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Coffee: beyond the buzz

Did you know that coffee (Coffea aribica, robusta, liberica) features in the herbal medicine cabinet?

Like all herbs it can benefit some conditions, be disadvantageous to others and must be used in the right dosage: we all know the negative effects we can experience if drinking too much coffee!

Some interesting historical and modern day uses

  • European herbalists and 19th century American Eclectics often prescribed coffee for its stimulating effects when treating people who were sedated by opium, morphine or alcohol.

  • The Eclectics and folk healers also used coffee to treat asthma, colds and flus, constipation, menstrual cramps, headaches, and congestive heart failure.

  • The Eclectics also recognized the negative effects of too much coffee. They noted it could cause irritability, trembling, ringing in the ears, confusion, digestive issues and headaches with withdrawal.

  • Caffeine (the simulant in coffee, cocoa, mate’ and cola drinks) is also used today in many cold, flu, menstrual and sleep prevention medications and products.

Benefits of coffee

Neurological benefits

Enhances brain function - caffeine stimulates the production of adrenaline which blocks nerve cells in the brain from detecting adenosine (reduces nerve activity). Without adenosine reaction times and general mental function can increase.

Enhances mood – caffeine increases dopamine which activates the pleasure in parts of the brain.

Lowers risk of Alzheimer’s disease - caffeine helps prevent the build-up of beta-amyloid, a main cause of Alzheimer’s. Polyphenols in coffee help reduce inflammation to help protect the brain from age-related decline.

Lowers risk of Parkinson’s disease, especially in men. Caffeine enhances dopamine signalling in the brain and it’s the lack of dopamine-producing cells which causes movement symptoms in Parkinson’s disease.

Increases physical stamina

A cup of coffee before a workout can increase athletic performance. Caffeine increases fatty acids circulating in the bloodstream to help people run and cycle longer as their muscles can absorb and burn that fat for fuel saving the carbohydrate stores for later in the workout. It also stimulates the central nervous system by blocking adenosine (calming effect on the body) and then allowing the adrenal glands to release adrenaline (fight or flight hormone). This increases heart rate, glucose release into the blood stream and tightening of muscles all of which provides increased energy.

Increases weight loss

Caffeine helps increase metabolic rate to burn more calories per hour.

Lowers Diabetes type 2 risk

This may be due to the compound cafestol which increased insulin secretion, reduced fasting glucose levels, and improved insulin sensitivity in mice studies.

Reduces asthma symptoms

Caffeine helps open the bronchial passages in the lungs which close during asthma attacks and reduce respiratory muscle fatigue during an attack.

Liver protection

Research shows that coffee drinkers are more likely to have liver enzyme levels within a healthy range than people who don’t drink coffee.

Pick me up – caffeine stimulates the central nervous system which can help keep you awake longer, more alert and counter the sedative effects of antihistamines.

Jet lag help

Coffee may help regulate the circadian rhythm. It’s recommended to drink a cup of coffee in the morning when travelling west and late in the afternoon when travelling east.


Recent studies found that coffee drinkers are less likely to die from some of the leading causes of death in women: coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease.

Key nutrients

As well as caffeine, a cup of coffee contains key nutrients including:

Riboflavin (B2)

Provides 11% RDI (Recommended Daily Intake). Helps convert food into energy and acts as an antioxidant.

Pantothenic acid (B5)

Provides 6% RDI. Helps the body obtain energy from food and assists in hormone and cholesterol production.


Provides 3% RDI. Helps the body form connective tissue, bones, blood clotting factors, and sex hormones. Helps metabolise fat and carbohydrate, calcium absorption, and blood sugar regulation. Is critical for normal brain and nerve function.


Provides 3% RDI. Helps regulate fluid balance, muscle contractions and nerve signals

Niacin (vitamin B3)

Provides 2% RDI. Essential for cellular signalling, metabolism and DNA production and repair.


Provides 2% RDI. Helps regulate fluid balance, muscle contractions and nerve signals.

Negative effects and safety

Coffee can cause increased anxiety, nervousness, irritability, insomnia, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart and respiration rate and secretion of stomach acid. There have also been reports of birth defects linked to coffee consumption. If you have any of these conditions discuss your coffee in take with a qualified medical practitioner.

Safe dosage

If you are a healthy adult with none of the conditions listed above, up to three cups of coffee a day is considered safe and beneficial to health.

Coffee with added benefits

There are many products available to help enhance your daily cup of coffee for positive health benefits. Some scientifically backed ones include:

Four Sigmatic – coffee with the added benefits of immune enhancing mushrooms. Don’t worry you don’t taste the mushrooms.

Bullet proof - coffee combined with good fats to help you feel satisfied, alert and focused. Supports those doing low carb, keto, paleo, and intermittent fasting ways of eating.

Cacao Drink Dust Range raw cocoa powders with added herbs to enhance your drink. As a mocha coffee lover, I love this range for its health benefits and the innovative names like: Shine dust for glowing skin; Super dust for energy stamina; Spirit dust for an adrenal tonic; Soothe dust for an anti inflammatory; Spark dust for longevity and immunity; and sex dust as a reproductive tonic.

Over to you?

How do you drink your coffee? What healthy options do you add? I’d love you share.

Always seek qualified Medical Herbalists before taking herbs and check with your doctor for any interactions with current medication.


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