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Jolt Without the Jitters

Healthy caffeine alternatives

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Jolt Without the Jitters

We may love the aroma and initial effects of our morning coffee, but the potential for headaches, nervousness, and insomnia leaves a bitter aftertaste.

We may love the aroma and initial effects of our morning coffee, but the potential for headaches, nervousness, and insomnia leaves a bitter aftertaste.

Caffiene Calamity

Caffeine is a component of coffee, tea, cola, and chocolate, but did you know that it also lurks in cold remedies and analgesics? A 2003 Health Canada review concluded that for the average adult, 400 to 450 mg a day of caffeine has no serious long-term consequences.

The possible side effects, whose likelihood and severity rise with our intake, include increased stomach-acid secretion, elevated blood pressure and blood sugar, tremors, irregular heartbeat, increased urinary calcium and magnesium losses, and irritability. In short, while caffeine may not officially be bad for us, it isn’t good.

South American Zest

Thankfully there are beverages that offer energy while limiting caffeine. These include yerba mat?ginseng, Ginkgo biloba, and astragalus.

Yerba mat?is a popular drink in South America where this herb is cultivated. University students there rely on its stimulant effects while studying. These effects are also recognized by the American Botanical Council for mental and physical fatigue as well as by the British Herbal Medicine Association for nervous depression and fatigue-related headaches.

Traditional Chinese Energy

For thousands of years, Ginkgo biloba has been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to enhance mental vigour. In 2002, a review of 33 clinical trials concluded that ginkgo leaf improves memory in patients with dementia. Older adults without memory problems have also been helped by this potent leaf, both in memory and concentration.

Ginseng is another well-known herb that has long been used in TCM. Of its two main named varieties, Siberian and Panax (also known as Korean ginseng), Panax is the most widely studied. Although athletes have used Panax ginseng as a performance enhancer for years, modern research is focusing on brains rather than brawn. A 2001 study in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience found that quality of memory in healthy, young volunteers improved within six hours of a single dose.

But what if you’re neither healthy nor young? In 2003 Chinese researchers found that people suffering from vascular dementia as a result of a stroke who took ginseng scored higher on memory tests than those who did not take the herb.

Like ginseng and Ginkgo biloba, astragalus is another herb that TCM practitioners use to boost energy. Although astragalus has a fatigue-fighting reputation, current research is focusing on its immune-boosting power.

With so many healthy alternatives to coffee, the choice is clear–with no bitter aftertaste.

Caffeine Content of Popular Foods and Beverages
ProductTypical amount (mg)
Coffee, 250 mL* (1 cup)135
Cola ** (1 can)36-46
Tea, average blend (250 mL)43
Green tea (250 mL)30
Chocolate milk (250 mL)0
Milk Chocolate (30 g)7
Dark Chocolate (30 g)20

* Amount of caffeine varies based on type of coffee and preparation method.
**Mountain Dew has 55mg of caffeine–more than Pepsi and Coke.

Source: Health Canada, Fact Sheet “Caffeine and Your Health”

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