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Quitting Time

Kick your caffeine habit naturally with these herbal remedies.

By Sally Eauclaire Osborne


Need a jolt of caffeine every morning to get going? If so, you may be undermining the peace and balance that comes from your yoga practice.

Caffeine overload can trigger anxiety attacks, jitteriness, impatience, mood swings, and insomnia. But quitting cold turkey is not necessarily the answer either, as caffeine withdrawal may lead to irritability, constipation, and headaches.

The usual suggestion for quitting caffeine is to cut back gradually, beginning with your choice of foods and especially beverages. High levels of caffeine are found in coffee, cocoa, and chocolate, as well as in soft drinks, maté, and healthy teas like black, green, and kukicha twig.

Herbalists agree the best approach to eliminating caffeine is to plan ahead. "I'd build up the nutritional status for six weeks before trying to kick any addiction," says Susun Weed, author of Breast Cancer? Breast Health! The Wise Woman Way. She 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 herbal infusions of nettles and oatstraw to correct the mineral depletion caused by too much caffeine. Infusions are made from large amounts of herbs brewed for a long time.

"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."

Nettles help build up the kidneys and adrenals, which are weakened by caffeine addiction, while oatstraw strengthens 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 also 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."

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Reader Comments

Elizabeth C.

I have loved my morning coffee for many years, it has been one of life's pleasures. One of yoga's gifts is increasing awareness and the addictive side of my habit became obvious-quitting is difficult-believing it is worth it is essential.


Or, is there a "moderation" alternative? I really enjoy a good quality cup of black tea every now and then. I rarely have more than one cup in a day, and most of the time I have a cup every other day. I'm not using it in the AM to "perk me"; I just like it in the afternoon, shortly after lunch.... a little indulgence.

So, how much is too much? For tea and coffee drinkers like me, is this level of consumption in line with a regular yoga practice? Or, are they still counter-acting each other?

Jerry Amos

We bicycle. On a long bike ride caffeine, moderate amount, is a definite help in avoiding bonking. Proven time and time again. Yes we yoga, but we also do strength and cardio fitness - my wife age 73 triathlons and moderate caffeine definitely helps. Really helps on her 5K runs where she just came in first in her age class, and even beat the 2nd in the 60-69 range.

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