Caffeine and the Nervous System
Most people have heard, ‘Stay away from too much caffeine,’ but rarely do they know why.
If you don’t know caffeine is a stimulant then you do now. Caffeine is medicinal because of it’s stimulant properties. Among other things, it is used in medication as a means to get the pharmaceutical into the blood stream faster. Hence the ‘Fast Relief” slogans. It can also be used for that reason in natural medicine. Caffeine is beneficial in treating a wide variety of conditions but the extensive use of a stimulating caffeine beverage without regard to bodily needs will, on the other hand, be harmful.
Okay, caffeine is a stimulant. What does it stimulate? Our nervous system. That explains why we drink caffeine beverages to perk us up. The caffeine goes in, wakes the nervous system up and tells it: Go, go, go!
You basically know how our nervous system works: The body’s nervous system is controlled by the brain and its functions are carried out by the sets of nerves that run out from the spinal column. Nerves monitor the state of the body, relay the information to the brain which gives instructions or modifications to keep the system in balance.
No other system in our body is there such an apparent connection between the brain (psychological) and body (physical).
Now think about how much caffeine you drink and how often you tell your nervous system to go, go, go. Take an honest look at your caffeine consumption, you’re not just stimulating it once in a while.
You have a coffee in the morning, a soda at lunch, a coffee in the afternoon, a pain reliever, another soda , a chocolate bar….etc. Some of you may stimulate more often by doing this in one morning, some less often by spreading this out all week, the point is the stimulation. The constant stimulation.
How often you stimulate just helps you understand how often you stimulate. Stimulating for any reason other than a medicinal reason is unnecessary stimulation. (And sometimes the medicinal reason is unnecessary.)
The nervous system is running at full speed everyday. It already has a huge job and now because we stimulate it, it has to go faster, work harder, and after a while it feels overworked. This leads to what is called a breakdown. You don’t know it’s happening because it doesn’t cut out the life supporting jobs like: the circulatory system or the respiratory system. It just starts to throw out little jobs like: protecting the skin from eczema and psoriasis, or thyroid and hormone regulation in the glandular system. It doesn’t see the need to keep the reproductive system healthy (the body’s not in favorable condition to bear children) so women will suffer from cramping.
It doesn’t just one day all of a sudden stop these processes, it just drops a few minor parts here and there.
The nervous system has so much stress on it that it calls for more nutrition like vitamin C and the B vitamins. (Of course we don’t increase because we’re eating and drinking foods with caffeine that lack proper nutrition.) The nervous system needs the vitamins and the brain knows the importance of the nervous system so it takes nutrients from other systems, like the immune system to keep it going. The brain is doing what it can to keep the nervous system going and having to perform a balancing act and we start to feel run down (and take more caffeine).
Your brain is taking nutrients from one part of your body and putting it in another part so you can survive. The little breakdowns along the way aren’t noticed by us or are misdiagnosed. And then we accumulate all the little stuff that has broken down and we’re stuck with many aches and pains, starting out small and working our way up.
When you add in outside stresses like being burnt by our coffee, work deadlines, the alarm clock going off before we feel rested, taking a toddler- in desperate need for a nap- to the store, financial problems, and all the other stresses in our everyday life; We start to feel anxious and that adds to the nervous system’s problems because anxiety on its own stresses the nervous system.
Most of the time, because the brain knows where we need help the most, we don’t notice any health “problems” because they happen overtime and we accept the little things here and there as ‘getting older’, or other rationalizations. We don’t do anything to fix the ‘problem’ until it’s a big problem. And because our nervous system isn’t working properly and because our psychological system is directly effected by that, we get depressed. We take medication to perk the hormones and imbalance to help our depression. We take pain reliever for our headaches caused by nerves and blood pressure medication to slow down what we’re causing. The medications are even more taxing to the nervous system and overtime we cause more breakdown and it just keeps going. (Of course there are real medical conditions and chemical imbalances that also cause these breakdowns but if you’re overtaxing your nervous system, you could be causing it.)
Our nervous system is able to handle occasional stimulation and caffeine can be okay for those once-in-a-while occasions. But you also have to take into account how much outside stress you put on your nervous system through your daily life. The worst thing for people under stress to do is to drink a caffeine beverage.
Caffeine also has a acidic effect, producing toxic conditions in the blood and digestive tract when taken in large amounts. This eventually contributes to the development of even more ailments.
So what do you do now? Besides the obvious need to ween yourself off caffeine, start replacing your caffeine beverage with nourishing nervous system remedies. Add extra vitamin C and B-Complex vitamins to your regular multi-vitamin supplement.
The herbs to nourish the nervous system have a relaxing effect so it can seem like a no win situation if you’re drinking caffeine to help keep you going but you shouldn’t worry because you will actually feel better and won’t have the need for caffeine once you are off it and nourishing your nervous system (and eating a healthier diet which more than likely caused you to start drinking caffeine in the first place).
If you are already on depression or blood pressure medication, and/or other medications. Do not go off it on your own. That can very dangerous and you should only do that with your doctor. It doesn’t matter if you’re on a low dose. That goes for any medication. Your doctor knows your personal medical history and knows if any of the medications you’re on will interact with any of the herbs or supplements you want to take. Explain that you want to try a different approach and make healthy lifestyle changes, a good doctor will help you to do just that. You need to take that step, doctor’s see so many diseases that are caused by unhealthy lifestyles they would welcome your different approach.
Nourishment For the Nervous System
One of the best remedy’s to feed nervous tissue is oats. This can be taken in pill form or tinctures you’ll find in a health food store but the easiest way to get oats is to eat good old-fashioned oatmeal (not instant).
There are also Nervines (herbs to nourish the nervous system), some relax the nervous system and some stimulate it. Focusing on the Nervine Relaxants, skullcap is probably the most effective but there are also some more common Nervine Relaxants: Chamomile, Lavender, St. John’s Wort, and Rosemary. (There are more Nervine Relaxants but these mentioned are easily found, safe to use on your own, and will help give your nervous system the nourishment it needs.)
Lavender and chamomile are the most readily available. They are safe and mild enough to drink all day. Skullcap and Rosemary are a bit stronger and should be drunk after work or school. St. John Wort is much better in pill form and takes about three weeks until you feel the effect.
Theses herbs also have other properties that will help:
St John Wort and Chamomile are also anti-inflammatory herbs. (Helps to combat inflammation.)
Chamomile and skullcap are also anti-spasmodic herbs. (Helps to prevent spasms or cramps.)
Rosemary and St John’s Wort are also astringent herbs. ((Contract tissue.(Nerves are tissue))
Chamomile is also a bitter herb. (Stimulates the digestive system ( A good stimulation).)
Chamomile is a carminative herb (supports digestion.)
Most importantly, they’re all Nervine relaxants.
A Simple Nerve Tonic Tea
2 parts skullcap
1 part chamomile
1 part lavender
½ part rosemary
(Replace the word ‘part’ with whatever measuring tool you’d like to use. Teaspoon, tablespoon, or cup. That measurement depends on how much you’d like to make. The ratio of the herbs is what makes them work together effectively.)
These herbs are all soft material so you’d make an infusion. A 150 lb person would use 1 teaspoon per one cup of water. If you are under 150 lbs you’d use less than 1 teaspoon and if you’re over 150 lbs you’d use more than 1 teaspoon. Go up by 1 teaspoon per 25 lbs (but don’t go above 3 teaspoons). Go down by ¼ teaspoon for every 25 lbs (but don’t use less than ½ teaspoon.)
A person weighing 125 lbs would use ¾ teaspoon.
A person weighing 175 lbs would use 2 teaspoons. 200 lbs = 3 teaspoons.
These are safe herbs and they don’t have to be exact measuring but a general understanding of dosage doesn’t hurt. You should drink this tea about 4-6 times a day for three weeks. Then you’re done. There’s no need to get a refill. You have accomplished what you started out to do. You have nourished your nervous system. If you would like to drink this tea here and there during times of stress, go for it. There is such thing as too much of a good thing though and all things should be in moderation even natural herbs and supplements. If you have been abusing your nervous system for years and would like to have another round of treatment; take a week off and start the three weeks again. Remember moderation. If you feel you’d like to continue any longer than that, contact a qualified herbalist.
It doesn’t make any sense to take this nerve tonic tea and still take in caffeine so you should do your best to get un-addicted and start doing things better for your body. Depending on your caffeine consumption, it can be hard to stop using it. You should slowly adjust you’re caffeine intake so you don’t have the withdrawal symptoms that can sometimes be overbearing. Skullcap is particularly good for headaches associated with caffeine withdrawal.
If you are under stress from your job, or anything else, you should find a good outlet to ease your stress. Some people find yoga does the trick for them. Others like taking walks, sitting in a quiet room, or praying. Find what works for you and your lifestyle and use it regularly.
Your health is in your control and your body is a miraculous machine that does the work for you. It’s our job to make sure the body gets what it needs (vitamins, nutrition, exercise, and water). It’s also our job to keep out the stuff it doesn’t need. Our body will be good to us for years and years to come, if we’re good to it.