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The Benefits and Risks of Coffee as seen by Chinese Medicine

Let’s talk about coffee today. Do you belong to the group of people who have a strong love for coffee and cannot live without it? Most probably yes! I get regularly asked by my clients if coffee is healthy or not. The answer is, it depends! Coffee is not considered specifically good, or bad for people in general, instead, it is based on each individual’s circumstances.

Each food in Chinese medicine is classified by its properties and energy and how it affects your body in its current state. Therefore, we take into consideration the flavour like pungent, salty, sweet, bitter and salty and the thermal properties to see if the food has cooling, warming, heating or neutral effect on us and how it energetically works in our body.

We take a close look now at the benefits and risks of coffee.

Chinese medicine views coffee from a different perspective

Coffee is bitter to slightly sweet in taste, belongs to the element fire in Chinese medicine and has diuretic, deviating, digestive, drying, invigorating and stimulating effects.

Due to the bitter substances in the coffee, the direction of movement is downwards and therefore benefits the digestion by promoting a dynamic push after a heavy dish. It increases metabolism and promotes the absorption of fat and animal proteins. Thus, espresso or strong coffee after a heavy dish is not bad.

However, coffee also has drying properties and too much of it has a dehydrating effect and can promote constipation and dry skin. Make sure to always drink a glass of water on the side.

Coffee moves the Qi and heats the body up and especially when you feel generally cold and drained you will like the warming and uplifting impact on your body. But be careful. In Chinese medicine, we say this is due to the mobilisation of the yang of the kidneys, and a regular intake will, therefore, weaken the kidneys yang even more. As a result, you could feel colder and even more tired.

Coffee is known for its invigorating effects on our mind and concentration, however, shortly after this depletes our concentration and mental acuity. This explains the need for another and then yet another cup!

The stimulating effect of coffee moves the Qi of the heart and leads to excitement. Therefore, if you tend to be nervous and restless or you just drink way too much, you might know the overstimulating effects which in some leads to anxiety, severe restlessness and heart palpitations.

So, who should consume coffee and who should rather keep their hands off?

The upside of coffee

Who is benefiting from a regular cup?

In Chinese medicine, we say that people who suffer from internal damp heat can benefit from drinking coffee. The following symptoms indicate that you might be suffering from damp heat:

  • feeling of heaviness
  • puffiness of the skin
  • weeping eczema, acne
  • distended abdomen
  • frequent urinary tract infections
  • burning and foul-smelling stool
  • severe menstrual cramps
  • a feeling of fullness of chest or epigastrium
  • phlegm discharge
  • a tendency to fungal diseases
  • frequent nausea
  • swelling or water retention
  • nodular masses
  • intolerance of fatty food
  • loose bowels
  • gallstones

If you recognise yourself here, you are welcome to drink coffee – but in moderation! Please note that internal damp heat is the breeding ground for other severe illnesses like cancer and chronic diseases. On a long-term basis, you need to consider dietary and lifestyle changes.

The downside of coffee

Who is at risk when drinking a regular cup?

Many people suffer from energetic imbalances that indicate they should consume very small amounts or none at all. For them, there is a high risk that their symptoms will worsen when consuming it regularly. Consequently, avoid coffee when suffering from any of the following symptoms:

  • stomach problems
  • inner restlessness
  • tension and nervousness
  • sleeping disorders
  • dreams and nightmares
  • night sweats
  • dry skin
  • dry bowel movements and constipation
  • PMS complaints such as breast tenderness, mood swings, etc.
  • sensitivity to cold
  • low libido
  • nocturnal urination
  • being pregnant
  • heart palpations
  • increased heartbeat
  • low iron levels (coffee inhibits iron absorption)
  • hair loss
  • brittle nails and dry hair
  • exhaustion and burnout
  • menopause problems like night sweats, etc.

Some combinations to make your coffee more well-balanced

If you consume coffee on a regular basis, you can also try to moderate and improve its effects. You could

  • add cardamom to reduce its aggressive effect on the stomach
  • add organic cream to reduce its drying effect
  • buy organic to reduce the risk of herbicides and pesticides
  • eat something before drinking it to reduce the strong effect it has on an empty stomach
  • make sure to moderate your intake. The quantity plays an important role.
About the author Carina Greweling

She is a state-approved naturopath from Germany who studied after her exam Chinese medicine, craniosacral therapy and Bach flowers and deepened her knowledge of meditation and yoga while she was living in India. She offers in her practice in Paris tailor-made treatments and is specialised in women’s health. In regular workshops and yoga retreats she proposes to gain deeper knowledge and inspiration about a healthy body and mind. She also gives online consultations.