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Glass bottle containing Kola Compound elixir, England, 1920-1950

The active ingredient in kola nuts is caffeine. Kola nuts are the seeds of the kola tree and are chewed in many African countries for their stimulating effects. These same effects have been used in clinical biomedicine, especially in relation to the heart and the nerves, an example of a similar treatment being used across different medical traditions. In this example, made by Parke, Davis & Co, kola nuts have been added to celery seeds and coca. Coca also has stimulating effects, whereas celery seeds were used as a sedative. The first cola soft drinks were made from kola nuts.

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Glossary: bottle

Vessels having a neck and mouth considerably narrower than the body, used for packaging and containing liquid and dry preparations

Glossary: caffeine

A mild stimulant that is found in tea and coffee. It is often included, in small doses, in pain relief preparations, and is claimed to increase its effects.

Glossary: sedative

Drugs used for their calming effect, to reduce anxiety and tension. At high doses they cause sleep.