Bitter Kola (also known as the Kola Nut) is popular in Nigeria.
Let’s face it – it’s little surprise.
After all, Bitter Kola is unique with its bitter and sweet taste.
The Kola Nut has been used for centuries in Nigerian folk medicine as a treatment for colds, coughs, throat infections and other ailments.
But what makes this special nut a favorite of Nigerians across the world is that it is a potent stimulant.
Bitter Kola has two main properties.
In simple terms, this means that taking Bitter Kola would have a similar effect on you as drinking coca cola, tea, coffee or any other caffeinated product. In actual fact, Kola nut was once used as part of the recipe for Pepsi Cola!
The problem though is that we have always been told that there are little or no side effects of consuming Bitter Kola. Is this true?
The answer is no. Both Caffeine and Theombromine have been shown to cause side effects such as tremors, anxiety, insomnia and frequent urination.
Like most things in life, experts suggest that Bitter Kola is ok to consume in moderation. Excess use may lead to the above side effects.
Pregnant women need to take care of their diet and health more than everyone else. Therefore, it’s little surprise they’re asking: Is Bitter Kola safe during pregnancy? Can a pregnant woman take Bitter Kola?
These are all important questions because there is little information available on the side effects of Bitter Kola on pregnant women.
The problem with Bitter Kola for pregnant women is the caffeine content that we talked about above.
Caffeine can lead to changes in a baby’s movement and sleep pattern. You may be able to handle such caffeine but the baby may struggle.
Various animal based studies have suggested that caffeine is the cause of side effects such as low weight at birth, premature labour and birth defects.
According to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) for pregnant women:
“you should should limit the amount of caffeine you have to 200 milligrams (mg) a day”.
But can you take Bitter Kola and keep under the 200 milligrams daily caffeine limit recommended by the UK’s NHS? The NHS suggests that one mug of instant coffee is equal to 100mg of caffeine.
Here’s the bad news for pregnant women: one Kola Nut has more caffeine than two large cups of coffee!
According to George Burdock’s article on Kola Nuts from the Food and Chemical Toxicology journal:
“The Kola Nut’s primary social and economic significance lies in its being a very concentrated source of the central nervous systems (CNS) stimulant, caffeine, with one nut containing more caffeine than two large cups of American coffee”
What the above means is that Bitter Kola and pregnancy do not go hand in hand as even one nut contains more caffeine than the recommended daily amount of caffeine for pregnant women.
If you don’t believe me, listen to the advice of the American Herbal Products Association which includes C. Nitada (the plant which produces Bitter Kola) on its list of herbs that might cause irritation to the GI tract, that might induce nervous system stimulation and that should not be used in pregnancy unless otherwise directed by a suitably qualified expert.
There are other options for pregnant women who want a moderate stimulant without the negative side effects of Bitter Kola.
Try decaffeinated tea and coffee or, even better, stick to fruit juices and water.
By the way, thanks for reading this article and feel free to check out our piece on drinking palm wine during pregnancy.