A Couple of Things About Caffeine

The taste of happiness

14 MAY 2017,
A cup of caffeine
A cup of caffeine

Many of us like to begin our day by running to our coffee machine, desperately pushing all the buttons and turning all the knobs, then finally getting that first taste of sweet blackness with some cream and two sugars and effectively quadrupling our willingness to live. Others may opt for tea and live a slightly less chaotic lifestyle. The debate on caffeine and its pros and cons goes on to this day, every week seeing a new infographic on social media either espousing or deriding it. We understand the main points, and know that the general consensus seems to be “Everything in Moderation.” However, I think that outside of the usual talking points, there are a couple of things about this magical chemical that some may know about.

Aspirin's Best Friend

Sometimes you wake up in the morning and really wish you hadn't. Maybe you went to bed too late after binge watching the latest season of something amazing on Netflix. Maybe you kept waking up in the middle of the night because the birds like making nests outside your window and you can´t take care of the problem since they took away your gun after last time. Maybe you´ve been a good boy or girl, gotten a good full night's sleep, but life hates you anyway. Whichever one of these applies to you, they all have in common the fact that you have a splitting headache.

There is a plethora of over-the-counter medication that exists to help you with this particular problem. Aspirin, Paracetamol, Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen and other names that are increasingly more difficult to pronounce. You might also reach for your morning cup of Joe while you wait for the drugs to kick in. However, what you might not know is that the coffee you're drinking might just be the answer to your prayers. Along with its other superpowers, caffeine can help cure your headache. No, really. While it is capable of doing so by itself, it's when you combine it with other pain relieving medicine that the magic really happens. Caffeine, and by extension coffee, can increase effectiveness of over-the-counter painkillers by up to a whopping 40%. In fact, that´s why there are available painkillers that already have the caffeine included. A trip to your local pharmacy will most likely reveal some medicine of this kind, perhaps Caffeine + Paracetamol or Caffeine + Acetaminophen, pre-packaged for when you have one of those days.

Whether you choose to go the combo medicine route or to wash down a 100mg of "Make It Stop" with your morning Arabica, an additional bonus is that this increase in effectiveness means you won´t need as many painkillers to get through your day. You may generally end up taking as many pills as necessary to make you feel human again, but coffee is here to help your liver, by lowering the needed dosage. Coffee doesn‘t want you to need a new liver, so that you can keep drinking more of it.

Decaf? Not Really

Let's say you've decided that you don't want to need caffeine just to feel alive in the morning anymore, but simply can't imagine completely giving up the fragrance of heaven or the taste of happiness. Therefore, you decide to take the middle road; eliminating caffeine from your life, while still allowing yourself a bit of paradise. How is that possible, you ask? With the magic of decaf, of course!

Unfortunately, I feel it is my duty to inform you that decaf is not, in fact, strictly decaf. A more appropriate term would be “low-caf” or “little-caf”. After harvesting, coffee beans sometimes go through a process of caffeine removal; using either water, chemicals or carbon dioxide to draw the caffeine out of them. The problem with these methods is that they do not completely remove the caffeine. Up to 97% of the good stuff may end up flushed away, but that can actually vary greatly, leaving plenty of it behind.

This means that there is no easy way to have an authentic coffee experience while steering completely clear of the elixir of life. You could either just drink regular coffee, enjoy feeling truly alive with the first sip in the morning and wanting to commit murder in the unlikely event you ever run out; or you may opt for decaf, getting the taste, a nice little placebo effect but needing to drink up to 10 cups of it to actually feel anything. If you end up going through with and say goodbye to the liquid that gives life meaning, remember to warn all those around that you may be a little more annoying than usual for the next few days. Caffeine withdrawal is a real thing, you know. Headaches, irritability, lethargy, sleepiness, constipation, insomnia, anxiety, dizziness and a whole host of symptoms that bear an alarming similarity to the flu. You may end up drinking coffee to help you with the headache you have from quitting coffee.

Conclusion

Whichever way you lean and whatever your beverage of choice, it is probably a good idea not to take things too far. Coffee is a nice, warm beverage that can help you concentrate, improves brain function, staves off diabetes and dementia, helps beat depressions, may lower the chance of stroke and help you finish that half-marathon. However, like all things in life, if it abuse it and rely upon it to too much to get through your day-to-day life, it can have significant detrimental effects. Stomach ulcers, increased blood pressure, caffeine overdose, cardiac arrest, coma and death directly linked to the heavy abuse of caffeine is a real thing.