America runs on coffee, and as it turns out, there may be much more to this common beverage than just a nice energetic boost every morning. Coffee has been scrutinized in contemporary alternative and conventional medicine; even going back centuries in the history of Arabia and Islam, and more recently in Europe and North America. Before we lumped coffee with more potent and potentially dangerous compounds such as nicotine and alcohol, it was known to have many positive health benefits in its natural form. Negative judgments about coffee mostly come from the stimulating and habit-forming aspects of caffeine, a prominent component.
Health Benefits of Coffee
Despite some negative feedback, research over the last ten years has seen the development of scientific opinion on the wide range of health benefits of Caffea arabica. Experienced medical herbalist Paul Bergner published a wonderful medical review of coffee titled "A New Look at an Old Devil." (Mindy and I had the chance to meet him in person at the Pacific Northwest Herb Symposium this August!) According to Paul Bergner, the research has concluded that in its natural state, coffee possesses antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, cholagogue, hepatoprotective, neuroprotective, and antidepressant effects. Regular consumption has shown to reduce the incidence of cardiac-related issues and all-cause mortality when dosage is monitored. Believe it or not, coffee is the only herbal remedy which has proven to consistently extend life in epidemiological studies! It has also been proposed as a ‘functional food’ by the British Journal of Nutrition.
Adverse Effects of Coffee
Now, with all of the health benefits that come with coffee, the same rule of moderation still applies, and there are definitely some adverse effects to be aware of when drinking it regularly. For those of us who only occasionally enjoy a cup of "Joe", or for those who maybe like their coffee a little too often, caffeine may lead to insomnia especially if it is not expelled from the body before going to bed. Complete tolerance to the sleep-disrupting effects of caffeine can eventually develop, but it would require consuming very large doses. Caffeine causes some dependency, which can lead to discomfort if one were to suddenly lessen consumption. Along with moderation, adding fats to our coffee such as coconut oil, or cream helps to lessen the afternoon crash we may feel from caffeine. The fat acts as a buffer to the negative effects of this alkaloid.
The chronic effects of caffeine in coffee may meet the criteria of acute or chronic anxiety disorder. If you have ever felt shaky, overheated, with your heart beating around 50,000 mph (exaggeration, but that's what it really feels like!) after a strong cup of coffee, than you may have had a taste for the darker side of America's favorite beverage. It's always a great idea to start with a small cup first, and to listen to our bodies when there is any imbalance. No one knows us better than ourselves, so bringing a little more awareness to our dietary relationship can go a long way when it comes to all kinds of nourishment.
Herbal Additives & Alternatives
Spices or other herbs may be added to hot coffee, decocted or infused in already-brewed coffee. Some common herbs to add that may improve its medicinal value include: Clove, which helps to enhance the antioxidant effects; Cinnamon is recommended to increase antidiabetic effects as well as antioxidation and a pleasant warming effect; Burdock enhances the beneficial effects of both herbs on skin and liver; Nettle acts as a strong diuretic herbal additive and adds nutritional content to coffee. Cardamom and Ginger add a warming quality to coffee as well as benefits for digestion. Chinese peony, when added, enhances the calming effects of coffee, helping to balance the powerful energetic properties. Many of the medicinal mushrooms, Ashwagandha , and other roots such as Dandelion or Chicory make wonderful additions as well. We recommend experimenting by adding your favorite herbs and spices to coffee to create a beverage tailored more specifically to your health and well-being.
For those of us who crave the rejuvenating taste of a coffee in the morning, but wish to avoid the caffeine, there are some great herbal alternatives. Dragon Herbarium now offers an all organic Herbal Coffee blend mixed with love and medicine by Mountain Rose Herbs, consisting of roasted dandelion root, roasted chicory root, roasted carob, and maca powder. The bitter constituents of coffee give the beverage characteristics similar to those of other bitter herbs, including stimulation of digestive secretions and of bile release and flow from the liver. Both dandelion root and chicory root are considered bitter herbs, and therefore not only produce a similar taste to coffee, but they also act similarly on our digestive system and liver. Maca, energizing and highly medicinal, has been used successfully for hormonal imbalances for both men and women, to help with fertility, ease menopausal symptoms, loss of energy, libido and depression, making it a worthy ingredient in this amazing coffee alternative. Just one cup of this delicious roasted remedy will leave you feeling not only energized, but nourished in mind, body, and spirit! Stop by the shop, and we would be happy to share some with our customers and community!