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Could coffee do more than just stimulate alertness and stress out the adrenals? What if there was more going on to this ritualistic beverage consumed by billions around the world than just caffeine addiction? What if it was medicine for both the body and soul?
That coffee possesses 'drug-like' properties, we know quite well. Some of us, in fact, revel in its addictive properties, as it comes with a certain -- albeit a tad bit pathological -- industriousness. After all, is there anyone more disciplined/obsessed than a coffee drinker -- at least, that is, when it comes to acquiring and drinking coffee? You can set your clocks with exactitude to the performance of their daily coffee-associated machinations, to the point where some coffee makers already have built in clocks, so as not to delay or miss any opportunity for its owner to imbibe. The type of sober religiosity required to turn drinking a beverage into a ritual is known only by a few Zen tea drinkers and quite possibly billions of habitual coffee drinkers.
"It is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity." ~ David Barry
Let us also not forget that one of the first documented uses of coffee over 500 years ago was in the Sufi monasteries of Yemen where coffee was known as qahhwat al-bun, or, the 'wine of the bean,' the phrase which provided the etymological origin of the word coffee. Once lauded as a "miracle drug" and used as a sacrament in late-night rituals to invoke the sensation of God within revelers, still today, coffee drinkers are known to cast themselves into bouts of coffee-drinking induced reverie and enthusiasm (literally: en "in" + theos "god" or "god-filled") by drinking this strangely intoxicating, and yet somehow still sobering concoction.
It is interesting that even addictions can be viewed as a form of ritual -- albeit degenerated ones performed semi- or subconsciously. But that cup of Joe gets many of us up in the morning to perform our secular duties, which says a lot considering what many of us are forced or coerced to do for a living.
While many attribute coffee's vise-like hold on their physiology to its caffeine content, there is much more going on than simply a fixation on a 'stimulant.' It has been known for over a quarter of a century that coffee contains a compound known as cafestrol with significant opiate-like properties and which is found within both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee forms. The 'narcotic' properties of coffee, therefore, are no doubt due to a complex interplay between a wide range of compounds -- not just a stimulant, but an opioid agonist as well.
Coffee is also a 'brain-booster' and contains a compound called trigonelline which in vitro research both stimulates the release of dopamine (not unlike cocaine), and stimulates neurite outgrowth, which involves the extension of dendrites and axons in neurons and which may compensate and rescue damaged neuronal networks in the aging brain.
One of history's greatest nutrition philosophers, Rudolf Hauschka, described coffee's action on our body-mind as follows:
"Coffee makes us more aware of our bodily structure. And since this structure is so wise and logical, our thoughts become logical in their awareness of it. Coffee thus helps thinking to find a firm foundation. The connection between bodily being and thinking, keeps calling itself to our attention. Coffee has the same effect on digestion that thought has on our upper man, i.e., a properly ordered metabolism goes hand in hand with orderly thinking. Both are founded on a properly ordered physical structure." ~ Rudolf Hauschka, Nutrition: A Holistic Approach
Coffee is also one of the only sources of "bitters" remaining in the sweet-fixated Western diet, which sadly comes with a certificate of guarantee that the bearer will likely develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease or a receive a cancer diagnosis at some point in their life. Could the extreme bitterness of coffee be the reason why it has been repeatedly shown to reduce type 2 diabetes risk, as it is one of the only ways we can balance out the highly inappropriate excesses of carbohydrate in our modern dietary configuration?
We don't normally think of grains as sweet, but they are on the glycemic index. Puffed rice, for instance, can make the blood sweeter than white sugar which is why 'complex' carbs are known as "crouching diabetes, hidden sugar." Coffee contains a wide range of blood-glucose and insulin sensitizing compounds, making it an ideal complement to a carbohydrate-deranged diet.
Coffee also awakens and stimulates the Qi, as it is known in the Chinese medical tradition. This was discussed in an article entitled "Similarity between the effects of coffee and qi stimulating events". While raising Qi through exercise and energy work is the ideal situation, coffee provides a short-cut which is the modus operandi in the modern world: instant gratification in exchange for (energy) indebtedness.
When used responsibly,* however, coffee may be a great boon to health, and has even been studied to provide an alternative to commonly prescribed drugs with serious side effects like prednisolone. There are, in fact, over 100 potential health applications of coffee as documented on our coffee research database node. We have also identified 33 distinct 'pharmacological actions' coffee may activate to produce positive health results. Just make sure its organic and prepared with clean, toxicant-free water.
*Responsibly could be defined as using it as a medicine, occasionally, versus every day, several times a day. Good luck with that!