Coffee – An Unexpected Chinese Herb

Eidolonai March 8, 2018

Possibly that trip to the corner coffee house has more benefits than just the immediate wake up call. I bet you never thought of coffee as an herbal medicine, but there is more to this bean than meets the eye.

Although coffee has been demonized by some in our society, there are many benefits to ingesting this product in moderation. People seem to forget that the coffee bean is an herb. Indeed, the coffee plant belongs to the Rubiaceae family, which is a source of several different Chinese medicinal herbs, including: gardenia fruit, oldenlandia, morinda, rubia, and uncaria. Some of the medicinal effects of this herb are described in the Indian Materia Medica of 1908. Only towards the end of the 19th century did coffee make its way to China, where it can now be found in every major city. Furthermore, China is already exporting coffee and is poised to become a major presence in the coffee-growing industry.

At the proper dosages, the coffee bean has the ability to improve health in several ways. Drinking coffee can increase cardiovascular health and lower the risk of colon cancer, gallstones, cirrhosis, and Parkinson’s disease (Dharmananda 2003). A typical dosage for this type of herb is in the range of 6-18 grams per day, which translates to about 1-3 cups of coffee, depending on how many grams of ground beans are used. Roasting the coffee beans does not detract from the beneficial effects of this herb.

The primary active substances in the coffee bean are chlorogenic and caffeic acids. These substances have been shown to have anti-depressant and anti-anxiety effects. Furthermore, these compounds are important components of vegetables, fruits, and many culinary herbs and are thought to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Another potential beneficial effect of these substances is to regulate blood sugar levels by reducing the absorption of glucose (thus reducing blood glucose levels). Coffee also contains antioxidant phenols that can reduce the risk of cancer.

Case studies have been carried out to examine the effect of long-term coffee drinking on type 2 diabetes mellitus, and it has been found that, “… long-term coffee consumption is associated with a statistically significantly lower risk for type 2 diabetes,” (Salazar-Martinez E et al. 2004). This study by Salazar-Martinez et al. took into consideration age, body mass index, as well as other risk factors to ensure accurate results. Type 2 diabetes mellitus is associated with behavioral and lifestyle choices and can be brought on by obesity, smoking, and physical inactivity.

Like other potent herbs, coffee is not necessarily for everyone, as some people may be more sensitive to the effects of caffeine or another of the ingredients present in coffee, such as potassium, niacin, magnesium, and tocopherols . However, coffee has proven to be safe for the majority of people when consumed in reasonable amounts. So start your day guilt-free with a freshly brewed cup of herbal chlorogenic, drink up and enjoy.


1. Salazar-Martinez E et al. Coffee Consumption and Risk for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Ann Intern Med. 2004; 140: 1-8.

Cathy Margolin is a Licensed Acupuncturist and consumer health advocate with a passion for teaching people how to improve their health through the use of Chinese herbal formulas. She enjoys impacting the lives of readers around the world who haven’t yet experienced the phenomenal health benefits from the ancient wisdom of Chinese herbal medicine. She currently maintains an Acupuncture & Chinese herbal medicine practice, writes herbal formulas for her patients and works at


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