By THOMAS CHRISTY, F.L.S.
I introduced the Kola Nut (Sterculia acuminata) into England about eight years since, and it has lately been subjected to European analysis, (See "New Commercial Plants," Nos. iii and vi.) and the results obtained made it exceedingly likely that a large European demand will soon exist. It has been found to contain the same active principle, viz., caffeine, and more of it than the best coffee, and to contain also the same active principle as cacao, but less fatty matter. Possessing the same qualities as these favorite beverages, it only needs proper treatment to develop a special flavor, and it would then probably be able to compete successfully with those beverages. The nuts are used to form a refreshing and invigorating drink throughout a large portion of tropical Africa, their use being said to support the strength, allay inordinate appetite, assuage thirst, and promote digestion, and to render those using them capable of prolonged fatigue. The negroes prefer them to tea or coffee, and when they can obtain Kola nuts, will not touch coffee. Dr. Daniell says of them: "It would be difficult to find any product which constitutes such an important article of commerce in Soudan as the Kola nut." Wherever the negro has been transplanted to a foreign country he has taken the Kola nut with him.
As a medium of exchange for the products of Central Africa no article could be more advantageous, and on this account alone the tree will well repay cultivation. Moreover, if once introduced as a beverage in civilized countries, the demand for it would soon become enormous.
I have recently been informed by Mr. Espeut, a well-known sugar planter of Jamaica, that the negroes use the Kola nut as a remedy for drunkenness; that swallowing a single nut, ground up and made into cream or paste with water or spirit, no sign of intoxication remains half-an-hour afterwards.
Confirmatory evidence of this property in the Kola nut is given by a surgeon, Mr. Papefio, who tells me that alcoholic drinks do not produce intoxicating effects when the Kola nut is eaten at the same time.
It appears, therefore, that the craving for drink, which is such a strong incentive to drunkenness, may be subdued by the use of this valuable stimulant and tonic, as after chewing Kola nut great disinclination is felt to all forms of alcohol It has also been found to possess a beneficial action on the liver, its continual use preventing attacks of despondency to which negroes are peculiarly liable. Dr. Daniell records a case of this kind, in which the Kola nut put a stop to an epidemic of suicidal mania, which threatened at one time to depopulate the estate on which it occurred.
It is also used by the natives when in a low state of health, suffering from the skin cracking and peeling on the hands and feet.
I have just received from a native gentleman on the west coast of Africa a fair quantity of fruit in splendid order, as fresh as if just gathered from the tree.
Planters will be able to send them off for seed at once to their estates.
Some have been sent to the leading medical men in London for further experiment, and I am endeavoring to ascertain the best plan of preserving their medicinal properties.—Chemists' Journal.
The American Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. 55, 1883, was edited by John M. Maisch.