Analyzing The Analysis Of Coffee

The investigation of the therapeutic effects of coffee has endured the same shortcomings that plague most of the whole-plant research paradigm. The concept that "one size fits all'' simply does not apply to botanicals in the same manner that it does to isolated drug therapies. The standard scientific model, in its attempt to apply a reductionistic methodology, has generally failed to consider coffee as a whole plant complex that is not divisible into single chemical isolates. Just as studying the benefits of beta-carotene is not the same as studying the benefits of eating a carrot, studying the benefits (and downfalls) of caffeine is not the same as understanding what it is that makes coffee a useful medicinal plant. Divergent thinking, as opposed to a convergent analysis of medicinal plants, provides the foundation for the discovery of new and synergistic constituent blends that may make an impact on the physiology of human health. This concept is not foreign to the coffee research community, which has had to be introspective as it investigates why, exactly, research findings in the field remain inconsistent and at times lack reproducibility. Conclusions thus far suggest that variations in the concentration of caffeine and other active constituents, as well as the total volume of fluid consumed, have contributed to the variations in the accuracy of clinical findings. Epidemiologic studies reflect these "discrepancy factors.''10 The scientific literature reports that confounding variables lead to conflicting results in the analysis of the impact of coffee on health.11 In short, removing culture, diet, and lifestyle from the analyses generates data that are not grounded in the traditional applications of coffee within a given populace, thus diminishing the studies' clinical relevance.

In reviewing the diversity of international coffee consumption, factoring in bean roasting, brewing, and preferred methods of ingestion are all essential when seeking to determine the therapeutic effects of the coffee bean.12 In reviewing eight European and U.S. brewing techniques and roasting methods, wide variations were noted. Brewing techniques alone result in differing levels of active constituents, such as diterpene levels, which consequentially have an impact on therapeutic breadth and efficacy.13

This chapter highlights the positive benefits of coffee; yet, as with all herbal products, one size does not fit all. Therefore, those people who have underlying health conditions—such as high blood pressure, fibrocystic breast disease, cardiac arrhythmias, peptic ulcers, anxiety, insomnia, or any other condition that might render one sensitive to the active constituents of coffee—should probably be advised to avoid using coffee as a medicinal food. And, as with all herbal products, people who want to avail themselves of the benefits of coffee should be advised that working closely with one's health care provider is essential.


Reports of the use of coffee as folk medicine for treating sore throats, colds, and other ailments abound. These empirical observations are now supported by a growing body of scientific

Selected Active Constituents and Classes of Active

Constituents in Coffea arabica

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