If you’re reading this, odds are you drink caffeine. Over 75% of Americans consume this stimulant daily (source), so what I’m about to say may ruffle some caffeinated feathers: caffeine is a zero-sum energy game when consumed habitually. What I mean by this is that your morning coffee doesn’t actually do much of anything for your energy except push off withdrawal symptoms from yesterday’s coffee and leave you mildly stressed, sleeping poorly, craving sugar, and a little jumpy. We’re fooled into thinking there’s a significant increase in focus and productivity because we’ve forgotten our baseline. What was our energy and focus like before we started drinking cups of coffee every day?
How Coffee Works
Caffeine’s primary mechanism of action is blocking adenosine receptors in our brain. The neurotransmitter adenosine builds up in the body and activates adenosine receptors throughout the day, which makes us sleepy. Caffeine looks enough like adenosine to fit into these receptors but then ingeniously blocks the receptors without activating them. The result— adenosine builds up in our system but we don’t get tired (until of course the caffeine wears off and we crash).
With adenosine receptors temporarily disabled, other happier neurotransmitters have an open road in the brain, giving us that mild coffee euphoria we all love. Your brain becomes a nightclub with a bachelorette party in full swing. The lame adenosine boyfriends are trying to get in, but the bouncer, Mr. Caffeine, is blocking their way, allowing the lovely Dopamine, Glutamate, and friends to party on ‘til morning.
Our Body Fights Back
Caffeine may take an early lead against fatigue, but it cannot win the game. Our bodies, desiring balance, eventually counter caffeine consumption by building more adenosine receptors in the brain, increasing our tolerance to coffee. This can happen in as little as two days or up to two weeks. When this happens, we are in a dependent relationship— our normal caffeine consumption is only enough to counter those extra adenosine receptors. Even worse, that wonderful euphoric sensation pretty much disappears.
The Power of Adaptogens
In contrast to caffeine, adaptogenic herbs enhance our bodies’ natural ability to maintain balance rather than seducing our bodies into a temporary high-energy state. They do this partly by modulating, protecting, and strengthening the stress and immune responses, leading to increased adaptive resilience. While many adaptogens do directly stimulate the central nervous system, much of the extra energy experienced is instead a result of more efficient and enhanced energy production and less internalized stress.
A profile on the adaptogenic root rhodiola, one of our all-time favorites here at Rasa, captures the difference between caffeine and adaptogens:
“With classical stimulants the initial increase in work-capacity is followed by a period of substantially decreased (markedly below average) work-capacity. In contrast, with extracts of R. Rosea, the initial increase in work-capacity is followed by a lesser diminution, such that the work-capacity continues to be above average.”
This difference between coffee and adaptogens is why we created Rasa for daily energy support. A delicious daily ritual that replaces and improves an already established coffee habit is the perfect way to help us as a culture explore a life decaffeinated.
30 is the Magic Number
With the launch of our new 30-Day Caffeine Detox Kit, we’re proud to offer what I wish I had when I quit coffee — a plan, a path, and herbal support.
Why is one month important? It takes roughly two weeks for our adenosine receptors to down-regulate to normal levels. That’s why the first two weeks after quitting coffee can be filled with fatigue and the need for much more sleep than usual. Our brains have more adenosine and adenosine receptors than they should, so our bodies are getting a lot of signals to sleep!
After this first two weeks the fatigue lessens, but we may still feel low motivation and not so happy— this is because dopamine takes at least a month to recover after being artificially stimulated for so long. Most of the time, 30 days is the magic number with dopamine. If we can get through an entire month without coffee, what we often find on the other side is a joyous, naturally energized, stress-resilient human.
30-Day Caffeine Detox Kit
To make this month of quitting coffee easier and more enjoyable, we’ve carefully selected four of our Rasa blends— one for each week:
Week 1: Kick things off with Dirty Rather than go cold turkey, the first week, you’ll drink coffee + adaptogens in the form of Dirty Rasa. Dirty has much less caffeine than a normal cup of coffee (~1/3 of a normal cup), and this weaning process will make going full decaf much less painful!
Week 2: Energize the natural way with Bold Bold is our most potent blend and features some of the most energizing adaptogens— rhodiola, eleuthero, schisandra, and cordyceps. As you find yourself at the bottom of the detox valley of fatigue, Bold will give you the adaptogenic energy to climb out with focus and stamina.
Week 3: Cacao has got you covered While Cacao contains a tiny bit of caffeine (5 mg or less), this blend is more about comfort and joy. As you’re coming out of the withdrawal-induced fatigue, chocolate + adaptogens will help boost your mood and make the world seem alright again.
Week 4: Back to Basics with Original Our signature blend features 3000 mg of adaptogens that support you with calm, nourishing energy without the need for caffeine. Rhodiola and eleuthero give you the herbal uplift you want, while roasted date seed, chicory, and ceylon cinnamon provide the roasty, nutty, and slightly sweet flavor that makes for a perfect indulgence every time. Retain your morning ritual knowing Original’s ingredients work to utilize and sustain your natural energy throughout the day.
Congrats, you are caffeine free!!!
Why I’m Staying Caffeine Free
As many of you know, I’ve gone on and off caffeine many times. Enough times to know that I much prefer living life without caffeine, and on my own terms. Over the last year of being caffeine-free, I feel like I’ve reclaimed sovereignty over my own energy. I’m much more able to hold the stress of start-up life, find and follow inspiration, and do the work while nourishing my energy with adaptogens instead of depleting it with coffee.
As you re-evaluate your relationship with coffee over the next month, I invite you to share your successes and challenges, ask any questions that come up, and let us know how you’re feeling at firstname.lastname@example.org! We’re on this journey together!
Co-Founder & Chief Herbalist
 Brown, R. P., M.D., Gerbarg, P. L., M.D., & Ramazanov, Z., Ph.D. (2002). Rhodiola Rosea: A Phytomedicinal Overview. HerbalGram, (56), 40-52.