herbal function of coffee

topic posted Thu, June 17, 2010 - 1:37 PM by  Tara
I just made a comment in the Palm Sugar thread regarding the number of people that commented that they liked the palm sugar in their coffee, and decided that perhaps I should post this comment to the general group.

I am a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) with over 15 years of clinical practice. I mention this only as a point of reference as the TCM understanding of the use of coffee is a bit difficult for most westerners, especially Americans, to accept. And, as I am in the Seattle area, the home of Starbucks, it is especially difficult for the people here to accept as there seems to be a coffeehouse, or street corner coffee shed everywhere you look.

However, from a TCM herbal perspective, the plant coffee is problematic for your long-term health. Here, we are not referring to the caffeine content of the coffee, but to the herbal functions of the plant itself. If you are drinking the coffee for the caffeine boost, then a black tea can give you almost as much in a cup as the coffee, although a green or white tea are better from the perspective of health.

We would say that one of the herbal functions of the plant coffee is to “cool the kidney”. In other words, it is a kidney yin herb. The problem is that in TCM, we have the understanding that you need to “keep the kidney fire raging”. The primary kidney functions are to store essence and dominate human reproduction and development, dominate water metabolism and the reception of Qi (chi), produce marrow to fill up the brain, dominate bone, manufacture blood, manifest in the hair, open into the ear, and dominate the anterior and posterior orifices.

By essence, the reference is to both inherited congenital essence and the acquired essence from the food you eat. The functions of reproduction and development rely entirely on the kidney Qi. After puberty, this essence is gradually reducing, and this loss of kidney Qi is responsible for many of the symptoms of old age. The kidney is considered to be the “congenital foundation” of the body.

The kidney yin is the foundation of the Yin fluids of the entire body that moistens and nourishes all of the organs and tissues of the body. The kidney yang is the foundation of the Yang Qi of the whole body that warms and promotes the functions of all of the organs and tissues. By kidney yin, we refer to the kidney essence, while by kidney Qi, we refer to the kidney yang. Both are important, and must be in balance for the system to function correctly. When one or the other is either deficient or excessive, we see a number of specific signs and symptoms that tell the TCM practitioner what the problem is.

Through its cooling effect on the kidney’s, coffee can cause a kidney yang and Qi deficiency with possible signs and symptoms including: lack of spirit, coldness and pain in the lumbar region and knees, aversion to cold, cold limbs, and infertility in women & impotence in men. Additionally, there may be shortness of breath and difficulty on inhalation. If the kidney is weakened to the point of affecting the relationship with the support of the marrow, there will also be a weakening of the bones, including the teeth and hair. The kidney Qi also dominates the hearing and when the Kidney Qi is insufficient, there will be tinnitus and deafness. The reference to the anterior and posterior orifices relate to the kidney association with both the reproductive functions as will as the excretion of feces, therefore a deficiency of Kidney Qi can also lead to frequency of micturition (urination), enuresis, oliguria and anuria, seminal emission, impotence, premature ejaculation and infertility in reproduction, and prolonged diarrhea with prolapse of the rectum or constipation.

Naturally, not all of these signs and symptoms are evident in every patient, but when several are, and the pulse and tongue diagnosis also indicate a kidney deficiency, then we can be confident that the kidney deficiency is a major aspect of the condition. As I said in the beginning, if I were to select the herb coffee for its therapeutic function, it would be to cool the kidney, which is to reduce the yang and Qi of the kidney.

It is the natural course of events to loose kidney Qi as we age, this is the normal aging process. If you look at the signs and symptoms listed, you will notice that most are also associated with old age. When we see them in an elderly patient, they would not be considered a disease as such, but part of normal aging; however, when we see them in a younger patient, they are not considered normal, and we need to begin the tonification process to bring the kidney Qi back up to normal levels with any of a number of kidney tonics depending upon the other organ systems that may be involved in the patients overall health.

My recommendation to patients is always to give up the coffee, and drink a black tea for the caffeine function, but when the caffeine boost is not needed, then to drink a green or white tea. The green tea has less caffeine than the black, but more anti-occident’s, and the white tea has even less caffeine and even more anti-occident’s than the green. Naturally, the tea itself should be a certified organic tea if at all possible, as should as much of your diet as possible.
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    Re: herbal function of coffee

    Thu, June 17, 2010 - 3:02 PM
    Interesting. I should note though that in Traditional Hispanic herbalism, coffee is used medicinally. The proper dosages is used for various ailments from poor digestion to depression.
  • Re: herbal function of coffee

    Thu, June 17, 2010 - 4:57 PM
    i have been coffee drinker for all of 2 years, yes 2, it never appealed to me before
    in fact up til then coffee always made me nauseous, much as tea still does
    i drink my coffee what most people would consider colored water
    1 tablespoon makes 12 cups

    tea still makes me sick and after 1 cup i will spend 2 days on the throne
    s for all th problems you attribute to coffee
    i had them long before i started drinking it, a lot of it is called old age breakdown
  • Re: herbal function of coffee

    Thu, June 17, 2010 - 10:03 PM
    lately coffee is making me nauseous too and just irritable and moody later in the day
    am trying hard to get away from the habit and drink yerba mate or black tea as suggested here (or none at all).
  • Re: herbal function of coffee

    Fri, June 18, 2010 - 10:54 AM
    I never drink coffee or tea, excepting herbal teas. The stimulant effect just doen't appeal to me (and I don't feel it strongly anyway.)
    • Re: herbal function of coffee

      Sun, June 20, 2010 - 7:45 PM
      I find, quite simply, that everyone is different and no one person is the same for what is best for them. In my own schooling, I'm learning that while one set of rules applies to one person, another set applies to another...ranging from environment to cultural background to other sensitivities too numerous to mention. Having studied independently as many here continue to prior to going to school, I can't say one approach works for everyone - it simply does not. That said, I'm not discounting coffee as a benefit for some people. I enjoy it - in moderation, but react adversely if I have too much. Then there's an entirely different discussion to have when speaking of where was the coffee grown...and how does this impact someone...
      • Re: herbal function of coffee

        Tue, June 22, 2010 - 7:54 AM
        Trish... you are right on with this. There is no one-size-fits-all dietary dogma. Everyone responds differently. In moderation, for otherwise healthy people, coffee can have health benefits. In excess, most things are dangerous.

        Just my point of view here: dogma is more dangerous than coffee.
        • Re: herbal function of coffee

          Tue, June 22, 2010 - 9:59 AM
          I urge you to take a close and critical look the science surrounding the health benefits of coffee. I for one never completely trust the scientific findings for large scale economic crops; coffee, wine, soy, etc. Almost all coffee studies are funded by the coffee industry and we know how that works; just look at how the tobacco industry twisted research for 50 years and continues to do so even today.

          Coffee is addictive. Sure, its not heroin, but I'm never surprised by the rationalizations coffee drinkers profess in defense of their beloved pick-me-up.

          The coffee industry like many gigantic industries, has an extremely poor environmental record and continues to keep the coffee farmer from getting their fair share.

          Yes, there are certainly benefits to many of the alkaloids found in coffee but most if not all of the alkaloids can be found in other sources like green tea which have been show to be even more beneficial than coffee.

          Why not create a drink with some of your local plants? There are so many wonderful local plants to make tea with that are even better for you then coffee or green/black tea.

          - About 17 billion pounds of green coffee are produced around the world each year.

          - 501 billion cups consumed every year.

          - 14 billion espresso coffees are consumed each year in Italy.

          - Americans consume 400 million cups of coffee per day, or equivalent to 146,000,000,000 (146 Billion) cups of coffee per year.

          - A $3 latte typically only provides the original farmer with an income of one penny.
          • Re: herbal function of coffee

            Tue, June 22, 2010 - 2:05 PM
            Coffee was nearly made illegal around the same time that cannabis/marijuana was.
            • Re: herbal function of coffee

              Tue, June 22, 2010 - 7:27 PM
              Phil, you're spot on with the statement about dogma - don't our wars evidence this? As for stimulants in moderation, I think most things in moderation are OK. One person's stress is another person's challenge - aka, opportunity. I also think cultural norms influence how much excess we do - or don't - allow ourselves, which tips the scales widely. SynerGy, that's interesting about making coffee illegal. Somehow, I think they should have left marijuana alone. David, I rather suspect the west is never giving up its love for excess. Problem is, it may damn well kill us all.
  • Re: herbal function of coffee

    Sun, June 20, 2010 - 9:58 PM
    Hi Tara. Thank you for posting this important information. I found out recently that potassium helps the body create cortisol in the kidneys and that magnesium helps create DHEA. Do you think that either one or both could help offset the effects of coffee?
    • Re: herbal function of coffee

      Mon, June 21, 2010 - 10:31 AM
      From a very basic western perspective; coffee stimulates the sympathetic nervous system which will rob the digestive track of nourishing blood. Rob the stomach of blood and you find that its functions are reduced, the mucosa lining is less healthy, less muscular ability to pinch off portions of the stomach to separate acidic from the less acidic regions, lower ability to properly excrete the necessary digestive fluids with the proper timing. Follow this loss of blood / function all the way down the digestive track and you end up with a path towards leaky guy syndrome, autoimmune symptoms, food and environmental allergies, etc.
      • Re: herbal function of coffee

        Mon, June 21, 2010 - 7:24 PM
        David, I do think one thing, though - in the west, excess is the name of the game. It is here where I wonder if this is the actual problem that needs to be addressed more - perhaps I'm wrong...
        • Re: herbal function of coffee

          Mon, June 21, 2010 - 8:15 PM
          Hi Trish, I would agree that the west loves what it loves, perhaps a little too much. And yes, in perhaps a more serene civilization, a little stimulant would be a nice thing. But here in the west we are the kings and queens of rushing, of being busy, of not having enough time and this all of this leads to stress. And all the little stresses add up and coffee is just one more, alone perhaps not the most dangerous, but it is an real and touchable straw that we can take off our back and aid our selves in a quest for quality nourishment.
          • Re: herbal function of coffee

            Mon, June 21, 2010 - 9:15 PM
            in a hurry to die
            thats what i always say about most people here
            im glad i dont belong to that world :)
            stress for me is if the rain will hold off tll the hay is off the
  • Re: herbal function of coffee

    Wed, June 23, 2010 - 12:58 AM
    Hi Tara - the School of Natural Healing (being Mormon and all) says no coffee or tea (luckily I am not Mormon hehe). However, they have said that if a person is having an asthma attack and do not drink coffee regularly - that coffee can help in this circumstance (no sugar/milk). Does that count? ;-)
    • Re: herbal function of coffee

      Wed, June 23, 2010 - 7:06 PM
      I don't generally drink coffee,
      so when I feel a migraine coming, a cup of joe will help head it off in a pinch.

      I've only done this once, but felt really energized and good afterward:
      • Re: herbal function of coffee

        Wed, June 23, 2010 - 7:27 PM
        A researcher at Stanford (sorry i forget who) discovered
        that, in the American diet, coffee is the single largest
        source of antioxidents.
        • Re: herbal function of coffee

          Thu, June 24, 2010 - 11:07 AM
          > in the American diet, coffee is the single largest source of antioxidents.

          Well, if someone only eats big macs then they will be their largest source of dietary fiber, but that doesn't mean big macs are healthy.
          • Re: herbal function of coffee

            Thu, June 24, 2010 - 11:17 AM
            statistics have, are and always will be used to the best advantage of the person using them
            my fav is most accidents happen within 25 miles of home
            95% of all driving is done within 25 miles of home
            • Re: herbal function of coffee

              Thu, June 24, 2010 - 1:40 PM
              I used to have a friend who became wacked out on crack. He would show up at my apartment building in the middle of the night and yell up at my window crying and begging for money. You would never believe the stories he made up, all the times his money had been stolen, all the jobs he had been wrongly fired from, once or twice he even stole some of my stuff just to sell it on Haight street to get another hit.

              I didn't blame him so much as I did the crack. The crack demon was inside him, talking though his lips, shedding those crocodile tears and telling me those stupid ass stories. It controlled him in a way that turned him into another person, a person who would do just about anything to get more of that white stuff.

              I have all seen the alcohol, cannabis, meth and heroin demons in myself and/or my friends. They are often big and obnoxious and sometimes particularly hard to deal with.

              I think there is a little coffee demon inside people who drink coffee everyday. And there is a sugar, a nicotine, and a even a exercise endorphin demon too. The good thing about these little demons is that they are usually much more reasonable and personable than my friends crack demon. But they too make up little stories to rationalize their addictions.

              On the other hand some people know about the little demons and choose to live with them because it makes life easier in some way. Sometimes for a short time or sometimes longer. They knowingly self medicate with knowledge and consent.

              It may be some time before the public knows the truth about coffee and its health risks because the coffee industry controls almost all of the science in that area. If you cross them you will be out of a job. If you praise them you will get funding aplenty.

              So sure, there are benefits to coffee. And drinking it once in a while as medicine is a good thing. But drinking it every day and thinking you are doing a healthy thing for yourself is dancing with a little coffee demon of denial.
              • Re: herbal function of coffee

                Fri, June 25, 2010 - 4:33 AM
                ...Seems a bit over the top, there, D; relax. Let's go ahead and avoid implying others are liars (???), if that's OK with you, and also leave off implications that crack = coffee or that you are personally able to comment on medical science with authority in all or most cases.

                Does that seem reasonable?
                • Re: herbal function of coffee

                  Fri, June 25, 2010 - 8:05 AM
                  hey, I'm going to pull on my moderator hat at least briefly and say that it's time to drop this thread.

                  it;s getting too danged emotional all around. let;s either cool it out now or delete it and find something else to talk about.

                • Re: herbal function of coffee

                  Fri, June 25, 2010 - 10:01 AM
                  I did not say that everyone was lying Lokifreign. I suggested that some substances, especially addictive substances, have a way of altering our reality and this includes coffee. If you think otherwise then fine. Stick to what you know is true for you.

                  If you dont think that caffeine has similar properties as cocaine then you should read up on the subject:

                  Coffee acts just like cocaine, says scientist:

                  How does caffeine affect us?:

                  Relative Addictiveness of Drugs

                  As far as my commenting on medical science, you must certainly be joking. Everyone here has the ability and right to read and comment on what ever science they feel applicable to the subject. If you think my skepticism on coffee research is unfounded I suggest you do some reading.

                  "Tainted Truth: The Manipulation of Fact In America "

                  From Page 62
                  "The coffee industry is incredibly powerful," said Dr. Robert Superko, who did coffee research as Stanford University. "Once you get on their bad side, they have a very heavy hammer."
                  • This is the maximum depth. Additional responses will not be threaded.

                    Re: herbal function of coffee

                    Fri, June 25, 2010 - 10:58 AM
                    I drink an organic decaf a few times a week and feel fine. If I drink regular coffee I'll start suffering adrenal insufficiency. The value in coffee is from the flavanoids and related substances. Caffeine is a natural pesticide meant to kill bugs that try and feast on the coffee plant. Caffeine causes a release of cortisol from the adrenals and is the reason it stops pain. It should optimally be used like any other herb. If you are constipated and depressed. Voila! Coffee will solve your problem though so can a steamed beet. Coffee is highly estrogenic which is good for the short term. Most people I know like the darker roasts which dramatically lower digestive acids and have alkaloids that are difficult for the liver to detoxify. Modesty is the best policy unless you want to die young and have a good looking corpse. Whatever you decide to do make sure you enjoy yourself as much as humanly possible. Aloha, Kahuna Lamaku.
                    • Re: herbal function of coffee

                      Fri, June 25, 2010 - 2:24 PM
                      I agree coffee is def not for brother was a nightmare on coffee and pot together and even coffee by revved him so far out of himself you could'nt even relate to him..he was more angry and hyper sensitive..
                      I can only drink small amounts of it myself..I most often will not sleep from one cup if its anywhere near lunchtime..
                    • Re: herbal function of coffee

                      Fri, June 25, 2010 - 3:36 PM
                      coffee = rough in/on body/mind ... achtung !

                      and if you MUST drink coffee, drink very lightly-roasted beans like somethign African Ethiopian (they like the light-roasted taste there)
                      It's significantly higher in caffeine , usually but much less bitter and caustic tasting...
  • Re: herbal function of coffee

    Thu, June 24, 2010 - 8:29 PM
    I'm reading all this with interest, as I am a coffee drinker. Several cups each morning and occasionally one in the afternoon.

    I'm not likely to stop drinking coffee just from reading these concerns. Still, I like to be informed. It is interesting what you say about coffee cooling the kidneys and what it could lead to.

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