By Jenny Menzel, H.C.
Roughly 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed every day around the world, making it one of the most famed euphoria-inducing beverages since its first known debut in the 9th century. In contrast, cannabidiol (CBD), the dominant compound in hemp-derived cannabis plants, has only just begun its global climb in popularity as a natural health aid. Since its legalization in the 2018 Farm Bill, CBD has popped up in about every product imaginable — it was only a matter of time before CBD found its way into your favorite coffee blend or latte.
But what exactly happens in our bodies when we blend CBD and caffeine together? Is it beneficial to our health to combine them, or is it simply a trending health fad? While research has yet to confirm, existing anecdotal evidence can tell us how CBD and caffeine individually influence the body — and how they operate as a duo.
How CBD and Caffeine Affect Your Body
1. Alertness Levels
A central nervous system (CNS) stimulant, the caffeine found in coffee is mostly used for boosting mental focus, mood, and energy levels, whereas CBD is most used for quite the opposite — sedating the CNS to calm inflammation, anxiety, and pain. However, these opposing effects may actually be complementary. A study recently published in The Journal of Internal Medicine revealed new ways coffee may provide health benefits. Researchers found coffee enriched metabolites in five pathways, one being the endocannabinoid pathway that CBD predominantly interacts with. While this study wasn’t specific to CBD, some dots may be connected in future studies. Until then, anecdotal evidence comes from coffee drinkers that report adding CBD to their coffee boosts their alertness level, while muting the unwanted jittery effects of caffeine intake.
2. Stimulant and Sedative Qualities
Did you know CBD can act as a stimulant as well as a sedative — depending on the dose? A 2004 study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology found a low-dose of 15 milligrams CBD had a stimulating effect, which seemed to cancel out the sedative effects of 15 milligram THC. However, in higher doses, CBD has been well established as a sedative as far back as 1981 when a published study noted 160-milligram doses of CBD led to better sleep quality when compared to the placebo group. Yet another study indicated significant sedation with CBD doses ranging between 300-600 milligrams due to its ability to interfere with the secretion of cortisol — our body’s stress hormone responsible for waking us up for the day and keeping us alert. These studies can help gauge how much CBD might be useful as a coffee add-in.
Adenosine: The Sleepiness Substance
Adenosine is a substance in your brain that affects sleep-wake cycles and halts the activity of neurons. During daily activity, adenosine builds up in the brain, and by nighttime, it helps you feel drowsy. Both CBD and caffeine exert an influence on adenosine. — let’s take a look at how.
Caffeine and Adenosine
Even low intake of caffeine through sources like tea and coffee inhibit adenosine (A1) receptors — blocking the sleepy feeling you get when tired, and tricking the brain into being alert by speeding up neural activity. When this happens, your brain knows you’re still tired and will attempt to rebalance by producing even more adenosine receptors — hopeful that extra A1 receptors will make you realize you’re sleepy.
However, instead of turning to sleep to recharge, humans tend to reach for more coffee. Even people drinking minimal amounts of coffee can experience withdrawal symptoms when missing their usual dose. This is because those extra adenosine receptors die off — causing blood vessels in the brain to constrict, leading to the dreaded withdrawal headaches and a down-in-the-dumps mood. But CBD neutralizes this effect and may alleviate the dreaded caffeine withdrawal symptoms. CBD increases adenosine activity in the brain, helping to manage the A1 receptors.
CBD and Adenosine
Adenosine isn’t only in charge of our sleepiness levels; it’s also known for its anti-inflammatory effects. When CBD encourages adenosine signaling and raises adenosine levels, it also acts as an anti-inflammatory. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology and Therapeutics found CBD reduced heart arrhythmias by enhancing adenosine signaling at the A1 receptor site. This may explain how CBD’s anti-inflammatory effect thru A1 receptors can reduce jitters and calm rapid or irregular heartbeats caused by excess caffeine intake.
Ultimately, while CBD and caffeine have exhibited brain and mood-boosting features, science has yet to conclusively answer how they interact with each other inside our bodies. It’s likely CBD and caffeine balance each other out to some degree. Safely testing different doses of CBD with your favorite caffeine beverage may be the best way to conduct your own personal experiment to see how mixing the two works best for you.
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Jenny Menzel, H.C., is a Certified Health Coach and branding specialist for various alternative healthcare practices, and volunteers her design skills to the annual grassroots campaign, the Lyme Disease Challenge. Jenny was diagnosed with Lyme in 2010 after 8 years of undiagnosed chronic pain and fatigue, and continues to improve by employing multiple alternative therapies, including Āyurveda, Chinese Medicine and Bee Venom Therapy.