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Caffeine is a drug that stimulates the central nervous system (CNS). Caffeine is found naturally in coffee, Kola seed kernels or nuts (Cola nidtida), and a variety of teas. Other foods and beverages, such as chocolate and soft drinks, also contain caffeine, and the drug can be purchased in over-the-counter tablet and capsule form (No Doz, Overtime, Pep-Back, Quick-Pep, Caffedrine, and Vivarin). Some prescription pain relievers, medicines for migraine headaches, and antihistamines also contain caffeine.
Caffeine makes people more alert, less drowsy, and improves coordination. It is sometimes included in athletes' diets to improve physical performance. In addition, one recent study found that older people who were given a cup of caffeinated coffee in the morning had fewer late-day memory problems than those who were given decaffeinated coffee. Combined with certain pain relievers or medicines for treating migraine headache, caffeine makes those drugs work more quickly and effectively. Caffeine alone can also help relieve headaches. Antihistamines are sometimes combined with caffeine to counteract the drowsiness caused by those drugs. Caffeine is also sometimes used to treat other conditions, including breathing problems in newborns and in young babies after surgery.
Kola can be prepared in decoction or tincture form. To prepare a decoction, mix 1-2 tsp of powdered kola nut in a cup of water. After bringing the water to a boil, simmer the decoction on low heat for 10-15 minutes. Tinctures of kola nut can be purchased at many health food stores or mail order suppliers. A tincture is an herbal preparation made by diluting the herb in alcohol, glycerin, or vinegar. Dosage of kola tincture varies by formula and the symptoms or illness it is supposed to treat, but an average recommended dosage might be 1-4 ml three times daily. Powdered kola nut and kola tinctures should be stored in airtight containers away from direct light to maintain potency.
For over-the-counter caffeine preparations, adults and children age 12 years and older should take 100-200 mg no more than every 3-4 hours. In timed-release form, the dose is 200-250 mg once a day. Timed-release forms should not be taken less than 6 hours before bedtime. Caffeine pills or tablets are typically not recommended for children under 12 years of age.
Author Info: Paula Ford-Martin, Rebecca J. Frey PhD, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, 2005
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