Caffeine, Coffee & Tea from an Ayurvedic Perspective
There's nothing quite like a soothing, spicy cup of lemongrass chai to help you destress and forget about your daily hustle and bustle. But what about classic tea or coffee?
Ayurveda recommends consuming caffeine-free herbal and spice blends instead of high-caffeine tea or coffee. The latter can leave you feeling jittery and distracted. That said, different dosha types respond differently to caffeine and some people actually benefit from a little boost every now and then.
As with most things, moderation is key. If you love coffee, black, green or white tea, here are some helpful Ayurvedic tips to keep in mind.
CHECK THE CAFFEINE CONTENT
Caffeinated teas or coffee do not all contain the same amount of caffeine. Let's look at black, green and white tea - while all of these varieties contain some caffeine, black tea has the highest caffeine content while white tea has the least with green tea somewhere in between. Green tea also contains theanine, an amino acid that can have a calming effect (depending on your constitution).
It's also worth noting that all teas contain far less caffeine than coffee. So if you're trying to cut back on caffeine consumption, switching to caffeinated tea is a great option and a good compromise.
KNOW YOUR DOSHA
Did you know that the way your body responds to caffeine has a lot to do with your dosha? People with a dominant Vata dosha are most sensitive to caffeine as it is a stimulant for the nervous system. If you're a Vata type, herbal teas are your friend, along with lower caffeine coffee or tea blends and shorter steeping times. Pitta types can tolerate caffeine better, although too much of it can make them very irritable. Calm Kapha types tolerate caffeine best, but in moderation.
CONSUME CAFFEINE EARLY IN THE DAY
Most people drink a cup of coffee or tea first thing in the morning, which is followed by more cups throughout the day. If it takes you a couple of hours to fall asleep every night after going to bed - there's your culprit right there! Stick to caffeinated beverages in the morning to avoid this problem, ideally between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., which is Kapha time when caffeine is best tolerated. Avoid caffeine completely after lunch in order to fall asleep quickly and sleep well at night. Improved sleep quality has many positive effects.
USE BALANCING HERBS & SPICES
In India, chai—a milky tea infused with spices and sugar—is more than just a delicious beverage. Ingredients in chai such as ginger, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom promote digestion. In fact, cardamom helps neutralise the effects of caffeine, making it easier on the nervous system. Some teas may also contain ingredients that provide balance. Sweet, floral blends with ingredients like rose petals are ideal for Pitta types. Furthermore, warming spices can help balance Vata and Kapha.
FOCUS ON SATTVIC NUTRITION
In Ayurveda, foods are divided into three groups:
- Sattvic (pure, promoting spiritual growth): these include whole foods, fresh produce, rice, ghee and dairy products.
- Rajasic (stimulating, arousing desire): these include garlic, onions, chillies, chocolate and caffeinated drinks.
- Tamasic (heavy, leading to lethargy and dullness): these include meat, leftovers and overly processed foods such as potato chips.
Ayurveda generally recommends a sattvic diet, but it is okay to indulge in Rajasic and Tamasic foods from time to time depending on how well you tolerate them. As always, it's about balance. If you eat a mostly Sattvic diet—that is, high in whole grains, legumes, healthy fats and fresh fruits and vegetables—then a little chocolate, meat, or caffeine can actually do you good, depending on your body's needs.
DEVELOP AN AYURVEDIC ROUTINE
A balanced, healthy routine is one of the cornerstones of good health in Ayurveda. This includes all the Ayurvedic basics: getting up early (ideally before 6 am when the morning Kapha cycle kicks in), gently scraping out the tongue of ama (toxins) in the morning, daily abhyanga (warm oil massage), meditation and yoga, getting enough rest and exercise and going to bed no later than 10 pm during the evening Kapha cycle. If you stick to a routine, a little caffeine probably won't affect you much.
To summarise: Ayurveda recommends keeping caffeine consumption low and limited to the mornings. So enjoy that morning cuppa - all the more enjoyable and special because you don't drink it that often!
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