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Could coffee do more than just stimulate alertness and stress out the adrenals? What if there was more going on to this ritualistic beverage consumed by billions around the world than just caffeine addiction? What if it was medicine for both the body and soul?
That coffee possesses 'drug-like' properties, we know quite well. Some of us, in fact, revel in its addictive properties, as it comes with a certain -- albeit a tad bit pathological -- industriousness. After all, is there anyone more disciplined/obsessed than a coffee drinker -- at least, that is, when it comes to acquiring and drinking coffee? You can set your clocks with exactitude to the performance of their daily coffee-associated machinations, to the point where some coffee makers already have built in clocks, so as not to delay or miss any opportunity for its owner to imbibe. The type of sober religiosity required to turn drinking a beverage into a ritual is known only by a few Zen tea drinkers and quite possibly billions of habitual coffee drinkers.
It is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity." ~ David Barry
Let us also not forget that one of the first documented uses of coffee over 500 years ago was in the Sufi monasteries of Yemen where coffee was known as qahhwat al-bun, or, the 'wine of the bean,' the phrase which provided the etymological origin of the word coffee. Once lauded as a "miracle drug" and used as a sacrament in late-night rituals to invoke the sensation of God within revelers, still today, coffee drinkers are known to cast themselves into bouts of coffee-drinking induced reverie and enthusiasm (literally: en "in" + theos "god" or "god-filled") by drinking this strangely intoxicating, and yet somehow still sobering concoction.
It is interesting that even addictions can be viewed as a form of ritual -- albeit degenerated ones performed semi- or subconsciously. But that cup of Joe gets many of us up in the morning to perform our secular duties, which says a lot considering what many of us are forced or coerced to do for a living.
While many attribute coffee's vise-like hold on their physiology to its caffeine content, there is much more going on than simply a fixation on a 'stimulant.' It has been known for over a quarter of a century that coffee contains a compound known as cafestrol with significant opiate-like properties and which is found within both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee forms. The 'narcotic' properties of coffee, therefore, are no doubt due to a complex interplay between a wide range of compounds -- not just a stimulant, but an opioid agonist as well.
Coffee is also a 'brain-booster' and contains a compound called trigonelline which in vitro research both stimulates the release of dopamine (not unlike cocaine), and stimulates neurite outgrowth, which involves the extension of dendrites and axons in neurons and which may compensate and rescue damaged neuronal networks in the aging brain.