Bitter kola is a type of tree found in the rain forests of west Africa.1 The term “bitter kola” typically refers to the plant by the scientific name of Garcinia kola, but the term is sometimes used to refer to other plants in the same genus, including Garcinia cambogia or Garcinia gummi-gutta, species that are also known as brindle berry.2 The Garcinia kola plant is considered a threatened species, but it remains to be an important trade product in areas of Nigeria.1,3 The fruit, nut, bark, and seeds of the bitter kola plant have long been used in folk medicine and are said to have incredible health benefits.1
Bitter Kola Uses and Health Benefits
Bitter kola benefits range from the ability to improve lung function to the ability to reduce eye pressure. Medicinal properties of bitter kola include antimicrobial, antiparasitic, and purgative properties as well as antiviral and anti-inflammatory benefits.4 The plant has been used as a chewing stick and is believed to help relieve symptoms of liver disorders, colic, bronchitis, and throat infections.4 Other reported bitter kola uses include for:
- Arthritis - Research shows that osteoarthritis patients taking bitter kola saw a significant reduction in pain compared to the control and placebo groups thanks to its anti-inflammatory effects. More research is needed to determine the ideal dose of bitter kola for arthritis patients.
- Common Cold - Among bitter cola uses, it’s believed to help fight the common head and chest cold.
- Cough - Along with cold relief, bitter kola benefits individuals with cough symptoms.
- Diarrhea - Bitter kola is said to help treat symptoms of diarrhea.
- Malaria - The bitter kola herb may help in fighting malaria.
- Weight Loss (Lose Weight) - Some studies suggest that weight loss is among bitter kola side effects. It may be considered by patients trying to lose weight, though it’s best to talk to your doctor first to see if it’s an ideal solution for you.
Bitter Kola Side Effects and Precautions
More research is needed on the properties and effects of bitter kola, so it’s best to proceed with caution. Always talk to your doctor about other herbs and medications you’re taking before starting on an herbal remedy to ensure interactions won’t occur. Never add herbal home remedies to your diet when pregnant or breastfeeding before consulting your physician first. Potential bitter kola side effects may include diarrhea, hives, or irregular heartbeat as well as signs of allergic reaction.