Mind and Body

Coffee: A great source of antioxidants and an effective mood enhancer

It’s an upside down world. We used to hear that coffee, a common drink to kick-start a person’s morning, was a guilty pleasure at best and a health evil at worst. Fast-forward to today, and we now know that coffee is a health elixir of the highest magnitude, offering protection to the heart, lowering the risk of several forms of cancer and reducing the risk of Parkinson’s disease.

Research into the natural properties of coffee shows that the daily brew is a potent protective antioxidant potion. Plants produce antioxidants to protect their cells from premature destruction from exposure to heat, light, air, moisture and time. In the human body, many of these substances are biologically active, and they help to protect our cells as well. Recent science suggests that these compounds may cause gene changes, which enable the body to express its own protective agents.

To simplify, antioxidants inhibit the “rusting” of cells in our body. Just as metals rust due to exposure to oxygen, cells in the body also become damaged by exposure to certain “reactive oxygen species” – or ROS. These damaging agents are caused by environmental toxins, smoking, poor eating habits, metabolism, exercise and other factors. When unchecked, these ROS contribute to degenerative diseases. Oxidative damage is associated with diabetes, arthritis, cancer, degenerative brain disorders, and numerous aspects of aging and degeneration.

Coffee is super-concentrated with antioxidants and is especially high in one group of antioxidant compounds called flavonoids. The flavonoids have garnered considerable scientific interest because of their beneficial effects on human health. In various journal studies they have been reported to possess antioxidant, antiviral, anti-allergic, anti-platelet, anti-inflammatory, and antitumor activities. 

Coffee’s antioxidant compounds include caffeic acid, caffeine, the chlorogenic acids, eugenol, gamma-tocopherol, isoeugenol, p-coumaric acid, scopoletin and tannic acid. In fact, coffee is the primary source of beneficial, protective antioxidants in the American diet. Most Americans do not eat enough antioxidant-rich fresh fruits and vegetables, but they do drink coffee. The bottom line? Coffee protects your body. This is a good thing.

As a mood enhancer, coffee is one of the safest and fastest agents on earth. You drink a cup, and things change rapidly. Surely, this is the primary reason that people drink coffee in the first place. Coffee’s greatest effects are exerted upon the brain and mind, since coffee is a bracing awakener. As a delivery system for caffeine, coffee acts upon the central nervous system, stimulating the brain and all the major nerves, and facilitating cognitive function overall. 

Coffee enhances the flow of blood in the brain and invigorates the mind. It enhances alertness and motivation, facilitates thought formation and concentration, and decreases mental fatigue. Every coffee drinker has experienced this combination of effects. A morning shower will alleviate grogginess, but a bracing cup of coffee will snap you to attention and prepare you for whatever lies ahead.

In a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, Harvard researchers found that drinking caffeinated coffee lowered rates of depression among women. Women who drank two to three cups of caffeinated coffee a day were 15 percent less likely to develop depression over the 10-year study period, compared with women who consumed one cup or less per day. Women who drank four or more cups of coffee a day had a 20 percent lower risk of developing depression. And what about decaf? Women who drank decaf did not experience reduced depression rates.

Within a daily dosage range of 300 milligrams of caffeine per day, or two to three cups, coffee improves negative moods that occur in the morning upon waking, lifting the sullen and gloomy clouds which can fog the mind upon rising. Coffee, the most flavorful and potent caffeine-bearing beverage of all, increases general happiness and feelings of pleasure – and increases positive mood overall. Coffee promotes an upbeat positive sense of self, and a feeling of wellbeing.

Baron Ernst Von Bibra referred to coffee as a “pleasure drug.” He hit the nail right on the head. Simple, cheap, easy to prepare, readily available and very fast-acting, coffee makes you feel good.

Chris Kilham is a medicine hunter who researches natural remedies all over the world, from the Amazon to Siberia. He teaches ethnobotany at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he is Explorer In Residence. Chris advises herbal, cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies and is a regular guest on radio and TV programs worldwide.  His field research is largely sponsored by Naturex of Avignon, France. Read more at www.MedicineHunter.com

Chris Kilham is a medicine hunter who researches natural remedies all over the world, from the Amazon to Siberia. Chris advises herbal, cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies, is a regular guest on radio and TV programs worldwide, and is the author of fifteen books. Read more at MedicineHunter.com.