Caffeine is great until it isn’t. Some start noticing problems. Others don’t want to wait for issues to arise. That’s why we’ve come up with a list of the five best caffeine alternatives.
While caffeine is far from unhealthy, not everyone can tolerate its sometimes-problematic side effects. Loss of sleep, anxiety and restlessness are some symptoms of caffeine consumption. These symptoms cause people to seek out other drinks to get their morning energy boost. Some people might need to avoid caffeine because of certain medications, heart issues or high blood pressure. These people can become irritable, experience tremors or increased heart rate after consuming it. Others might wish to avoid caffeine because of its physiological side effects.
Caffeine stimulates your central nervous system the same way that it would be if you were running away from a hungry bear. Your body is not able to make a distinction between stimuli in, this manner. As a result, it releases a flood of stress hormones (particularly cortisol) to combat the flood of caffeine into your system.
Excess cortisol can cause extra fat to collect around your midsection, among other health issues. People who have excess fat in the belly area are more prone to heart disease and diabetes.
Caffeine also dehydrates your body.
That could lead to premature aging, lack of mental energy, bloating (water retention), headaches, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. It can also lead to curbed cravings and mood swings because of its ability to create blood sugar imbalances. For these reasons, many may choose to skip the caffeinated beverages. They may opt for some naturally stimulating and energizing drinks.
What are your best options?
Glad you asked.
The Top Five Caffeine Alternatives….
#1 Dandelion Root
Dandelion root coffee has long been used as an alternative to real coffee in Europe and the Americas. In the early 1800s, pioneers in rural America would drink a tea made of dandelion roots in areas where coffee wasn’t offered.
Dandelion root coffee is marketed for having a similarly roasted taste to coffee. With that said, it also stimulates the liver and flow of bile in addition to being a diuretic. Glycosides such as taraxacerin, as well as other terpenoids, give dandelion root its signature bitter flavor, and also stimulate digestion and have a positive effect on detoxifying the liver. Dandelion root also has inulin and polysaccharides. These are seen as immune stimulating effects of the root.
Too much caffeine can cause your body to leach calcium from your bones. This can stunt growth in youth and be a precursor to osteoporosis, particularly in women. Dandelion root, on the other hand, is rich in vitamins A, B, C and D. It is also rich in potassium, iron, and zinc. Coffee and dandelion root are both antioxidant powerhouses. This serves to counteract free radical damage done to the body, but dandelion coffee is caffeine and stimulant free.
In a 2011 study published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, it would found that antioxidants in coffee reduced DNA damage. Similarly, dandelion has a flavonoid called luteolin. This is found to protect DNA from damage caused by harmful free radicals. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), dandelion coffee may help reduce high blood pressure and liver problems because of its toxin-flushing properties.
Dandelion root coffee can also be used to treat eczema, bladder infections, jaundice, and anemia.
Does a cup of coffee help you go in the morning?
You bet. It helps keep you regular and promotes healthy digestion through gentle laxative effects and by promoting healthy gastrointestinal bacteria. The UMMC recommends drinking up to three cups a day by boiling ½ to two teaspoons of the root in a cup of water for a few minutes. You can even harvest dandelion roots from your own backyard. Just be sure it’s pesticide free.
Wheatgrass juice is packed with nutrients such as magnesium, iron, as well as vitamins A, C and E. These vitamins and minerals work to supply your body with natural energy.
What does that mean?
No jitters or 3pm crash.
In fact, wheatgrass has every mineral known to man. It is also very high in protein, containing 17 amino acids. Wheatgrass also has high levels of vitamin B. This helps to boost energy levels.
Wheatgrass juice has large amounts of glucose. This helps to give the body an instant energy boost and provides the green liquid with a characteristic sweet flavor. It also contains 11 times more calcium than milk and five times more iron than broccoli. Not only that, it has seven times more vitamin C than orange juice.
Wheatgrass is also one of the world’s best sources of chlorophyll. That’s the molecule that gives plants their green color and helps them to convert sunlight into chemical energy (photosynthesis). For humans, chlorophyll has the ability to both build and clean blood. It boosts and replenishes blood cell count and increases hemoglobin levels so that the red blood cells can carry more oxygen.
Wheatgrass juice can be consumed as a shot or mixed into other fresh juices and smoothies. The best form to consume the powers of wheatgrass is through its fresh juice within 15 minutes of squeezing, as opposed to pill or powder forms.
#3 Chaga Mushroom
The chaga mushroom (or Inonotus obliquus) grows only in very cold climates. It has some of the highest antioxidant concentrations of any known food. The magical mushroom has played an important role in Russian herbalism and Siberian folk medicine for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. It is especially praised for its ability to help humans adapt to cold climates.
In traditional Chinese medicine, it was used to balance Chi in order to maintain a healthy immune system and preserve the qualities of youth. Chaga grows on birch trees, which themselves have inherent healing properties and are very long-lived.
The mushroom has very high levels of superoxide dismutase (SOD). This is one of the most powerful antioxidant enzymes ever known. Along with SOD, Chaga also has beta glucans and betulinic acid.
According to a 2011 study in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushroom, Chaga mushrooms were found to elicit anti-cancerous effects, even sometimes decreasing tumor cell proliferation. Chaga is also packed with adaptogens. This can decrease cellular sensitivity to stress.
Coffee made from ground Chaga can taste much like regular coffee, without the eventual adrenal burn that leads to a caffeine crash. Instead of superficially stimulating the body in the way that caffeine can, Chaga works to increase real energy by building Chi, which strengthens the immune system.
Kombucha is a beverage made by fermenting black tea and sugar. It does contain some caffeine, but not a significant amount. Originating in the Far East some 2,000 years ago, kombucha was called the “Immortal Health Elixir” by the Chinese.
After being fermented, kombucha contains vinegar, b-vitamins, enzymes and probiotics. These are all linked with cleansing and detoxification, weight loss, increased energy, cancer prevention and improved digestion. Kombucha aids in promoting healthy blood circulation and nutrient assimilation. That means it can help you extract more energy from the daily food you ingest.
As opposed to coffee, which supplies a superficial energy high to your body, kombucha taps into your body’s natural energy reserves. It also balances body pH and can help cleanse blood of toxins.
In one study, kombucha helped to protect liver cells from oxidative injury, in spite of being exposed to toxins. It also supports digestion through high levels of probiotics and enzymes.
Kombucha’s success as a stimulating morning beverage and optimal replacement for caffeine is due to the formation of iron that black tea releases during fermentation. Iron helps energize the body through a process called chelation, in which iron boosts blood hemoglobin—the molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen. This not only helps carry more oxygen to tissues, but it also stimulates cellular energy-producing processes, helping the body create more energy (ATP).
#5 Maca Root
Maca is an Andean plant of the brassica family. It was first cultivated 2,000 years ago in the San Blas region of central Peru. Maca is a root resembling a radish. It is rich with nutrients in addition to being an adaptogen.
Adaptogens are rare plants (like ginseng) that raise the body’s resistance to disease through emotional and physiological health improvements. These plants have the power to counteract disturbances to homeostasis brought on by stressors such as disease. Maca helps to reduce stress and boost energy levels by lending support to the adrenal glands, supporting the cardiovascular system and improving immune system health.
The root is also rich in B vitamins. Of course, these are known as the energy vitamins, and maca is a great vegetarian source of vitamin B12.
Maca root can also help to balance hormones. Because there is an overload of environmental estrogens in the modern world, many individual’s hormones are out of balance. Maca helps to stimulate the pituitary gland and hypothalamus. These are considered to be the master glands of the body. These glands are responsible for balancing the testicular, ovarian, adrenal and thyroid glands, as well as the pancreas.
In 2009, researchers from Northumbria University in Newcastle upon Tyne did a study on two groups. One group was given maca powder for two weeks and the other was given a placebo. After two weeks, they all completed a 40 km cycling course. The maca group significantly reduced their times. Meanwhile, the placebo group remained the same.
Along with its benefits as a powerful energy supplement, maca has also been used as a fertility enhancer. Both Incan and Spanish warriors would consume large amounts of maca before going into battle to boost their energy and recovery times. Maca usually comes in a powder form. It can be blended into smoothies or fresh juice for an extra boost of energy. But, don’t add it to hot beverages or soups.
High temperatures can eliminate all the health benefits.
Keep it cool!
There are many reasons to want to cut down on your caffeine intake. For one, caffeine can cause many uncomfortable mental and physiological side effects. That includes such things as anxiety, restlessness, and loss of sleep. Also, caffeine has many long-term effects tied into dehydration. These effects include premature aging and loss of bone mass.
Along with providing a natural energy boost, the beverages on this list also offer supplemental health benefits that make them great substitutions for your morning cup of coffee. Kombucha, chaga, dandelion root, maca and wheatgrass can all be wonderful additions to your healthy morning routine. They can infuse you with natural energy and boost your body’s natural immune defenses.
Along with these drinks, ensure that you are getting lots of water to get the most out of your body’s natural capacity for energy. According to the University of Florida, 75% of Americans are dehydrated on a daily basis. Most aren’t even aware that they have the problem.
Dehydration can cause hunger, fatigue and headaches. It can also stand in the way of performing your daily tasks at the best level possible. Water accounts for 60% of your body weight, and dehydration, even at low levels, can cause organ function to slow down, leaving you feeling sluggish and depleted. Drinking water is an inexpensive and simple remedy that helps to fight fatigue and keep your body operating at its best.
Next time you are in need of a quick pick-me-up, drink a full glass of water. If you do, you’ll likely notice that you will perk up right away. Along with drinking water, make sure to eat lots of fruits and veggies. These are high in water as well as liquid-retaining fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Eating healthfully and minding your hydration are two easy ways to balance your body pH, increase energy and help strengthen your immune system.
By Lillian Dumont