We’ve all done it. It’s the morning, we’re on auto-pilot, still groggy from sleep, we trudge through our early morning ritual of waking, dressing and when we get to the kitchen the first thing we do is switch the kettle on. The very smell of fresh, hot coffee seems to rejuvenate and many people swear by the rush of energy that caffeine brings. But is it the only solution? Can there be another way?
Like everything, caffeine has its ups and downs. Caffeine, as with other drugs, certainly has its benefits when taken in small doses. Research has suggested that 200mg of caffeine per day (two cups of coffee or tea) can do wonders. It has been found to slow the dementia process in women, preventing cognitive decline. Caffeine also increases the happy hormone (dopamine) in your brain, protecting against Parkinson’s and depression. The same amount of caffeine has also been found to cut the risk of skin cancer by up to twelve percent by working as an anti-oxidant.
But with the sweets comes the sours. Caffeine is a drug and with taking it you run the risk of addiction. Long term side effects of caffeine, if you drink over four cups of coffee or tea a day, can become serious over time.
Caffeine is only a temporary stimulation. The more you take, the more the brain cells need. This is because the adenosine in your system adapts to the caffeine, so once the stimulation wears off you’ll feel more sluggish than ever. If you love a cup of tea or coffee before bed and wonder why you toss and turn, look no further than that cup! Caffeine is notorious for causing sleep disturbances. And remember it is an alkaloid (a poisonous chemical) and therefore takes twelve hours to be completely eliminated from your body.
High caffeine consumption can increase the loss of bone mineral density. As caffeine is a diuretic, it speeds the urination cycle but overtime it ‘steals’ calcium from the bones, flushing it out through the urine. In the long term, caffeine can cause osteoporosis.
Anxiety disorders can also be made worse by caffeine because of the over stimulation of the central nervous system. Too much caffeine can also aggravate bipolar disorder, overriding sedative medications. Experts are also concerned about men and women with bleeding disorders, urging people to be cautious with their caffeine intake.
Diabetes can also be affected by caffeine consumption. Research suggests that it can alter the way the body uses sugar in dangerous ways and can potentially worsen the effects of the illness. Caffeine should be used with caution or avoided altogether in these cases.
Though safe in small amounts, women either pregnant or breast feeding should be careful of drinking more than one or two cups of tea or coffee. Higher doses of caffeine can increase the chances of miscarriage. As caffeine passes into breast milk, nursing mothers can cause insomnia, irritability and stomach problems in infants.
If you have an upset stomach, caffeine is one of the worst things possible to have as it can make it worse. Caffeine is also known to enhance dehydration, which is not recommended when suffering from diarrhoea.
In daily users, large caffeine intake can also cause nervousness and restlessness. As a stimulant, caffeine could potentially raise the heart rate, increasing blood pressure and respiration.
Caffeine can be an effective way to wake up, but as you can see, overuse can cause problems. Kicking the caffeine habit altogether, if your intake is greater than three to four cups of coffee a day, might be a long and arduous process, so cutting down slowly is the best way to go about it. Instead of just quitting ‘cold turkey’ why not substitute the caffeine for a healthier and more natural alternative. Whether made fresh from the garden, or bought in a bag from the shop, herbs can have many health benefits. Herbal teas are widely available and specialist teas easily obtained off the web. There are herbs for every occasion; here are five of them that can help to dispel the drowsiness without the artificial high.
LicoriceMost people love a bag of All-Sorts. Why not try some tea? Licorice is extremely beneficial. A great stimulant, Licorice improves the function of the adrenal gland and gives you a much needed energy boost in the mornings. Unlike other teas, this is safe to take every single day and is even known to enhance memory and fight viral infections!
MintMint is a powerful restorative, stimulating and revitalising the body and the best thing about it? It tastes really good! Peppermint tea is highly effective. One cup in the morning kick-starts the system, refreshing the mind, blowing away the cobwebs. It is also a useful anti-sickness herb reducing stomach cramps, nausea and even headaches – an ideal hangover cure! Though a tasty treat in teas, mint is also yummy when heated with milk. If peppermint is too strong, try spearmint for a lighter flavour.
Korean GinsengOften described as sharp and earthy, Korean Ginseng can be an acquired taste but it’s an essential pick-me-up for the early risers among us. Containing chemicals called ginsenocides Ginseng assists the body by stimulating the Central Nervous System. By kick starting the adrenal glands and promoting immune function, it also fights stress and when taken in small amounts, is an effective anti-aging tea!
EucalyptusThere is nothing worse than having to get up and go to work with a cold. Teeming with flavonoids (immunity boosters) and lots of antioxidants such as rutin and limonene, eucalyptus tea is great for these early morning dilemmas. Known as eucalyptus globulus to the scientific community, it controls blood sugar levels and reduces viral infections. It also eases breathing difficulty, allowing more oxygen into the brain, making it brilliant for concentration. You’ll be wide awake and breathing easy with no sniffles in sight!
Raspberry LeafContaining many vitamins and minerals including vitamin C and calcium, Raspberry tea is the most perfect and healthy stimulant. Furthermore, Raspberry tea is one of the safest and commonly used tonics for women wishing to get or who are already pregnant. Raspberries are rich in vitamins A, B, C and E as well as important minerals such as iron and potassium. These nutrients increase blood flow, preventing anaemia and reduce fatigue dramatically.
While everything is good in moderation, natural alternatives are always good to try. Be sure to check with your doctor before taking any complementary medicine, especially when pregnant or while taking prescription medications.