The global economy is fast-paced, and it’s getting quicker every year. More and more people are turning to stimulants for productivity. However, most people don’t want to use prescription pills. They want something natural. Luckily, some plants have properties that can provide stimulation for the user.
The most popular plant stimulant on the planet is coffee. According to legend, it was discovered somewhere around 850 AD. So it’s been around for quite a while. People get energy from that plant through an alkaloid called caffeine found inside it. The most common form of consumption is to make a hot beverage by boiling the dried caffeine seeds—which most people call coffee beans—and leaching the compounds out into the coffee drink. But there are a few other plants that produce caffeine, too. Coffee is America’s go-to source.
Still, some people desire other herbal alternatives for energy over caffeine. That’s because the compound has addictive properties. So after prolonged usage, you can get headaches and other minor complications from quitting cold turkey.
We will look at some other natural stimulants you can choose over caffeine. But first, it’s best to understand what caffeine is and how it works.
What Is Caffeine?
Caffeine is a methylxanthine compound found in over 60 plant species. Even though you can find the purine alkaloid in those various plants, only a few of them carry high concentrations. You see, caffeine is a psychoactive substance. It acts as a stimulant, providing energetic properties after ingestion. People are drawn to the chemical compound to combat fatigue and assist with their daily lives.
In our society, we primarily get any natural caffeine from drinking coffee. But on a global scale, more people get their caffeine from drinking tea. Several products on the market use synthetic caffeine as an active ingredient, too. People flock to those caffeinated products because of the reported effects of the alkaloid.
Effects of Caffeine:
- Boosts your energy
- Promotes motivation
- Increases mental alertness
- Speeds up metabolism
- Alleviates drowsiness
How Does Caffeine Work?
Caffeine is a psychoactive substance. It affects the way the brain functions through chemical interactions. Since we classify it as a stimulant, it reacts with the central nervous system (CNS) to increase mental and physiological activities in your body.
That’s the information most of us already know. It’s the reason we take caffeine in the first place.
So, how does it work?
Well, to understand how the alkaloid affects your brain, we need to discuss an organic compound called adenosine. That metabolite binds to adenosine receptors in our brains to slow down neural activity which brings about a feeling of drowsiness. It plays a role in facilitating sleep cycles.
However, once you ingest the caffeine, its molecular structure binds with the adenosine receptors. But instead of activating them, it blocks them. That action competes against the adenosine molecules and prevents you from getting tired. And it allows your neural activity to go full throttle without slowing down as well. Caffeine also stimulates the pituitary gland into secreting hormones like epinephrine, more commonly known as adrenaline. And that neurotransmitter is responsible for the fight-or-flight response in your brain. That provides you with that extra boost of energy you feel after the caffeine hits its peak.
What Products Contain Natural Caffeine?
Natural caffeine comes from several different plants. Some produce more caffeine than others. We should discuss a few that make enough caffeine to warrant mentioning.
Plants Products with Natural Caffeine:
- Guarana (Paullinia cupana) — While most know little about the plant, it has the highest concentration of caffeine. The plant has approximately double the concentration of coffee. Guarana seeds are crushed into a powder for energy drinks and dietary supplements.
- Coffea (Coffea arabica/canephora) — Coffee beans are the way most Americans get caffeine. They use coffee seeds, more commonly referred to as beans, to brew a caffeinated beverage.
- Tea (Camellia sinensis) — Globally, the tea plant gets the title of the most popular plant with caffeine. You can brew a refreshing beverage with its leaves. There are several varieties available.
- Cocoa (Theobroma cacao) — The cocoa tree is native to the Amazon rainforest and produces tropical fruit. Its seed contains caffeine. Those seeds are fermented and dried to make chocolate, cocoa butter, and cocoa powder.
According to an article on Healthline.com, unlike products that have caffeine added to them in the production stage, products that contain natural caffeine are not required to list the alkaloid as an ingredient.
“The Food and Drug Administration requires that caffeine be listed on food labels when it has been added during production. This is not required of foods that naturally contain caffeine, such as coffee or tea. So if you see caffeine on a food or beverage’s label, that product most likely contains synthetic caffeine.”
The Side-Effects of Caffeine
Like any psychoactive substance, a few side effects can occur from taking caffeine. Now, that doesn’t mean everyone will get these side effects. Some of them are very rare. Most will not affect you unless you repeatedly use more than you should.
Here are a few of them listed below.
- Anxious Feelings
- Mild Dependency
- High Blood Pressure
- Rapid Heart Rate
- Fatigue Afterwards
- Digestive Complications
- Possibly Fatal *
While caffeine toxicity can be fatal, the probability that you could overdose on natural caffeine is improbable. You would need to ingest roughly 10 grams of caffeine for it to become lethal. An average cup of coffee only has 80-100 milligrams of caffeine. And 10 grams is equivalent to 10,000 milligrams. You would need to drink approximately 100 cups of coffee within a short period to accomplish that, but your body would shut itself down before then.
What is Synthetic Caffeine?
Unlike natural caffeine, synthetic caffeine is created in a laboratory by scientists. It is cheaper for us to make the compound than nature. Even though synthetic caffeine is chemically identical to its natural counterpart, its formulation is different.
Scientists combine urea with chloroacetic acid and other chemicals to synthesize a new molecular compound that mirrors the natural alkaloid. It goes through various steps to get to its final form.
According to Beastsports.com:
“Synthetic caffeine undergoes numerous steps to be converted from its initial form, which is ammonia. It is usually exposed to harsh chemicals during the conversion, such as ethyl acetate, carbon dioxide, and methylene chloride. In addition, synthetic caffeine has somewhat of a ‘glowing’ factor. This is removed by cleaning the caffeine with acetic acid, sodium nitrate, chloroform, and sodium bicarbonate.”
Even though both versions of caffeine are molecularly identical, your body reacts differently to them. Our bodies absorb synthetic caffeine much faster than the one found in nature. So some of the side effects of the synthetic version are more intense and the crash you feel afterward will hit you much harder, too.
What Products Contain Synthetic Caffeine?
Any product that does not contain a plant that produces caffeine has to add synthetic caffeine. Here are a few that you have probably bought in your lifetime.
Products with Synthetic Caffeine Added:
- Soda Drinks — Soda, pop, or cola is the most popular product to contain synthetic caffeine. Previously, drinks like Coca-Cola used the kola (“cola”) nut for caffeine. But since synthetic caffeine is cheaper and readily available, corporations switched over for monetary incentives.
- Energy Drinks — Other caffeinated beverages that contain synthetic caffeine are energy drinks. They also include other chemical compounds to stimulate your system.
- Cosmetics — Nowadays, more cosmetic companies use synthetic caffeine as an ingredient in their products. According to some studies, caffeine acts as a vasoconstrictor. So it makes the skin appear more rejuvenated.
- Dietary Supplements — Most of the supplements on the market contain the synthetic version of caffeine. A few say they use natural plant products. But you never know for sure. The industry is not regulated.
- Caffeine Pills — The cheapest and easiest way to get caffeine in your system is to buy caffeine pills. But they all use a synthetic form created by the pharmaceutical industry.
The Side-Effects of Synthetic Caffeine
Like the natural version of caffeine, its synthetic form has the potential to produce unwanted side effects. However, these effects are much more prevalent after ingesting the synthetic version. That’s because your body absorbs it much faster and it reacts more quickly in our bodies. Plus, synthetic caffeine is a concentrated form.
- Keeps You Awake
- Promotes Anxiety
- Dependency Forming
- High Blood Pressure
- Heart Rate Quickens
- Sweating and Breathing Heavily
- Leads to a Crash
- Stomach Issues
- Possibly Fatal *
A caffeine overdose is very plausible using synthetic caffeine. For example, the small caffeine pills contain 200 milligrams each. You want to keep them away from children. A handful of them would put you in either the hospital or the morgue. Use them responsibly. Besides that, some small micro-shot beverages have high concentrations of caffeine. Since some are essentially only a few milliliters and can contain up to 100 milligrams of caffeine, you could drink enough of them to overdose. Please be extremely careful.
Is Caffeine Addictive?
When people think about addiction, they mostly imagine the effects of taking narcotics or drinking heavily. But there’s a spectrum for addictive substances. You can have both compulsive physiological and psychological addictions.
Caffeine creates the former. After prolonged usage, the body becomes dependent on the alkaloid. As a result, you go through withdrawals whenever you immediately stop. However, that side effect is not severe. Most experts agree that we should not consider caffeine dependence an addiction.
And our government agrees. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has even classified the compound as generally recognized as safe (GRAS), which indicates that the agency feels the scientific data proves it’s safe for consumption in proper amounts.
Still, a mild dependency will take hold after you drink coffee regularly, and you will exhibit some withdrawal effects after you stop. Some unwanted effects are headaches, irritability, lack of motivation, and even depression. So it’s best to limit your caffeine intake. If you do form a caffeine dependence, there are some benefits to quitting that you should consider.
The Benefits of Quitting Caffeine
Taking too much caffeine comes with various side effects. The most dominant one is dependence, which we just discussed at length. So, that’s the main benefit to quitting caffeine. However, there are more benefits to quitting, too.
Caffeine reacts with the chemicals in our brains to keep sleep at bay. Without using the alkaloid, it’s much easier to fall asleep at night.
For those who get their caffeine from coffee or tea, those beverages contain tannins. Those complex phenolic acids are antioxidants, but they can dye your teeth a yellowish hue.
As a stimulant, caffeine can stress the heart if you overindulge. That can become problematic for those with heart complications or a genetic predisposition.
Caffeine is a diuretic compound and taking it promotes excess urination. That can lead to dehydration, which creates other problems. Besides, a constantly dehydrated state can produce premature aging.
Still, even with all these health advantages to quitting caffeine, we all enjoy its energetic effects. Fortunately, other methods can keep you energized, too.
How to Increase Energy Without Caffeine
Some people want to get away from caffeine for health benefits. However, they don’t want to lose the extra energy it provides them. Luckily, there are other strategies to use.
Several foods boost your energy and metabolism, but the key is to stick to a balanced diet. Even though you might get tempted to eat foods that contain high amounts of sugar for that energetic rush, they produce a heavy crash afterward. So it’s not sustainable energy.
For starters, exercising helps build and tone your muscles while reducing weight. With your endurance up, physical tasks become easier to accomplish. You spend less effort to do them. Also, exercise makes your cardiovascular system more effective, and that raises your energy levels too.
- Drink herbal teas that produce energetic effects
Thankfully, other beverages exist that can give you energy without relying on caffeine. It’s wise to choose an herbal tea instead. Herbal teas are quite different than traditional teas that contain caffeine. They’re much healthier.
What Is a True Tea Vs. an Herbal Tea
Tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. The plant grows indigenously throughout Asia. A few countries in Africa and South America grow it too, but China is the top tea producer in the world. The tea plant, like the coffee plant, produces caffeine. There are various types of tea found on the market. You can buy black teas, green teas, white teas, and many more.
While all tea varieties come from the same plant, a different fermentation process gets used to make them. The oxidation process from fermenting the tea leaves produces unique chemical profiles for each product, so some have more caffeine than others. In general, black tea has the most caffeine: that’s the type of tea used for sweetened and unsweetened tea.
On the opposite side, herbal teas do not use leaves from the tea plant. Instead, they utilize other botanical plants. Those infusions use herbs, spices, and other plant materials. They all have different health benefits when you drink them. Plus, there are more herbal teas than true teas. However, not all of them will give you the same energy that true tea does. Pick one that provides energetic properties to act as a substitute.
Herbal Alternatives to Caffeinated Drinks
Caffeinated beverages work well for generating extra energy. In our society, most people grab energy drinks while they’re out because they’re convenient. Those drinks use synthetic caffeine as the main active ingredient. We’ve already discussed how synthetic caffeine is different. It’s best to look for a healthier alternative.
Luckily, other botanical beverages can get the job done. They use other natural active compounds to produce energy.
But those compounds react differently in our bodies. There are no immediate energetic rushes since none of them are stimulants. As such, they don’t leave you with an energy crash afterward or any of the undesirable side effects from caffeine.
Herbal Beverage Alternatives that Can Replace Drinks with Caffeine:
- Kratom Tea
- Peppermint Tea
- Kanna Tea
- Macca Root Tea
- Dandelion Tea
- Ginger Tea
- Turmeric Tea
Now, we’ll discuss these herbal teas more thoroughly. However, understand that herbal supplements can interact with prescription medications. Likewise, they can affect medical complications, too. You must always consult with a physician before using any botanical products—safety first.
The first herbal alternative to caffeine that can give you additional energy is Mitragyna speciosa. The tree is more commonly called Kratom. It produces alkaloids that have an energizing effect on our bodies. And coincidentally, Kratom is a relative to the coffee plant. Both species are members of the Rubiaceae family.
However, Kratom does not produce caffeine. Instead, the primary alkaloids of kratom are mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. Research suggests that the energetic properties of the plant are dependent on the serving size. Smaller servings provide the most energy. So less is more whenever you want to add a little pep to your step.
The most common form of consumption is to make Kratom tea. Several different Kratom strains and products are available online. Each variety of Kratom produces various pharmacological effects, but some of them have more energetic properties than others. You want to make sure you research each strain before you purchase it.
Usually, they categorize Kratom strains by the color of the veins in the leaf. There are white vein strains, green vein strains, and red vein strains. Generally, the white-veined varieties are the best for promoting lively exuberance after taking them.
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Lots of plants that have stimulating properties grow in foreign countries. So, we always have to buy them. Luckily, peppermint tea is an herbal substance that you grow in your garden at home. However, if you do decide to grow it, you must attend to it regularly. The plant spreads through shoots to produce more roots. These runners are somewhat invasive. Peppermint can take over your entire garden if you’re not careful!
Still, some people don’t have a green thumb. And that’s okay. You can buy peppermint locally. It grows wild throughout parts of North America, but most of our agricultural production is concentrated in the Pacific northwestern states in the US.
Peppermint has a fresh, menthol flavor and it’s a refreshing ingredient to add to a beverage, especially spring or summertime concoctions. Studies suggest that peppermint can promote concentration. For starters, inhalation of its aromas enhances lung capacity. And that can boost other bodily performances. One team of researchers indicated that peppermint essential oils improved the exercise performance of student-athletes in an experiment. So it appears that peppermint tea can work as a great alternative to coffee in the morning.
Another botanical substance you can use to get your daily motivation is Sceletium tortuosum. But it’s more commonly called Kanna. It’s a succulent plant found in South Africa. Kanna produces several mesembrine-type alkaloids that have therapeutic effects.
According to research, an ancient oral tradition history presents local San and Khoikhoi people used Kanna for centuries. The hunter-gatherers and pastoralists in the community would take the plant to give them enough energy for endurance during hunting forays. The substance provides other positive benefits, too. It helps relieve uneasy feelings, wards off negativity, and has slight analgesic properties. There are plenty of reasons to use Kanna besides needing additional energy.
There are different ways to use Kanna, but most people make tea with it. That tea even has a nickname: Sunshine tea. However, there are other ways to ingest the plant material. You can find Kanna capsules and take them like a pill. There are even Kanna extracts, too.
Some specialty herb and health businesses might carry it, but most do not. So you’ll find it much easier to buy Kanna powder online.
Maca Root Tea
Maca grows in the Andes mountainous region of Peru. It’s related to cabbage, broccoli, collards, and Brussel sprouts.
People grind the root into a powder. Maca is a common ingredient in Peruvian cuisine. Several health benefits of taking Maca Root powder exist but a energy and endurance are the two main ones.
According to Peruvian indigenous tribes, Maca Root improves both strength and stamina. There are a few scientific studies that suggest the same thing. One experiment investigated how Maca supplements enhanced the physical performance of trained male cyclists. After 14 days of taking Maca supplementation, all the cyclists significantly improved their time trials for a 40 km course.
Unlike caffeine, the effects of Maca alkaloids take much longer. It takes a couple of weeks before you begin to feel your energy levels increase. Also, you will start to experience enhanced memory functions and increased libido. The supplement is widely used across the globe to enhance human fertility. Be forewarned!
Taraxacum officinale is the scientific name for the dandelion plant. Most people are unaware that the plant is edible: the entire plant. You can eat the flower, leaves, stem, and root. You can also make a nutritious herbal tea from dried plant material.
There are many dandelion tea products on the market. However, to save yourself a few bucks, you can pick wild dandelions outside. Harvest them and set them out in the sunlight to allow them to dry. You can perform that step on your windowsill. Next, crush up the dried plant material and put it in teabags. Steep it in boiling water to make dandelion tea.
People swear that it gives them additional energy and use it as a coffee substitute. So far, no research delves into the energetic properties of dandelion tea. However, some studies suggest compounds inside dandelions promote glucose uptake in muscle and adipose tissues. And glucose becomes a primary source of energy for us, so a correlation may exist.
Check with a doctor before using dandelion tea. It can interact with are lithium and quinolone-based antibiotics.
Adding to the list, Zingiber officinale, also known as ginger. While the root of the plant is a common spice used for food and drinks, it has traditionally been used as folk medicine in India for centuries. They take ginger for many different reasons.
Some Health Benefits of Ginger
- Helps alleviate nausea
- Reduces pain and disability from osteoarthritis
- Has anti-diabetic properties
- Linked to a reduction in chronic indigestion
- Lowers cholesterol levels
- Boosts energy levels
That’s right. Drinking a cup of ginger tea can even give you more energy! However, it appears that the spice performs that function through another one of its effects. Research suggests that ginger tea helps with weight loss. Evidence also states it reduces the body mass index (BMI) and body composition of test subjects. And people feel more energetic after losing weight. That’s because your body uses less energy when it’s thinner. You can power throughout the day on extra fuel.
Turmeric is a flowering plant that’s closely related to ginger. Both belong to the Zingiberaceae family. Like ginger, turmeric is used as a common spice in Indian cuisine, and there are various reported therapeutic benefits for using it. Most of the effects of turmeric come from one of its primary curcuminoids: curcumin. Scientists have studied the effects of curcumin on human health, but most of the health benefits seem to originate through its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory mechanisms.
Some researchers believe that curcumin can act as a helpful tool against neurological disorders, too. There are animal studies that provide evidence that turmeric spice has antidepressant properties. Epidemiological studies imply that cultures with curries as a dietary staple possess better cognitive function and have a lower prevalence of dementia than other societies.
So curcumin has gained a lot of interest in recent years. In one scientific study on a group of seniors, the results showed that turmeric boosted the mental performance of the subjects. The supplement also appeared to reduce signs of fatigue induced by psychological stress. Drinking turmeric tea can help boost your energy as well.
Replace Your Caffeine Intake with an Herbal Alternative
Medically speaking, caffeine provides some health benefits.
Studies have suggested that prolonged caffeine consumption may reduce the chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Other research papers indicate that caffeine can reduce the risk of getting Parkinson’s disease. But caffeine has been linked to unhealthy factors in people as well.
For instance, people with sleeping disorders should stay away from caffeine. Scientific studies have linked caffeine to sleep-disruptive effects. The compound can also disrupt the balance of estrogen levels in women, and unbalancing that hormone can lead to an increased risk for breast and ovarian cancers. Plus, caffeine is terrible for people with digestive issues.
Removing caffeine from your diet altogether, or at least cutting back on it, has its benefits, too. People crave the boost of energy it gives them. Fortunately, there are lots of alternative natural supplements available on the market.
Give any of the homeopathic substances we just discussed a try. They produce the same vivacity that caffeine does but other molecular structures in those plants help maintain a healthier lifestyle.
Use some trial and error to decide which one works best for you. In our opinion, Kratom works the best. Try starting with that one first.