Caffeine is an alkaloid found in over 60 plant sources, and is found in our most common foods, including chocolate, coffee, and tea. I think anyone who enjoys coffee or tea every day knows about caffeine and how it can make them feel more awake, alert, and in general, in a better mood. But you may be surprised at what a valuable medicine caffeine can be, too.
Clinically Studied Pain Fighter
One of the reasons caffeine is added to common over-the-counter pain relievers (and botanical pain relievers) is that it can add to their effectiveness. Research has shown that adding caffeine to pain-relieving drugs increases the number of people experiencing significant pain relief by up to 10 percent.
In a review in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) examining caffeine and pain-relieving ingredients, researchers found that the dosage level of pain-relieving ingredients would need to be increased by 40 percent to match the effects of the same ingredients boosted by caffeine.
Clinical research has found that caffeine also seems to make muscle recovery faster – meaning you can be physically active sooner, because you aren’t dealing with delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) – the pain you experience a day or two after a tough workout or physical activity. In this case, the placebo-controlled study showed that even smaller amounts of caffeine – the equivalent to about 2 cups of brewed coffee (or 200 mg) was plenty.
I think that many people associate caffeine with the relief of headache pain, and that’s for a good reason. It contracts blood vessels in the brain and deals directly with receptors in the brain that control pain signals.
Caffeine first became officially recognized as treatment for postdural puncture headaches (headaches as a result of lumbar injury) in the 1940s. In more recent years, caffeine has been recommended as a primary medicine in fighting hypnic headaches, a fairly rare type of headache pain that interrupts sleep, typically in people middle-aged and older. Caffeine treatment – possibly even before the event of the headache – may help offset the incidence of pain. Aside from that, caffeine can be an excellent solution for dealing with acute migraines – although those doses are sometimes given intravenously. At lower levels, caffeine can help with the simple headaches from long days or stress that we all encounter from time to time.
Caffeine is also considered an additional treatment for those in advanced stages of cancer who are already taking opioids for pain. In a placebo-controlled clinical study, intravenous caffeine (200 mg) significantly reduced pain intensity and drowsiness. It truly is an outstanding compound.
Why Caffeine Fights Pain
Caffeine isn’t just for lifting your mood and energy levels. It works with blood vessels – constricting them just enough to reduce the blood flow to affected areas – so you don’t get that “drumbeat of pain” of headaches or muscle strains.
As I mentioned earlier, caffeine also works with adenosine receptors in the body that affect the way we perceive pain. Think of them as being like the green lights for pain. Caffeine blocks those pain signals even at low doses. It also blocks some inflammatory cyclooxygenase (COX) activity, so there is a direct action as well. In other words, it is a pain fighter all on its own, not just an “add-on” ingredient. This is why caffeine can be so effective at relieving migraines and muscle pain.
Aside from the obvious help in waking us up in the morning, or preventing that afternoon slump, there are some fascinating studies that show caffeine may actually help preserve or even enhance our cognitive abilities.
For instance, it appears that the effects of caffeine on adenosine receptors in a certain section of the brain may inhibit the development of Parkinson’s disease, so there is very likely much more to the benefits of caffeine than we’re currently aware.
Other studies show a potential link between caffeine consumption and lower risks of Alzheimer’s disease, because it seems to inhibit production of beta-amyloid (responsible for the plaques and tangles that interfere with brain signals).
And, counterintuitive as it may seem, for anyone dealing with daily or chronic stress, a little caffeine may prove to be the best medicine. In a scientific study, low dose, daily caffeine alleviated stress-induced anxiety and improved decision making abilities. In other words, it might not take much to sharpen focus and help see a situation a bit more clearly.
Additionally, emerging research investigating genes and inflammation found that because caffeine intake reduces inflammatory markers, it may help you live longer overall. To me, that sounds like a great reason to wake up to caffeine’s many benefits.
Wake Up to Relief
You’ve probably seen caffeine combined with common pain-fighting, over-the-counter drugs like acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen, but there are better options. Caffeine with curcumin, boswellia, DLPA, and other nutrients is safer and can help you stop headaches and muscle pain effectively and quickly, without damaging the lining of your stomach or harming your liver.
So, whether your days involve intensive physical activity or stress and headaches, caffeine may be exactly the missing element you need.
If you are looking to boost your headache pain relief, I recommend combining caffeine with clinically studied curcumin, boswellia, chelated magnesium, DLPA, and Vitamin B6 (as pyridoxal-5-phosphate). You may take this daily or as needed.
If you are looking to boost your muscle pain relief, I recommend combining caffeine with clinically studied curcumin, boswellia, DLPA, and nattokinase. You may take this daily or as needed.