What Are The Health Benefits of Bitter Kola

Bitter kola (also known as Garcinia kola) is cultivated from a flowering plant that is native to subtropical or tropical regions of Africa.

The benefits of bitter kola are wide ranging, as it has been used traditionally to treat a wide variety of ailments by African medicine men.

Most of the plant parts can be used for medicinal purposes, but the nuts are the most commonly eaten part. And considering that I’m always on the lookout for natural ways to improve my health, I decided to give bitter kola a try myself.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised with my experience so far using it, and I wanted to share with everyone some of the fantastic bitter kola benefits that I’ve since learned can be gained once it’s added into your health regimen.

Here’s 10 of the absolute best benefits of bitter kola there are:

Bitter Kola Can Improve Your Lung Function

While bitter kola has been used to successfully treat the common cold and its associated symptoms for centuries, it’s only been fairly recently that researchers have been able to figure out how exactly it does so.

A study conducted in 2009 in the Internet Journal of Pulmonary Medicine concluded that bitter kola improved the respiratory function of mice after 28 days of usage. [1]https://www.medicalworldnigeria.com/2016/09/health-benefits-of-bitter-kola#.Wh_867YZPq0

The study found that bitter kola is able to dilate the alveolar ducts and sacs within the lungs by strengthening the fibers in the lung tissue. This in turn leads to healthier overall lung functioning and is a large part of why bitter kola is so effective at treating cold symptoms.

It’s believed that the reason bitter kola has such a beneficial effect on the lungs is due to its potent antioxidant content, which leads us directly into the next point.

Bitter Kola Is An Excellent Source of Antioxidants

Bitter kola gains many of its tremendous health benefits thanks to its high antioxidant content.

The phytochemical that has been extracted from the bitter kola seed is known as kolaviron, a Garcinia bioflavonoid. [2]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3138040/

Kolaviron contains many properties that are essential for optimal health. It contains antioxidant, antidiabetic, antigenotoxic, and hepatoprotective properties. What this means in basic terms is that bitter kola is extremely useful when it comes to protecting your cells from oxidative damage.

Our bodies are bombarded with external stressors on an ongoing, daily basis. This causes the formation of harmful free radicals that cause oxidative damage, which in turn can lead to inflammation and the development of several types of chronic diseases. [3]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3614697/

Antioxidants play a vital role in defending against the damage caused by these free radicals, which in turn directly helps to boost your immune system and protect your body from disease.

Bitter Kola Can Assist With the Treatment of HIV

Unfortunately, the prevalence of HIV in many African nations is still incredibly high.

In 2016 alone, there was 19.4 million people living with the virus, with 790,000 new infections and 420,000 deaths related to AIDS. [4]Statistics courtesy of Avert https://www.avert.org/professionals/hiv-around-world/sub-saharan-africa/overview

Many traditional medicine men in these affected regions have long used bitter kola as a form of treatment for HIV.

Well, it turns out they may have been on to something.

The HIV virus produces free radicals that have been extensively linked with tissue damage. From the point above, we know how important antioxidants are when it comes to defending against free radical damage. Research has revealed that a deficiency in antioxidants has been found to lead to a more rapid progression of the HIV disease.

To counter this effect, researchers have been increasingly looking into vitamins A, C, and E as supportive treatment for HIV patients in an effort to suppress viral loads and helping to restore immune function. [5]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11364752

Bitter Kola Can Help Relieve Pain From Arthritis

What Are The Health Benefits of Bitter Kola

Taking bitter kola is a highly effective way in which you can lower inflammation within your body.

The antioxidant kolaviron is responsible for this — it contains potent anti-inflammatory properties. [6]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26812784

Along with harmful free radicals, inflammation is one of the leading causes of chronic diseases. The two are intricately linked — the oxidative damage caused by the free radicals contributes to inflammation in your body, which in turn contributes to the development of diseases like cancer and diabetes. [7]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3492709/

An added side benefit of bitter kola lowering inflammation is that it’s also quite useful when it comes to relieving the pain caused by arthritis. It helps to reduce the inflammation, swelling, joint pain, and even helps with increasing movement around the joints.

Bitter Kola Is An Effective Cold Remedy

The antioxidant benefits of bitter kola seemingly go on and on.

I’ll be honest — this point here is the main reason I started taking bitter kola myself. It seems like every year without fail, I catch a nasty cold when the winter months come along.

Bitter kola is an incredibly effective remedy for conditions like bronchitis, cough, cold, and headaches. There’s two reasons for this: the antioxidant content and the antimicrobial properties. Both of these factors combine to make bitter kola an excellent all-natural remedy for when you’re feeling a little bit under the weather. [8]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22728354

Bitter Kola Can Assist Your Weight Loss Efforts

Bitter kola is known to be quite useful as an appetite suppressant.

It’s also capable of stimulating thirst, encouraging an increased consumption of water. And of course, if you’re drinking more water throughout the day, you’ll also naturally be boosting your metabolism as well. [9]https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/88/12/6015/2661518

These two factors combine to make bitter kola a useful tool to include in your repertoire if you’re focusing on losing any unwanted pounds. It’s the only new supplement that I’ve added recently and the combination of reduced hunger levels and increased water intake have actually helped me to lose a few pounds in the last week alone!

Bitter Kola Can Improve Male Sexual Health

The bitter kola seed has some incredibly beneficial properties when it comes to the sexual and reproductive health of men.

These benefits are again due to the kolaviron content of the nut, which has been shown to boost prostate health, along with increasing sperm quality and quantity. [As noted in the following two studies: [10]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23581499 and [11]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22027498]

The increased sperm counts help to promote male fertility, which can be useful for those of you out there looking into adding a little one to your family.

Not only that, but bitter kola can actually help to boost libido in men as well. It’s a potent aphrodisiac and studies have shown it can actually temporarily boost testosterone levels. [12]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26123866

Bitter Kola Can Help Treat & Prevent Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a condition that affects the eyes, causing your optic nerves to weaken over time, potentially leading to partial or complete blindness.

The disease progresses quite rapidly, and if left untreated, can lead to loss of vision within only a few years. [13]https://www.webmd.com/eye-health/glaucoma-eyes#1

One of the leading causes of glaucoma is a buildup of pressure in the eye. This increased pressure, known as intraocular pressure, is what causes the damage to the optic nerve.

That’s where bitter kola comes into play, as it’s been shown to be capable of reducing eye pressure. An extract of Garcinia kola 0.5% aqueous eye drops were tested in patients with primary open-angle glaucoma. The results were very interesting indeed — they found that the bitter kola solution significantly reduced intraocular pressure. [14]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2880381/

More research definitely needs to be done, but as it stands, it looks like bitter kola could soon surpass cannabis as an effective all-natural remedy for glaucoma.

Bitter Kola Can Be Used to Treat Malaria Symptoms

Another one of the traditional uses of bitter kola in Africa is as a remedy for malaria symptoms.

Malaria remains a lethal threat on the continent, as in 2015, Africa alone had 90% of global deaths attributed to the disease. [15]Statistics courtesy of WHO http://www.afro.who.int/health-topics/malaria

Nearly half of the world’s population is at risk of the life threatening disease, despite the fact that it’s both completely preventable and curable.

Bitter kola has been found to be one form of effective treatment for the symptoms of malaria. It again all comes down to the antioxidant properties of the plant, as kolaviron possesses anti-malarial properties and can help protect against plasmodium infection. [16]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26129936

Bitter Kola Can Help Balance Blood Sugar Levels

Bitter kola isn’t just useful for treating malaria.

It can also be effective for individuals who have type 2 diabetes as a means of keeping their blood glucose levels stable.

Studies have found that the seeds from the plant are capable of reducing elevated blood glucose levels. This makes it ideal for both treatment of type 2 diabetes as well as for any complications that can arise from the condition. [17]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25243878

In addition to that, studies performed on rats who had type 1 diabetes found that bitter kola could actually prevent the cognitive and motor dysfunction that is typically associated with the disease. [18]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28889733

Possible Side Effects Associated With Bitter Kola

For the most part, consuming bitter kola nuts is completely safe.

I personally haven’t experienced any sort of side effects or anything like that with eating bitter kola.  As with any form of natural supplement or remedy however, you should definitely consult with your family doctor before use.

With that being said, there have been reports of certain side effects that can occur due to bitter kola usage. As bitter kola does contain caffeine and can affect the central nervous system, most of the negative effects are felt by individuals who are sensitive to caffeine in general.

The most common side effects associated with bitter kola include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Insomnia
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Hives

If you experience symptoms such as hives or any other sign of an allergic reaction, you should immediately stop taking bitter kola and consult with your doctor.

Where To Find Bitter Kola

As bitter kola is only now beginning to gain more popularity outside of Africa, it can still be somewhat tough to find on store shelves.

A friend of mine gave me some when I first gave it a try, and since then I’ve looked to the web to purchase my own supply.

Since I’m taking bitter kola mainly for overall health and preventative purposes (their antioxidant content is fantastic!), I prefer to just buy the nuts in bulk. You can even make a nice tea out of them!

I personally buy them directly from Amazon . You can typically buy them in either 0.5 or 1 lb packages.

Last update on 2018-02-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


It’s funny how modern science is really only now catching up and understanding how truly beneficial certain foods really are when it comes to health and disease prevention.

Things like bitter kola have been used as natural remedies for centuries but it’s only been recently that we have a solid understanding of how and why it works.

This is especially true as more and more evidence is pointing to the role that inflammation plays in many types of chronic disease. And as inflammation is commonly linked with oxidative damage caused by free radicals, the importance of eating a diet that’s rich in antioxidant-containing foods can’t be stressed enough.

So with that in mind, I highly recommend that you give bitter kola a try. Let me know down in the comments below if you’ve tried it before, and please feel free to share the article with all of your family and friends!

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About the author

Heather Carson

Heather Carson

1 Comment

  • I have been using it my self and it’s perfect, and I have it in abundance in Ghana which I can supply u.if u are interested.

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