Knowing the chemical constituents of plants is an important part of being a Master Herbalist. Even such ordinary products as coffee and tea can have benefits, and they can have drawbacks.
When I was young, I was a caffeine addict. I liked sodas, tea and the occasional cup of coffee. Now, that same substance is on the “avoid” list, due to both health issues and medication interactions. It makes reading nutrition labels even more imperative.
I’m not the only one with this problem, and there are many different types of medications it can interact with. It can even cut how much benefit you get from your daily vitamin use. Up to 60% is lost if you wash down vitamin/mineral tablets with your morning tea or coffee.
What is caffeine? It’s a tannic acid, and one that is relatively safe to use. Tannic acids are also used in leather works, though most of those are unsafe for human consumption.
What happens when you use caffeine? Caffeine triggers your body’s fight or flight responce. Your heart rate will go up, as will your blood pressure. Adrenoline is released into your body, focusing the mind and preparing for great muscular activity, either in fleeing or fighting. Unfortunately, that’s rarely the intent of the person who ingests it.
After a while, your concentration decreases and you may feel very jittery. It’s harder to focus your eyes, and your hands will shake intensively. You may be tempted to resupply your body with the substance to stop this reaction.
Why would I use caffeine? It boosts the metabolism of those who consume it, helping in weight loss. It can also suppress hunger, and it is a main ingredient in energy drinks.
What medical conditions does it interfere with? Anxiety, depression, bipolar disorders and other conditions involving emotions are going to interact badly with caffeine. Heart and blood pressure problems could also become worse. Chest pains and high blood pressure could result, especially if large amounts are consumed.
What medications does it interact with? Obviously medications for emotion disorders, high blood pressure and heart disease are potential problems, but so are diuretics. These are sometimes called water pills. Caffeine is also a potent diuretic, so the combo could lead to dehydration.
I’m not saying to give up caffeine altogether, unless your doctor has ordered it. However, I am suggesting you limit the amounts you use so that you can remain healthy. If you have questions about how much is too much, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. They can help you figure out what you need.
Sources: University of Maryland School of Complementary Medicine, WebMD