Coffee: The Natural Medicine

Author: Rob   Date Posted:11 March 2014 

We don't often think of coffee as a medicine, but new research suggests that coffee offers a number of medicinal benefits.

GreenMedInfo is a website dedicated to exploring natural alternatives to conventional medicines. In a recent article, they summarised a study published in BMC Research Notes that discovered that coffee significantly reduces the development of pain while doing work at a computer.
Forty-eight study participants were divided into two groups. Some participants suffered from chronic shoulder and neck pain, while others did not. Forty percent of the study participants consumed coffee about an hour and a quarter before they sat down to complete a 90-minute computer task designed to cause shoulder and neck pain. All participants were monitored at 15-minute intervals throughout the experiment. Researchers concluded that during "the work task the coffee consumers exhibited significantly lower pain increase than those who abstained from coffee."
The researchers tentatively concluded that caffeine may have been responsible for the reduced pain, but Sayer Ji, founder of GreenMedInfo, writes in a separate article that another chemical compound in coffee may be responsible. Cafestrol is a lesser-known component of both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee that has "an opioid effect" in the body. The average cup of coffee contains as much as five times the amount of cafestrol needed to have a pain-killing effect, so it follows that cafestrol and not caffeine is the reason why the coffee drinkers in the study experienced little or no pain.  
Sayer Ji goes on to say that caffeine has "potent analgesic properties", but may not be as significant an ingredient as cafestrol in pain relief. He goes on to write that coffee contains yet another compound, trigonelline, which has "nerve-supporting properties."
As if helping reduce pain and having a "therapeutic effect on brain health" isn't enough, coffee has been shown to:

  • Be an effective antioxidant
  • Reduce the risk of depression in women
  • Reduce the risk of stroke
  • Possibly reduce the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.

The study of coffee as a medicinal herb, like the study of other plant-based medicines, is in its infancy, but so far, it looks like coffee has far more health benefits than health risks. Even previous health risk assumptions, such as the caffeine in coffee putting hypertensive individuals at greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease, have been called into question.
Believe it or not, coffee, especially dark roasts, may also help you lose weight. According to another study reported in GreenMedInfo, while researchers were studying the antioxidant properties of light roast coffee versus dark roast coffee, they discovered that dark roast coffee showed "significant body weight reduction in pre-obese subjects."
While no one is suggesting you should drink coffee instead of going to the doctor when you're ill, it's fascinating to discover that the world's favourite beverage is also good for you. 

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