I’ve been drinking coffee every day for the past 15 years.
8 days ago, I stopped, fully expecting massive caffeine withdrawal with headaches, fatigue, decreased blood pressure, etc. – every symptom that I had before even if I skip only a day.
Imagine my surprise when there was none of it: no sluggishness, no headaches, but the same great energy levels and ability to focus.
How on earth did that happen?
One word: adaptogens.
I’ve been adding a mix of adaptogens to my morning cup of coffee – Chaga, Reishi, Moringa, Tulsi, Ashwagandha, Siberian ginseng, Amla, Rhodiola, and Schisandra – for a month before quitting cold turkey.
Here’s why that worked.
The caffeine molecule is structurally similar to our brain’s adenosine, which protects us by slowing nerve cell activity, and basically tells the brain when it’s time to rest or sleep.
Due to its similar structure, the adenosine receptors get blocked with caffeine molecules, keeping them from signaling tiredness. The excess adenosine then signals the adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormone), even further increasing your alertness. In other words, by consuming caffeine, you are deliberately putting your body in a stressed state.
After a while, your brain adds more adenosine receptors to compensate for the caffeine, which results in a so-called “caffeine tolerance,” i.e., you need more coffee to get the same effect.
Caffeine also indirectly increases the amount of dopamine (a neurotransmitter that makes us feel good) and serotonin (a natural mood stabilizer) in your brain by blocking their reabsorption into your body. This is why caffeine is addictive. You get used to the elevated dopamine and serotonin levels and miss them without a caffeine boost.
So when you skip your morning coffee, your brain gets flooded with adenosine, the dopamine and serotonin levels in your brain drop, and, as a result, the brain’s chemistry becomes unbalanced, leading to all those nasty caffeine withdrawal symptoms.
This is where the adaptogens come to the rescue.
Adaptogens are natural compounds and plant extracts that help normalize your body’s functions under stress and have been used for thousands of years in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine.
They help your body to “adapt” (hence the name) to resist better physical stressors like exercise or mental stressors like studying.
When used correctly, adaptogenic herbs normalize your body’s functions rather than stimulate or suppress them.
While caffeine destabilizes your brain’s chemistry leading to withdrawal symptoms without another dose, adaptogens help to balance it out, so you can quit drinking coffee without the consequences.
If that wasn’t enough, Ashwagandha, Schisandra, Eleutherococcus, and ginseng have been shown to extend the life span in some animals, and Rhodiola to strengthen the endocrine system, including the thyroid and adrenal glands (the same ones that caffeine is tricking into releasing extra cortisol).
Some people are concerned by the scarce of scientific research, but the beauty of adaptogens is that they have been proven remedies in human trials for at least a few thousand years.