I meet so many people that “run” on coffee, and I happen to know a lot of herbalists indulge in this caffeine-laden herbal bean (it’s technically a seed though).
But although I honestly love the taste of the velvety goodness myself, the stimulating effects of the caffeine can be an undesirable side effect and make it an unsuitable beverage to consume on the daily.
The problem with the overconsumption and over-reliance on coffee to “get us going” is that it’s a false sense of energy. It actually draws from our “savings” energy bank (ie your adrenals) in order to give a temporary boost to our “checking account” (ie getting through the next task).
In this fashion if we don’t take care to replenish our savings with proper rest and self-care, but continue to reach for caffeine for a jolt to our daily activities – then we will be running on empty with a constant deficit in the energy bank.
It’s the classic sympathetic fight/flight (FOF) overdrive in our modern society that doesn’t value the parasympathetic, rest/digest/relax mode (Johnson, 2017). And by the way, this is the only mode in which relaxation and healing is possible. And this is also the same mode that humans were designed to be in MOST of the time (outside of an imminent threat to our life where FOF override is beneficial) (Green, 2016).
So, unfortunately, I do not advise indulging in coffee on the daily, let alone multiple times a day – as it can exacerbate nervous system and adrenal dysfunction (ie conditions like anxiety, stress, insomnia, attention deficit disorder, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, overactive bladder – just to name a few) (Smith, 2021).
The GOOD NEWS though, for coffee lovers, is that you can reduce your coffee intake by substituting or “cutting” it with beneficial herbs and spices.
- Roasted dandelion root: Known for its liver detoxification properties, dandelion root has been shown to support liver function and aid in the elimination of toxins from the body (Kim et al., 2018).
- Roasted chicory root: Chicory root has been traditionally used for its digestive properties, promoting a healthy microbiome and supporting gut health and replenishing prebiotics (Verma et al., 2017).
- Fenugreek seed: Fenugreek seed has been shown to have positive effects on circulation and blood sugar regulation, making it a beneficial herb for overall cardiovascular health. It is also a galactagogue used to support lactation in breastfeeding mothers, and has warming and moistening properties (Ullah et al., 2019).
- Chaga: Chaga is a medicinal mushroom known for its antioxidant properties. It contains melanin, which has been shown to have skin health benefits and protect against oxidative stress (Gebhardt, 2015).
- Reishi: Reishi is another medicinal mushroom known for its immune-regulating properties. It has been shown to modulate the immune system and support healthy levels of inflammation, in conditions like allergies and asthma (Borchers et al., 2018).
- Shiitake: Shiitake mushrooms have been traditionally used for their immune-boosting properties and can help modulate cholesterol levels (Jayachandran et al., 2017).
- Cinnamon: Cinnamon has been shown to have antioxidant properties and may help regulate blood sugar levels, making it a beneficial herb for metabolic health (Ranasinghe et al., 2018).
- Cardamom: Cardamom has been traditionally used for its carminative properties and has been shown to aid in digestion, relieve gas and bloating, and support gut health (Hemalatha et al., 2015).
In addition to their individual benefits, these herbs can also work synergistically to provide a wide range of health benefits. For example, the antioxidant properties of chaga, reishi, and cinnamon can help reduce oxidative stress and support overall cellular health (Gebhardt, 2015; Borchers et al., 2018; Ranasinghe et al., 2018). Fenugreek seed and cinnamon may also help regulate blood sugar levels, making them beneficial for managing blood sugar levels and supporting overall metabolic health (Ullah et al., 2019; Ranasinghe et al., 2018).
Furthermore, chaga’s melanin content can have positive effects on skin health. Melanin is a pigment that is naturally produced by the body and is responsible for the color of our skin, hair, and eyes. It acts as a natural sunscreen, protecting the skin from harmful UV radiation and oxidative damage (Gebhardt, 2015). Melanin has also been shown to have anti-aging properties, as it helps to neutralize free radicals and reduce oxidative stress on the skin, promoting a youthful and radiant complexion (Gebhardt, 2015).
By incorporating these beneficial herbs into your daily routine, you can not only reduce your reliance on coffee but also reap the health benefits that each herb has to offer. From supporting liver function and digestion to promoting immune health, cardiovascular health, and skin health, these herbs provide a natural and holistic approach to enhancing overall well-being.
I encourage you to serve yourself an extra dose of mindfulness and intention as you decrease your coffee dependency. With each sip, notice the taste on your tongue and the effects in your body…and imagine all the good things you are adding to your life with your self-care choices. Each herbal coffee cup can be a radical act of self-love!
- Borchers AT, Krishnamurthy A, Keen CL, et al. The Immunobiology of Mushrooms. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2008;233(3):259-276. doi:10.3181/0708-MR-227
- Gebhardt R. Antioxidative and protective properties of extracts from medicinal plants Forsch Komplementmed. 2015;22(2):115-120. doi:10.1159/000381324
- Hemalatha R, Ghafoorunissa R. Comparative study on antioxidant potential of different parts of fenugreek (Trigonella foenum graecum) in vitro model. Indian J Biochem Biophys. 2015;52(2):154-162.
- Jayachandran M, Xiao J, Xu B. A Critical Review on Health Promoting Benefits of Edible Mushrooms through Gut Microbiota. Int J Mol Sci. 2017;18(9):1934. doi:10.3390/ijms18091934
- Kim D-H, Kim S-H, Kim H-R, et al. Comparative study on the hepatoprotective action of cultured mycelium and fruiting body of Armillariella mellea against oxidative stress-induced liver injury in rat. Food Sci Biotechnol. 2018;27(5):1351-1360. doi:10.1007/s10068-018-0380-2
- Ranasinghe P, Pigera S, Premakumara GS, Galappaththy P, Constantine GR, Katulanda P. Medicinal properties of ‘true’ cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum): a systematic review. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2013;13:275. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-13-275
- Ullah A, Gul-e-Saba, Hussain I, et al. Evaluation of fenugreek seed extracts for their antioxidant and anticancer activities against breast and colon cancer cells. Biomed Pharmacother. 2019;109:1834-1840. doi:10.1016/j.biopha.2018.11.067
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