Coffee according to Ayurveda
Ahh coffee, the get it done juice, so many of us rely on to get through the day. 1 cup, 2 cups, 3 cups, so many relying on the stimulant power of this potent bean. Relying on it to get work done, relying on it to have that morning bowel movement, relying on it for that burst of energy / happiness. So many, in the habit of drinking on the daily, regardless of how we feel. So many mildly to seriously addicted and attached, experiencing signs of withdrawal such as headaches, fatigue, anxiety, depressed mood, irritability & difficulty focusing if missing a day.
But is it really that bad? While some will adamantly argue the benefits of a daily cup of joe, from its ability to help aid weight loss, lower the risk of diabetes heart disease & cancer and of course the simple fact that is helps increase energy, happiness and sense of well-being on those days an extra boost is needed - for some, there are less desirable effects such as heartburn, anxiety, adrenal dysfunction, nervousness, acid reflux & post-coffee high fatigue.
Furthermore, research has illustrated the negative effects coffee has on our nervous system, activating the release of stress fighting hormones - even hours after consumption.
But is it really that detrimental to turn to this antioxidant filled stimulant drink to get through the day? Well, according to Ayurveda it depends.
Rich in bitter & astringent tastes that are generally lacking in today’s, diet, coffee can be tolerated by many in small quantities.
It is said depending on your constitution and the strength of your digestive fire, coffee can either be medicine or toxin.
Because of its hot, light & mobile qualities, bitter and astringent flavor and makeup of air & ether elements, coffee is known to be most aggravating to those with high Pitta / Vata in their constitution and balancing for stronger Kapha types.
For a strong Kapha constitution, one cup of coffee after a meal is said to help kick-start the digestive system (however when taken before a meal is said to neutralize important digestive enzymes) The stimulant effects of coffee is known to help reduce lethargy, depression, low blood pressure - symptoms that kapha is sensitive to.
A Pitta is often able to tolerate coffee in small quantities, although regular use will be aggravating, due to the acidic and rajastic qualities of the bean, leading to possible symptoms like heartburn, hyperacidity (stomach pains), ulcers, inflammation, high blood pressure, heart palpitations and diarrhea.
As for Vata, coffee is said to be the least tolerated. Due to the combination of the bitter & astringent tastes and the stimulatory effect of caffeine, coffee is described to be a recipe for Vata disaster. Because coffee excites the temperamental Vata mind, while creating dryness in the body and already dry joints, the consumption of coffee can lead to symptoms like restlessness, anxiety and insomnia.
While these are important guidelines to consider, I believe the best way to assess your relationship with coffee is to observe the post-digestive effect it has on you. How do you feel mentally and physically after your morning cup of joe? Are you more anxious, more jittery? Do you have heartburn? How are you feeling before your coffee? Are you already anxious? Are you simply exhausted? Are you ignoring your bodies need for rest and relying on this stimulant to get through the day?
So often, we develop these unconscious habits, we get so attached to, falling into routine, failing to truly tune into our bodies and unique state of mind each day, ignoring how these habits are impacting us in the long term.
While I don't believe the occasional cup of coffee is severely harmful for any constitution, often, it's the mis/over use of coffee that gives the bean a bad name.
If you find yourself exhausted without it, perhaps it's time to reassess your sleep patterns. Your body is speaking to you, while caffeine gives us this synthetic boost of energy, the long-term impact of relying on a stimulant to create energy you do not naturally have, has the potential to push you towards adrenal exhaustion. These cues our bodies give us, have a purpose, while some days we must push through, I truly believe many of us are way too comfortable overstimulating and overworking ourselves.
A great practice in beginning to examine / redefine your relationship with coffee is to take the time to tune in each morning to truly ask if caffeine is necessary. If you wake up feeling anxious or scattered, perhaps it is best to choose a different morning beverage such as matcha, herbal tea, kava, cacao, chicory coffee or a nourishing turmeric latte instead - there truly are endless coffee alternatives out there these days.
And for those of you not ready to give up coffee just yet, there are some options to help decrease the side effects.
For those who are Pitta or Vata dominant, adding spices such as cinnamon, cardamom or ginger can be added to make coffee easier to digest. You can also add organic full fat milk of choice, coconut cream, ghee (clarified butter), organic extra virgin coconut oil or my new favorite addition - nut butter to make it easier on the stomach.
One of my favorite recipes lately is to combine 1 cup coffee, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp cardamom, 1 tablespoon mac nut butter & 2 tablespoons coconut cream and blend it on for 1-2 minutes until creamy and frothy.
Give it a try! <3