All this talk about how tea gets decaffeinated got me to wondering what all the flap was about. In Part I, I looked at methods people recommend for removing caffeine from tea. Now, let’s look at why anyone might want to do this.
One thing I found out about caffeine makes me glad I’m not a bug. Caffeine is a substance made by some plants to cause paralysis and death in any bug silly enough to start chomping on them. Ok, so we’re a bit more complicated physiologically than a bug (boy, is that ever an understatement!). So, how does it affect us?
First, as with anything, it’s too much caffeine that is the problem. It can cause (in layman’s terms):
- more than usual visits to the bathroom to relieve yourself of excess fluids
- that “on a ship during a storm at sea” feeling in your tummy that could result in an upheaval (and even more visits to the bathroom)
- rapid heart rate (sort of like you experienced in high school when that totally cute and awesome boy or girl happened to glance your way when you were walking past them in the hallway)
- nervous conditions including anxiety, depression, restlessness, and tremors
- inability to slip off smoothly into the Land of Nod and dream sweet dreams
Second, regular consumption of high levels of caffeine seems to create a tolerance that lessens the above effects. However, if you cut back suddenly, you can then have withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, low energy, a less-than-genial disposition, the “blues,” and what I call “foggy brain” where concentrating takes effort. Gender, height, weight, smoking, and pregnancy are also contributing factors. Generally, women are advised to refrain from caffeine during pregnancy to keep it from affecting their baby. What the mother eats, the child does, too, sooner or later.
The next question is: “What constitutes ‘too much caffeine’?” According to one site, 600 milligrams can induce some of the above effects as well as increasing medication side effects, which could be a health risk. The good news is that an article from WebMD shows that U.S. adults average only 170-300 milligrams per day. Based on this, I have to wonder what all the fuss is about (among those of us not pregnant, that is).
Here is a list from the USDA of caffeine amounts (milligrams) in some foods and beverages:
- Espresso coffee, brewed, 8 fluid ounces — 502
- Coffee, brewed, 8 fluid ounces — 85
- Tea, brewed, 8 fluid ounces — 47
- Cola, 12 ounce can — 37
- Cola, with higher caffeine, 12 ounce can — 100
- Cola or pepper-type, diet, 12 ounce can — 49
- Lemon-lime soda, with caffeine, 12 ounce can — 55
- Milk chocolate bar, 1.55 ounces — 9
- Dark chocolate, semisweet, 1 ounce — 20
Note that the amount shown above for tea is an average. Tea actually varies due to how the leaves are plucked and other factors too detailed to list here. According to the above list, though, it would take 12 cups of tea a day to consume a risky amount for the average person.
My personal conclusion from all this is that it is a proverbial tempest over nothing. If caffeine is an issue for you, there are many caffeine-free tisanes/herbals. (Some companies specialize in them.) However, if you have been drinking coffee and then switch to tea, you may find that the much lower level of caffeine in a cup of tea is not enough to affect you. Try a cupful or two or three and see how it goes. Of course, when in doubt, consult your doctor, especially if you are planning a “blessed event.”
[A list of references for this post.]
Make sure to stop A.C.’s blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill!