Good morning, everyone!  I just finished drinking a cup of coffee.  I “do” one a day and I treasure it, but I really don’t want any more than that.  If I drink more than one cup I become a bit shaky.  How about you?  Do you drink no coffee, one or two cups in the morning or are you an all-day-coffee drinker?

We hear a lot about both the evils and the benefits of caffeine and it is difficult to know which message is correct. Let’s try to straighten out “coffee confusion” by looking at the Ayurvedic take on this substance and some western research data.

You might be surprised to know that a great deal of research data supports coffee as a beneficial substance to ingest.  Most likely researchers find coffee beneficial because of its antioxidant properties.

According to Ayurveda, coffee, while being alright or even good for some of us, isn’t a beneficial substance for everyone.  Yes, coffee does have antioxidant properties, but it also is a stimulant.

Ayurveda views each and every person as unique, with a unique mind-body constitution which must be considered in making decisions about life style.  In other words we are all affected differently by substances and experiences. Each of us marches to our own drummer!  For some of us small intakes of a stimulant are OK or even beneficial. Others will not benefit and might impede their over-all well being from ingesting a stimulant.

In our book Healing Depression the Mind-Body Way Sandra and I described three archetypes of depression.  We described Airy Depression which is triggered by an imbalance in Vata dosha, Burning Depression which comes about from an imbalance in Pitta dosha, and Earthy Depression which is caused by an imbalance in Kapha dosha. In our book we also informed you that many individuals suffer from a mixed type of depression. If, from our questionnaire, you determined that you have a mixed type of depression we urged you to balance Vata dosha first.

Depending on your constitutional type and the type of depression you are vulnerable to coffee will have a different overall effect.  Today we want to encourage you to think about your relationship with coffee. Thinking about this relationship is especially important if you are currently depressed.

The physical manifestations of an Earthy Depression include eating and sleeping in excess, which often leads to weight gain and increased lethargy. Sleeping late only adds to the heaviness experienced. Coffee can be helpful if it provides enough of a kick to get the person experiencing this imbalance in Kapha dosha out of bed. The antioxidant qualities in the coffee will also be helpful for those experiencing this archetype of depression.

Those who suffer from a Burning Depression have usually been living a life of high intensity and excessive competitiveness.  The result is an imbalance in Pitta dosha triggering depression. In addition to depression those with a Pitta imbalance often also experience skin problems, digestive disturbances and irritation of the eyes. Migraine headaches and muscle tension and insomnia are often reported.

Coffee? Absolutely not!  Ayurveda would not recommend the ingestion of coffee for these folks.  The properties of coffee might well increase acidity and trigger heartburn, headaches and may increase irritability.

At the root of the problem for Airy Depression are long-standing sleep debt and mental or emotional fatigue. Unfortunately, one of the first telltale signs of a depression caused by an imbalance in Vata dosha is the presence of insomnia.  The inability to get a good night’s rest adds momentum to the depressive episode.  Individuals suffering from this archetype of depression have a depleted nervous system.  They are, to put it in a nutshell, exhausted.  They need to nourish the nervous system in order to feel better.

How does coffee affect the nervous system?  Coffee is a stimulant and can be terrible for the nervous system especially for those exhausted people who desire it the most.

Stimulants directly impact sleep, decrease appetite, and activate the nervous system.  Coffee is a huge no-no for those experiencing a depression triggered by an imbalance in Vata dosha.  As with any other stimulant, when the effects wear off feeling down or depressed ensues. We would recommend an herbal tea or hot water and lemon in the morning for individuals suffering from this archetype of depression.

In sum:  Every time we drink coffee we step on the accelerator.  Coffee is a stimulant and it increases the innervations of our sympathetic nervous system.  If we continually keep our foot on the gas we definitely will eventually burn out our engine (nervous system).

Ayurveda considers the nervous system to be the orchestrator of our metabolic functions.  The nervous system affects endocrine gland activity and the physiological functioning of all organs.  If we have excessive stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system this will lead to energetic depletion and burn out.  Coffee can be a significant trigger for the onset of depression.  Certainly, too much coffee can be stabilizing to depression once this malady is entrenched in the physiology.

To undo depression we look for substances which nourish the physiology and stabilize the nervous system.  Even small amounts of coffee may or may not be the best for you!

Wishing you perfect happiness and health.