Known around the world for its wide variety of delectable tastes and aromas, coffee is one of the most popular beverages on the plant with billions of cups of coffee consumed every day. While coffee is not typically thought of as a healthy drink, it actually has some surprising side effects which are due to its natural chemical components and nutrients.
Some of the most impressive health benefits of coffee include its ability to improve cognitive health, protect the cardiovascular system, reduce the changes of developing diabetes, aid in weight loss efforts, boost energy levels, maximize fitness efforts, increase live protection, optimize the metabolism and protect against certain types of cancer.
Coffee itself comes from the beans which are obtained from its plant. Coffea arabica is the most commonly used bean, but there are many different varieties depending on the region of the world which the beans are imported from. It may be the most universal and sought after drink on the planet. The most common way to prepare it is by making infusions of roasted coffee (generally the beans are roasted and ground in preparation and then infused in a coffee pot, press or espresso machine).
MATERIA MEDICA: Coffea arabica
Common Name: Coffee, Java, Kope, Cova, Cafe
Parts Used: Berries, seeds, leaves
Energetic Properties: sweet, bitter, neutral
Actions: increases circulation
Targets: bladder, large intestine
Clinical Actions: analeptic, analgesic, antioxidant, cardiotonic (increases blood flow), diuretic, nervine, stimulant
Biochemical Components: volatile oils, terpenes, tannins, beta-carotene, fiber, calcium, iron, niacin, riboflavin, alkaloids, amino acids, manganese, magnesium
Botanical Description: Coffee plants are evergreen shrubs or small trees with glossy leaves facing opposite one another, up to 10″ long, mostly oblong and showcasing prominent veins on both sides. They produce fragrant white flowers in tight clusters and fleshy fruit, red or yellow when ripe which contain 2 fruit seeds (coffee beans). The seeds are what is most commonly used as they are roasted and infused (brewed) to make our famous coffee drink.
Common Medicinal Uses for Coffee:
- Fatigue – boosting energy levels
- Headache – stimulates circulation and opens blood vessels and capillaries relieving headaches and migraines
- Acute Asthma – Respiratory System – asthma, bronchitis, chest congestion
- Cardiovascular Health – reduces the risk of stroke and heart disease (although it may temporarily increase blood pressure)
- Digestive System – chronic diaherrhea, constipation, nausea, slow digestion
- Central Nervous System – stimulates the mind and increases body’s energy and the mind’s concentration power
- Cognitive Health – coffee helps sharpen focus and increase attention by stimulating the brain with caffeine. Studies have shown that elderly people who consume coffee on a regular, moderate basis are 60% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s and dementia
- Increases metabolism and fat burning – commonly used as part of a weight-loss regime. Also a diuretic it helps relieve bloating and water retention as well as regulating the digestive system.
- Cosmetic – often used as a body scrub and skin cleanser
- Combat’s Parkinson’s disease – studies show those that regularly consume 1-2 cups of coffee each day have up to 20% lower rates of Parkinson’s Disease
- Diabetes Prevention – a recently new study has found that people who regularly consume coffee have a 25-50% lower chance of developing diabetes. This could be due to the appetite suppressing effects of coffee or the fact that it simply makes you more energized and active, helping to reduce your risk factors for diabetes.
- Depression and Mood – the natural effects of coffee are to energize and activate the mind and body. Not to mention the aromatic enjoyment of a coffee break that can do wonders for someone suffering from depression or stress. However, coffee can be connected to mood swings and anxiety if consumed in excess, not to mention the caffeine crash – remember: everything in moderation!
Coffee also mixes well with other herbs to moderate its effect or to create synergistic blends. You may consider mixing it with ginseng, dry nettles, astragalus or chicory. (Chicory is often used as a coffee substitute but mixing it with coffee arabica may give you the result you desire; the benefits of coffee without too much caffeine). Cinnamon is a good herb that companions well with coffee and is also useful for reducing diabetes incidence by helping lower blood sugar. You may also like to try cloves, cardamom seed or star anise.
There are many other wonderful ways to work with this plant as well:
Baking: try a coffee cake – yes an actual coffee cake made with coffee – for those who like sweet treats but need to watch the sugar and excellent for those who are not really coffee drinkers.
Aromatic: the aromatic properties of coffee, along with the extensive option of varieties, can be a wonderful room deodorizer or perfume in a pinch! We all know how effective it is at waking up a household of sleepyheads – just by brewing a pot we delight the senses! It will also absorb food orders in your refrigerator just like baking soda (just place a small open container with your old grounds in the back of the fridge for a few days and let them soak up the scent)
Dye or Ink: coffee makes a wonderful natural dye, a light brown or sepia tone. If you have leftover coffee (as if!) try painting or staining with it. Often I will “recycle” the grounds and make another strong infusion with which to paint. Try it for a beautiful calligraphy project!
Gardening: gardens love coffee grounds. Mix your used grounds with egg shells for houseplants and gardens and you’ll be amazed how fast they grow. Many flowering plants benefit from the natural acidity and nutrients coffee grounds add to the soil.
Pest Control: bug those ants and keep snails and slugs by sprinkling coffee grounds in problem areas.
On your Hair: If you use a lot of hair styling products, your hair is probably weighted down by residue. Remove that build-up using coffee grounds to give you hair a life and restore its natural healthy shine. Simply massage a handful of grounds into your hair; the coarse texture is enough to break apart the product residue but also gently enought that it won’t damage your locks.
Body Scrub: coffee makes a great body scrub, you want a course ground coffee for gentle exfoliating and if you use a roasted (store bought) variety, the oils will smooth the skin like silk. It is often combined with sugar, salt or honey for luxurious spa treatments.
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A word of caution: Coffee is not recommended for people with ulcers, hypertension, trouble sleeping, liver problem or recently suffered a heart attack. Those who are anxious, stressed, pregnant or with premenstrual syndrome should stick to low doses. Coffee can be connected to jitters and anxiety if consumed in excess, not to mention the caffeine crash – remember: everything in moderation!