Tips for Kicking Your Caffeine Habit

I’ve been kicking around the idea of quitting caffeine because I know I get a little anxious when I overdo.  But gosh, I sure do love tea and coffee and frankly, the research results are mixed on good versus bad affects. 

According to MedlinePlus , a service of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and other government agencies, most people are not harmed by the amount of caffeine contained in two to four cups of coffee a day.

However, some of us are more sensitive, and for many of us, too much caffeine causes restlessness, anxiety, irritability, and hinders a good night’s sleep. So if you’re thinking about reducing or eliminating your “habit”, here are a few suggestions that are working for me and an article with herbal recipes for healing the body in preparation for quitting.

In general, small steps are best.  By taking a gradual approach to cutting back, you may avoid dreaded caffeine withdrawal symptoms.  If you can already substitute decaf for regular tea and coffee (either gradually or all at once) – skip this post.  You have arrived!

However, if you haven’t been successful in cutting back, try starting small.  Change one cup a day for a week, and add another in the second week.  Keep building on your success over time.  If that’s too hard, try mixing caffeinated beverages with less caffeinated beverages until you can wean yourself.

Because I enjoy a little caffeine kick – I combined these approaches. First, I moved most of my caffeine consumption to black tea with an occasional cup of coffee as a treat. (Black tea has about 25 to 110 milligrams of caffeine per 6 oz cup, compared to drip coffee at 60 to 180 mg. versus green tea with 8-16 mg.)* Next, I started replacing half of my black tea consumption with green and non-sweet white teas by mixing these tea leaves with black tea leaves so I could get used to the taste of green tea. Prior to that, you couldn’t pay me to drink it.  I also added herbal beverages. After about four weeks, I halved my caffeine intake. Good news: I feel calmer. More importantly, I don’t feel deprived. 

The online article I mentioned, written by Sally Eauclaire Osborne, ran in Yoga Journal and is summarized below:  

Osborne agrees that you should cut back gradually, paying attention to your choice of foods and especially beverages. She reminds us that there is caffeine in cocoa, chocolate, soft drinks, maté, kukicha twig, as well as in coffee, green, and black teas.  There’s even caffeine in some medicines.  Be advised to read labels!

According to Osborne’s article, herbalists agree that to eliminate caffeine, it’s best to plan ahead. Osborne quotes author Susun Weed, author of Breast Cancer? Breast Health! The Wise Woman Way(Ash Tree Publishing, 1997) “I’d build up the nutritional status for six weeks before trying to kick any addiction.” Weed believes this can be accomplished with “fermented milk products, such as yogurt or kefir, one-half cup a day, good quality, plain and unsweetened,” and by drinking nettle and oat-straw herbal infusions to correct mineral depletion caused by too much caffeine.

“To make an infusion, use a quart jar, like the kind used for canning,” says Weed. “Put a cup of dried herb in the quart jar, fill it to the top with boiling water, cover tightly, and let it steep for a minimum of four hours or even overnight.”

Drink nettle tea to build up the kidneys and adrenals, often weakened by caffeine addiction, and drink oat-straw to strengthen the nervous system. “Take them separately, up to a full quart of either a day,” says Weed. “At the end of six weeks, you’ll be ready to go off the caffeine.”

In addition, she suggests milk thistle seed tincture—not capsules—for strengthening the liver. Bitters, such as dandelion root, artichoke leaf, or gentian, could also be used. “Take them 15 minutes before a meal, not only to support the liver, but also to improve digestion.”

When you’re ready to go caffeine-free, Weed suggests beginning over a long weekend when your activities are minimal. The week before, mix your coffee with increasingly larger amounts of peppermint infusion—not tea. “It will wake you up without giving you false energy.”

*Exact amounts of caffeine in tea varies by brew time and size of leaf.  Some variation also exists in coffee. For more specifics:  Read the full Yoga Journal article here.  

Interested to hear what works for you.

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Date: Tuesday, 11. May 2010 15:48
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