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‘Coffee gives you heart attacks, but tea makes you live forever’ ‘Caffeine is addictive and leads to nervous exhaustion’ ‘I’m useless without my two cups in the morning’ …and so on and so forth.

The trouble is, things are never really black and white.

Recent research - - shows that moderate coffee consumption, together with a ‘Mediterranean’ diet rich in fish and fresh vegetables, helps keep your eyes healthy as you get older. It also seems to have some protective effects against Alzheimer’s disease. Both of those effects are probably to do with the fact that caffeine is a powerful antioxidant, and drinking a cup of coffee does (temporarily) stimulate your circulation.

However, plenty of studies have linked caffeine consumption with heart disease, headaches, stomach ulcers, anxiety, sleeplessness, et cetera.

So where does that leave you? The problem is that you can’t just take one thing – in this case, coffee – and measure its effects in isolation. And when you start to look at caffeine by itself, the picture gets even more skewed. We drink our coffee, or tea, or herbal tisane, as part of a whole matrix involving food, exercise, stress management, and all the rest.

So if you have a moderate amount, in conjunction with a Mediterranean diet (and probably other lifestyle factors too), it may well be beneficial. If, on the other hand, you use it to wake yourself up in the morning, keep yourself awake while sitting at your desk, and have your last cup after a heavy evening meal, you are probably heading for trouble.

And you don’t need research to tell you that.

EDITOR: Su has an excellent Herb Handbook available to buy directly from her website or from Amazon.

Meet The Author...
Su Bristow
Who Am I?
I studied at the School of Herbal Medicine for four years, and qualified in 1989, becoming a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists ( The road to herbal medicine led from my early interest in organic gardening and healthy eating, through the study of social and physical anthropology at Cambridge, where I specialised in medical anthropology. What fascinated me was how people deal with their health problems when they have only the natural resources around them, and their own ingenuity. I went on to learn massage and reflexology, and worked at a residential naturopathic clinic, where I learned about the use of diet and other natural ways of healing. After qualifying as a herbalist, I set up practice in mid-Devon. Since then I have continued to expand my expertise, with counselling skills, first aid, and knowledge of the Chinese and Ayurvedic systems of herbal medicine. Besides one-to-one consultation, I have also taught evening classes, students of the Westcountry Massage Association, and various private courses.
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