For many, our day starts with a stimulating beverage containing caffeine, like coffee, tea, or cocoa. Unfortunately, long-term reliance upon these can create an addiction and adversely affect the heart and brain function, depleting vitality and taxing the adrenal system. Reducing your caffeine intake, along with taking adaptogenic herbs, can bring your body into balance.
The Downsides of Caffeine
Caffeine is an intestinal irritant that can inflame the digestive tract, congest the lymph system, desensitize the stomach's mucosa, causing constipation, and has a dehydrating quality that can dry out the skin, stomach, and respiratory tract. It is believed to deplete the body of calcium, zinc, copper, iron, and magnesium.
Caffeine also taxes the adrenal system. The adrenal glands are part of an extensive system is known as the endocrine "glandular" system that influences every cell in the body, controlling mood, blood pressure, reproduction, and development, and regulates metabolism, immunity, and our stress response.
The effects of caffeine can be felt in your system within a few minutes and can stay in your system for many hours, inhibiting the absorption of adenosine, which calms the body and can make you feel alert but can also cause sleep problems. It also injects adrenaline into your system, giving you a temporary boost of energy but can make you fatigued, edgy, and agitated. It increases the body's levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), which can ultimately lead to weight gain, moodiness, diabetes, and heart disease. Finally, it increases dopamine levels (acting similar to an amphetamine), which makes you feel good for a while but can lead to physical dependency.
It is not uncommon to hear the term "adrenal exhaustion or fatigue" in today's more stressful world, a chronic feeling of mild physical and emotional depletion followed by intense stress and depression. There are many causes in our modern world for these conditions, and caffeine is believed to be a significant culprit.
The Effects of Caffeine on the Three Doshas
In Ayurveda, caffeine affects each dosha and overall constitutions differently, but here are the basics: Vata is more hyper-metabolic, and caffeine can be overstimulating. Pitta tends to acidity and overheating, and caffeine can bring imbalance, and finally, Kapha is hypo-metabolic, and caffeine may boost and stimulate their metabolic functions.
Removing or reducing caffeine, especially coffee, can initially have some unpleasant symptoms, but in the long run, reducing your intake can have many benefits to your overall health, including better sleep patterns, absorption of nutrients, better heart function, and lower blood pressure, better hydration, and less anxiety, stress, and irritability.
Many achieve this by first reducing the amount of coffee and then switching to green tea before quitting altogether. A large cup of coffee from Starbucks has 300mg of caffeine, which is ten times more than you get from a cup of green tea, and tea is a natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, helps balance blood sugar, and is mood-boosting.
Using Adaptogenic Herbs to Restore your System
In holistic-herbal medicine, these stress-related conditions are treated with adaptogenic substances and herbs which stabilize the physiological processes strengthening and supporting the immune, nervous, and glandular-hormonal systems. While these plants/foods have been around and in use, for thousands of years it wasn't until Russian scientists coined the term adaptogen around 1960 as a non-toxic agent that balances a wide range of bodily functions, helping the body overcome stress.
Adaptogenic herbs are categorized as stimulating, balancing, or calming, including Ginseng, Eleuthero, Ashwagandha, Shatavari, Holy Basil, Gotu Kola, Licorice, and Moringa. These herbs do not provide a quick hit of energy but are completely non-addictive and offer many health benefits which support the body and maintain balance. Your holistic practitioner or herbalist can develop an herbal formula or daily tea based on your constitution, which can re-energize and balance the body, mind, and spirit.