stimulant. Kola is also a valuable nerve and heart tonic, and a good general tonic.

Also used in small doses for migraine, motion and morning sickness.

Bissy nut has been used to relieve inflammation in disorders such as rheumatism and gout. It has been administered in pneumonia and typhoid fever, when great nervous irritability was present. Also used to treat diarrhoea and as a diuretic.

In Jamaica the kola nut is used as an antidote against poison.

The tannic acid in the kola nuts helps to precipitate a number of toxins in the gut preventing their absorption. Grater the nut and pour on boiling water. Allow to cool, strain, drink. As dried powder 1-3g, two-three times daily, or as tea (1-3g in 15 ml water).

In another Jamaican recipe stems are placed overnight in a glass of clean water. The sap coming out of the base of the stem is then dropped in the eye as an eye drop.

The seeds can be used to make a reddish dye.Source:;

- Dr. Sylvia Mitchell, research fellow (Graduate School), Biotechnology Centre, University of the West Indies, Mona, email:smitchel@

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