Caffeine: just an apparent pick-me-up?

Caffeine is a stimulating component of luxury foods such as coffee, tea, energy drinks, cola, mate, guarana, and cocoa. It is colloquially referred to in teas as “Teein” or “Thein”. Caffeinated plants are common in warm climates. It is found in the seeds and leaves of the coffee bush (Coffea arabica and Coffea robusta, Africa) and in over 60 other plants, such as the tea bush (China), the mate plant (South America), and the kola nut (Africa).

Caffeine: just an apparent pick-me-up?

Under normal conditions, pure caffeine is a white, odorless, crystalline powder with a bitter taste. In 1820 the pharmacist and chemist Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge succeeded for the first time in isolating pure caffeine from the coffee beans. Runge is therefore considered to be the real discoverer of caffeine. The name caffeine was given to the substance because of its occurrence in coffee but says nothing about its chemical composition.

Stimulant caffeine

Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, increases concentration, and drives away tiredness. In addition to coffee and tea, so-called energy drinks, lemonades (cola), and sweets also make use of the stimulating effect of caffeine. Many non-coffee drinkers also consume caffeine every day.

In the nerve cells, there is a constant change between activity and rest phases. A certain substance called adenosine is responsible for the relaxation in the cell. This means that when you are tired you produce a lot of adenosine.

When caffeine is added to the body, it reduces the effectiveness of the adenosine in the cell. This means that the action phase continues – the natural rest pulse is initially absent.

This effect causes greater alertness and temporarily increases concentration and attention. In addition, caffeine stimulates digestion, has urinary and appetite-stimulating effects, and expands the blood and bronchial vessels, which is why caffeine and the consumption of coffee are even recommended every now and then for asthma. However, the stimulating effect weakens again after a while as the body gets used to the caffeine over time.

Coffee signals stress to the body

Too much coffee or caffeine has a negative effect on our bodies. An overdose leads to nervousness, excitability, concentration disorders, memory loss, circles of thought, headache and stomach ache, increased blood pressure and/or palpitations, and even sleep disorders.
Caffeine signals stress to the body. If you overdo your caffeine consumption, chronic stress and exhaustion are the results.

Pay attention to the dosage

In order to be able to reduce the undesirable effects of coffee, or if you want to reduce possible withdrawal symptoms from excessive coffee consumption, the following measures should be taken into account:

  • only drink coffee in the morning if possible
  • Espresso instead of filter coffee
  • Drink coffee after eating, not on an empty stomach
  • Enjoy coffee without sugar
  • nothing sweet (cakes, pies, etc.) with the coffee
  • Pay attention to other additional sources of caffeine
  • cover the fluid requirement with decaffeinated drinks, e.g. herbal tea, mineral water, or fruit juices. It is best to always carry a bottle of liquid with you.

A cup of coffee contains between 50 and 100 milligrams of caffeine per cup. Energy drinks should not be underestimated either. There is almost the same amount of caffeine in a can as in a cup of filter coffee (equivalent to 1.5-2 espressos). Cocoa contains 6 milligrams of caffeine per cup, green or black tea, half as much as a cup of coffee. It is advisable not to consume more than 300 milligrams of caffeine per day (= 3 large cups of coffee).

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