Coffee. Friend or foe? Devil or Saint? Is it actually true, as the memorable Folger’s Coffee jingle goes, that the best part of waking up is a steaming cup of ground-up coffee beans and hot water?
Apparently discovered by an unsuspecting Ethiopian goat-herder in the 15th century, the red fruit of the coffee shrub served its first caffeine-high and sleepless night to a few poor goats and a group of monks.
From these measly beginnings, coffee, as we know it, was eventually developed and is now second in line, only to oil, as the most valuable legally traded good in the world. And it comes as no surprise, since most people who call themselves coffee drinkers, guzzle it down like oil to a starving engine. In our stimulation-addicted culture, we eat different meals every day, but coffee–one of nature’s most powerful and stimulatory herbs–is the one thing we take every single day without fail.
I (Lisa), have been a black coffee drinker since I was 18, sometimes downing 2-4 cups per day. At my current age of 29, and after a decade of anxiety, I have pulled that back down to just 1 cup/day, and sometimes just a few/week. My goal is to shake this addiction and proudly call myself an ‘occasional coffee-drinker.’ ;)
What is the Ayurvedic perspective on this beloved drink? Well, like most things, Ayurveda considers coffee to be both medicine for some and poison for others, at certain times and in certain situations. Energetically, coffee is hot, light and dry in quality, a carrier of the Air and Fire elements, and produces a stimulatory effect on the stomach. Because of its Vata and Pitta increasing effects, a cup of joe is helpful for balancing Kapha-types and Kapha conditions. It encourages the emptying of the stomach and stimulates bile secretion, lowering appetite and stimulating the intestines to get moving! All these effects are helpful for the sluggish and congested Kapha body. But for a Vata or Pitta-type, where heat, lightness and dryness have already been long-term residents, the effects of coffee can lead to anxiety, twitching, irritability, inflammation and over time, disease. Chronic issues, like adrenal fatigue, hormonal imbalance and insomnia, can develop and if left untreated, will go on to create even more serious conditions like arthritis and digestive dysfunction. How many imbalances in your body/mind are actually caused by this hidden culprit?
Here are some more things you may not know about this apparently innocent, liquid alarm-clock:
1. Caffeine is actually a pesticide
The coffee plant uses caffeine as a poison to paralyze and kill insects that eat its seeds. It also kills surrounding plant to provide the coffee plant with greater access to sunlight and space to grow larger.
2. Coffee depletes the body of vital energy
According to Ayurveda, coffee causes vital energy in the body to move upwards (Udana Vayu) and outwards (Vyana Vayu), depleting the body of the sustenance and nourishment of this energy (Ojas). This torrent of energy moving up, towards the head and out of the body sends the nervous system into fight-or-flight mode and produces the ever-reliable, post-caffeine crash when the the body finds itself depleted of its vitality and life-force.
3. The fight-or-flight response is activated for 3 weeks after 1 cup of coffee
3 weeks! The limbic system of the brain, which captains our emotions, sex-drive and survival instincts, is thus turned all the way on, reducing our brain capacity to that of a caveman. With the sympathetic nervous system activated, the brain is bio-chemically fooled into believing that danger is imminent. This is why so any of us spend our adulthoods in the fight-flight-or-freeze mode, behaving like children and incapable of making rational decisions. It’s no surprise then, that anxiety and disorders of the nervous system are all too common in our modern and very coffee-addicted society.
4. Coffee is just as brain-damaging as alcohol and cocaine
According to psychiatrist Daniel Amen’s book, ChangeYour Brain, Change Your Life, the effects of heavy and long-term coffee-consumption can be equal to those of drugs, such as cannabis and cocaine. By narrowing the blood vessels in the brain, proper blood supply is cut off and cognitive functioning becomes limited. This level of intake can eventually produce holes in the brain. How much of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, your depression, concentration issues and poor memory are in fact, a direct result of your daily caffeine jolt, and not of ‘free-will?’
5. Coffee might be the reason you can’t lose weight.
With the body in a constant state of fight-flight-or-freeze, it eventually turns to fat as its primary fuel source, because fat contains 9 calories/gram as opposed to sugar and protein’s 4 calories/gram. Energetically, a nice layer of fat serves to protect the body from the barrage of imaginary threats that the brain has been wired to expect after years of coffee enslavement.
6. The brain can heal!
The good news is that, because the brain is plastic, cutting down or quitting your coffee addiction will allow the brain to recover and heal over time.
Not convinced yet? Well, if you are going to drink coffee, make it organic, limit your consumption to 1 cup/day and only after a meal, never on an empty stomach. Have your drink between 6-10am, durng Kapha time, to counteract this Dosha’s heavy and sluggish qualities. Sprinkle a bit of cardamom powder into your cup to neutralize the acidic and stimulating effects and thus, reduce the aggravation of Vata.
And if you are inspired to make a change, try our AYURVEDIC COFFEE! This herbal coffee replacement is a blend of medicinal and adaptogenic herbs, including Dandelion Root, Chicory, Brahmi, Ashwagandha and more. Bias aside, and from one recovering coffee-addict to another, this magical concoction has been my life-saver and the reason my journey out of addiction has been and continues to be successful. Hand-made, organic and blessed with Mantra, this is a cup of comfort, support and healing, which is far more than any mug of Folgers could ever boast about. Head over to our store to purchase!