Coffee (Coffea arabica)

What is Coffee?

Coffee is by far one of the most beloved herbs in the world. Some reports suggest as many as 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed each day around the world. The only other herb that could even come close to rivaling this number is tea (Camellia sinensis) — which is around 2.16 billion cups per day.

Coffee is loved for its rich, earthy flavor, and stimulating effects. The active ingredient, caffeine, inhibits chemicals in the brain designed to make us feel tired. It also activates areas of the central nervous system associated with the fight or flight response.

There are four species of coffee — Arabica, Robusta, Excelsa, and Liberica. However, the most common is Coffee arabica (75% of the market) due to the pleasant flavor profile, relatively high caffeine content, and reliable yields.

Coffea robusta (Coffea caniphora) is also used to make coffee and has a higher caffeine content to arabica plants — but with the downside of having a strong bitter flavor. Robusta coffee makes up roughly 20% of the market today. You’re likely to find a robusta-arabica mix in places like 24/hour diners, hotel lobby, or other places using cheaper coffee.

Coffea liberica is much less common, responsible for roughly 2% of the entire coffee market. These plants are much taller than arabica plants (up to 18 m tall). The added height of the trees makes them harder and more expensive to harvest, but the deep taproot system enables these plants to survive drought more easily.

Lately, there’s been a surge in interest for Coffea liberica plants among farmers in regions where Coffea arabica plants have been decimated by coffee rust disease.

The last species — Excelsa is no longer considered a species of its own, but a variant of Coffea liberica. However, we still consider this a different plant because of the distinct differences between excelsa plants and liberica plants in terms of flavor content. Excelsa has much more front-palate flavors (fruity, tart, sweet), while liberica is more of a back palate plant (bitter, earthy).

What Else is Coffee Known As?

  • Café
  • Espresso
  • Java
  • Mocha
  • Joe

Herbal Actions/Properties of Coffee

  • Antioxidant
  • Blood Glucose Regulator
  • Bronchodilator
  • Cardiotonic
  • Diuretic
  • Eugeroic
  • Hepatoprotective
  • Hypertensive/Hypotensive (tolerance dependant)
  • Nootropic
  • Stimulant

What is Coffee Used For? 

Coffee is primarily used for its stimulating effects on the mind and body. In modern society, the drink has become a popular ritual in the morning.

People use coffee to ward off fatigue and sleepiness — something just about everybody on earth can make use of from time to time.

Coffee is also used to curb symptoms of altitude sickness, for asthma, to increase blood pressure in hypotensive people, and as a nootropic to support focus and concentration while studying.

How Does Coffee Work?

The active ingredient, caffeine, inhibits a compound in the brain known as adenosine. Throughout the day, adenosine builds up in the brain. These adenosine molecules bind to the neurons and cause a delay in electrical transmission.

If the neurons transmit electrical signals slower as a result of adenosine, overall brain activity slows — making us feel tired and can make it hard to stay focused.

Caffeine inhibits the effects of adenosine by removing it from its receptors in the brain and blocking free receptors so adenosine can no longer bind. This effectively reverses the effects of adenosine, making us feel alert and awake for about 6 hours until the caffeine wears off.

Caffeine also stimulates the adrenergic receptors in the heart, lungs, and brain — which activates the fight or flight response to make us feel alert and awake within minutes.

Folklore & History of Coffee

Coffee has been used for thousands of years, starting in Ethiopia where coffee was thought to have first originated. Here it was used to increase mental acuity before a hunt, and during ceremonies and social gatherings to enable drinkers to stay up all night.

Outside of Ethiopia, coffee became popular in the Arab world in the form of newly innovated coffee houses. These coffee shops were a place for men (women were banned) to socialize and discuss politics and business over a cup of coffee. Cairo, Egypt became the epicenter for coffee culture by the end of the 17th century.

European travelers passing through Cairo and other Arab cities eventually brought the plant home where new coffee shops were eventually created.

Coffee Side-Effects & Safety

The active ingredient in coffee has a lot of benefits by stimulating the central nervous system — but these benefits can also result in some negatives if consumed in higher doses.

The main side-effects of coffee include anxiety, muscle tension and jitteriness, insomnia, nausea, and digestive cramping.

It’s recommended you avoid coffee (and caffeine in general) if you suffer from high blood pressure or late-stage heart disease.

Scientific Research Involving Coffee

  1. Teas, Cocoa and Coffee : Plant Secondary Metabolites and Health. — 2016
  2. Coffee Consumption and Cardiovascular Health — 2015
  3. Associations of ambulatory blood pressure with urinary caffeine and caffeine metabolite excretions. — 2015
  4. Long-term coffee consumption and risk of cardiovascular diseases. A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. — 2014
  5. Letter: coffee and chronic liver damage. — 2014
  6. Contributions of metabolic dysregulation and inflammation to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, hepatic fibrosis, and cancer. — 2014
  7. The impact of green tea and coffee consumption on the reduced risk of stroke incidence in Japanese population. — 2013
  8. The impact of coffee on health. Maturitas. — 2013
  9. Effects of habitual coffee consumption and cardiometabolic disease, cardiovascular health, and all-cause mortality. — 2013
  10. Effects of habitual coffee consumption and cardiometabolic disease, cardiovascular health, and all-cause mortality. — 2013
  11. Coffee, chronic diseases and cancer. — 2013
  12. Coffee consumption in NAFLD patients with lower insulin resistance is associated with lower risk of severe fibrosis. — 2013
  13. Coffee consumption and cardiovascular health: getting to the heart of the matter. — 2013
  14. Bioappearance and pharmacokinetics of bioactives upon coffee consumption. — 2013
  15. Association of coffee consumption with all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality. — 2013
  16. The effect of coffee consumption on blood pressure and the development of hyper- tension: a systematic review and meta-analysis. — 2012
  17. Role of coffee in modulation of diabetes risk. — 2012
  18. Habitual coffee consumption and risk of heart failure. A dose-response meta-analysis. — 2012
  19. Faster but not smarter: effects of caffeine and caffeine withdrawal on alertness and performance. — 2012
  20. Crude caffeine reduces memory impair- ment and amyloid β1-42 levels in an Alzheimer’s mouse model. — 2012
  21. Coffee consumption and risk of chronic disease in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). — 2012
  22. Association of coffee drinking with total and cause-specific mortality. — 2012
  23. Antihypertensive effects and mechanisms of chlorogenic acids. — 2012
  24. The use of green coffee extract as a weight loss supplement: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised clinical trials. — 2011
  25. The effect of coffee on blood pressure and cardiovascular disease in hypertensive individuals: a systematic review and meta-analysis. — 2011
  26. Habitual coffee con- sumption and risk of hypertension: a systematic review and meta- analysis of prospective observational studies. — 2011
  27. Greater coffee intake in men is associated with steeper age-related increases in blood pressure. — 2011
  28. Coffee consumption and the risk of heart failure in Finnish men and women. — 2011
  29. Coffee consumption and risk of stroke: a dose- response meta-analysis. — 2011
  30. Coffee consumption and mortality in women with car- diovascular disease. — 2011
  31. Caffeine synergizes with another coffee component to increase plasma GCSF: Linkage to cognitive benefits in Alzheimer’s Mice. — 2011
  32. Tea and coffee consumption and cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. — 2010
  33. Coffee consumption but not green tea consumption is associated with adiponectin levels in Japanese males. — 2010
  34. Coffee consumption and mortality due to all causes, cardio- vascular disease, and cancer in Japanese women. — 2010
  35. Caffeine intake and dementia: systematic review and meta-analysis. — 2010
  36. Adiponectin in insulin resistance: lessons from trans- lational research. — 2010
  37. Coffee consumption is associated with higher plasma adiponectin concentrations in women with or without type 2 diabetes: a prospective cohort study. — 2008
  38. The effect of chlorogenic acid enriched coffee on glucose absorption in healthy volunteers and its effect on body mass when used long-term in over- weight and obese people. — 2007
  39. Svetol®, green coffee extract, induces weight loss and increases the lean to fat mass ratio in volunteers with overweight problem. — 2006
  40. Excess risk of fatal coronary heart disease associated with diabetes in men and women: meta-analysis of 37 prospective cohort studies. — 2006
  41. Content of redox-active com- pounds (i.e., antioxidants) in foods consumed in the United States. — 2006
  42. Coffee consumption and risk of total and cardiovas- cular mortality among patients with type 2 diabetes. — 2006
  43. Body weight loss and weight maintenance in relation to habitual caffeine intake and green tea supplementation. — 2005
  44. Effects of green tea on weight maintenance after body-weight loss. — 2004
  45. Coffee consumption, type 2 diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance in Swedish men and women. — 2004
  46. Coffee consumption and incidence of impaired fasting glucose, impaired glucose tolerance, and type 2 diabetes: the Hoorn Study. — 2004
  47. Coffee consumption and glucose tolerance status in middle-aged Japanese men. — 2004
  48. Total antioxidant capacity of plant foods, beverages and oils consumed in Italy assessed by three different in vitro assays. — 2003
  49. The effects of diabetes on the risks of major cardiovascular diseases and death in the Asia-Pacific region. — 2003
  50. CONSERVATION: Caffeine and Conservation. — 2003
  51. A molecular mechanism of action of theophylline: Induction of histone deacetylase activity to decrease inflammatory gene expression. — 2002
  52. The Essence of Commodification: Caffeine Dependencies in the Early Modern World. — 2001
  53. Caffeine as a lipolytic food component increases endurance performance in rats and athletes. — 2001
  54. Paraxanthine, a caffeine metabolite, dose dependently increases [Ca2+]i in skeletal muscle. — 2000
  55. Antioxidant ability of caffeine and its metabolites based on the study of oxygen radical absorbing capacity and inhibition of LDL peroxidation. — 2000
  56. Polyphenols: chemistry, dietary sources, metabolism, and nutritional significance. — 1998
  57. Coffee induced thermogenesis and skin temperature. — 1994
  58. Antioxidant behaviour of caffeine: efficient scavenging of hydroxyl radicals. — 1991
  59. Misreading of DNA templates containing 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine at the modified base and at adjacent residues. — 1987
  60. Effects of caffeine ingestion on metabolism and exercise performance. — 1978
  61. Greater coffee intake in men is associated with steeper age-related increases in blood pressure. — 2011

Other Resources

  1. [2012] Medical Toxicology of Drugs Abuse: Synthesized Chemicals and Psychoactive Plants.
  2. [2005] The healing power of rainforest herbs: A guide to understanding and using herbal medicinals.
  3. [2003] A modern herbal — Coffee