Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Mary Berry on The Great British Bake Off series four and the RT Audience Award

"It is very exciting for all of us... we want the Radio Times viewers to vote for us"

Mary Berry on The Great British Bake Off series four and the RT Audience Award
Written By
Ellie Walker-Arnott
Queen of baking Mary Berry, her judging sidekick Paul Hollywood and the team behind hit cooking competition The Great British Bake Off have found themselves nominated for not one but two awards at this year's TV Baftas. One of which is the Radio Times Audience Award...
Speaking to RadioTimes.com at the Bafta nominees party, Mary Berry said: "It is very exciting for all of us... We’ve all been talking about it. And we want the Radio Times viewers to vote for us – I hope they do!"
Asked why she thought viewers should get voting for the sweet-toothed show, the 78-year-old trend-setter said: "It’s got everybody baking… we’ve converted people to enjoy baking," before adding: "It’s a great thing to share, and once you’ve made a few cakes, the whole family enjoy it and obviously are very proud of the people who are making them. It’s a great thing to do together, a great family thing."
GBBO is known for its dedicated fan following, with the hashtag #GBBO trending during every transmission and hundreds of you getting out your spatulas to join in. "We get a lot of emails [from fans]," said Berry. "The great joy is when we get emails from children and they send maybe a picture of some cupcakes and they stand behind, absolutely straight, and you can see them beam and how proud they are."
Mary and Paul are currently back in the iconic tent, getting their bake on for the fourth series of The Great British Bake Off, and fans have reason to be excited, thinks Berry: "We’re on the fourth programme and the standard is ever better."
The Great British Bake Off has recently had some competition in the form of the newly recommissioned Great British Sewing Bee. With WI sewing teacher May and dapper Saville Row sewer Patrick as judges on the new show, there have been plenty of comparisons between the crafty duo and Mary and Paul. But that's not a comparison Mary thinks is worth making...
"I didn't really [see any similarities], no," said Berry. "But I did enjoy it... I thought that was great and I was awfully pleased that the older lady won. Wasn’t she lovely?"

The curious tale of the stolen books

Image from weekly illustrated newspaper The Graphic, from 1886, showing a librarian in the library in Lambeth Palace's Great Hall
London's Lambeth Palace, home to the Archbishop of Canterbury, also has a leading historic book collection. The palace's library was the scene of a major crime that stayed undiscovered for decades.
A sealed letter that arrived at one of Britain's most historic libraries in February 2011 was to leave its staff stunned.
The letter had been written before his death by a former employee of Lambeth Palace Library. Forwarded shortly after he died by the man's solicitor, it revealed the whereabouts of many of the library's precious books.
Staff had known since the mid-1970s that dozens of its valuable books had been stolen. But they had no idea of the true extent of the losses until the letter led them to the man's house in London.

Lambeth's recovered books

A map of the city of Cusco, in Theodor de Bry's America. (Frankfurt, 1590)
Key works now back at the Palace include:
  • 10 volumes from Theodor de Bry's America, which contain many engraved illustrations of early expeditions to the New World
  • A volume with quarto edition of Shakespeare'sHenry IV Part 2, apparently presented to Archbishop Richard Bancroft in 1610
  • A True Discourse of the Late Voyages of Discoverie for the Finding of a Passage to Cathaya, about Martin Frobisher's 16th Century search for a north-west passage to the Orient
  • The "spymaster's scrapbook", a collection of engravings illustrating conflicts involving the Spanish Netherlands, which belonged toElizabeth I's spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham
  • The Frenche Chirurgerye by Jacques Guillemeau, describing skills and instruments of 16th Century surgeons, with many fine engravings
"We were staggered," says Declan Kelly, director of libraries and archives for the Church of England. "A couple of my colleagues climbed into the attic. It was piled high to the rafters with boxes full of books. I had a list of 60 to 90 missing books, but more and more boxes kept coming down."
They contained some 1,000 volumes, made up of 1,400 publications, many from the collections of three 17th century archbishops of Canterbury - John Whitgift, Richard Bancroft and George Abbot.
They included an early edition ofShakespeare's Henry IV Part Two, finely illustrated books - such as Theodor de Bry's America, which chronicles the earliest expeditions to the New World - and medical books, such as The French Chirurgerye.
"The scale of the theft is quite extraordinary," says Robert Harding, director of Maggs Bros, a London rare book dealer. "It's one of the biggest such thefts in recent decades."
Harding says that if undamaged, the copy of de Bry's America could be worth £150,000, while the Shakespeare would be worth about £50,000. He says others are also worth five-figure sums.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the case is how a member of staff was able to get away with stealing so many valuable and often large books.
During World War II, Lambeth Palace's Great Hall - which housed much of the library's early collection - took a direct hit from an incendiary bomb.
It was roughly estimated that up to 10,000 books were destroyed or badly damaged. In the years after, if a book was discovered to be missing it was easy to assume it had been destroyed in the war.
The library in Lambeth Palace's Great HallFounded in 1610, Lambeth Palace's library is the principal repository of the Church of England's documentary history and houses more than 120,000 books
But early in 1975 the then librarian noticed that some of the most important books which were known to have survived, including the Shakespeare, had been taken.
The thief had also removed the index cards of the books, making it even more difficult to work out exactly what had been stolen. It was concluded that it was a matter of just tens of books.
"The police did an investigation and interviewed all the staff, but drew a blank and nothing from the library had ever come up for sale in the book trade," Kelly says.
Security was reviewed at the library in 1975 and in 2011.
Prof James Carley, a Canadian academic, has been researching the history of the library. "In the 1970s it was very easy. There were no [detector] devices, nothing to stop you walking out with a book," he says.
London-based antiquarian bookseller Tim Bryars says: "It would take years to do it one or two books at a time, but it would have been much easier if he had the keys and took significant quantities at a time.
"There would have been a great deal of confusion for some time after the war. It could have happened when the books were being stored in the crypt."
The trail stayed cold for more than 35 years until the arrival of the letter.
Even though the true extent of the thief's exploits was discovered more than two years ago, it is only now being made public. "We've delayed quite a while telling the story because we wanted to get to the point where we can start to make the books available again," Kelly says.
Map showing putative route to China via Frobisher’s Straightes, from 8. Sir George Best, • A True Discourse of the Late Voyages of Discoverie for the Finding of a Passage to Cathaya (London, 1578)
He declines to say anything about the identity of the thief. "He was a former low-level employee. I don't think he was there for that long after the theft was discovered.
"We don't want to cause any distress to anyone still alive and connected with the thief. We want to look forward, not back."
But Bryars has another theory. "I can understand why they didn't reveal his name as there are other people out there who have stolen similar material, who if they saw someone else being named and shamed - even posthumously - that material could be for the bonfire," he says.

Infamous book thefts

  • Former director of the Girolamini Library in Naples, Marino Massimo De Caro, jailed for seven years in March for stealing hundreds of its rare and antique books
  • William Jacques jailed for four years in 2002 for stealing hundreds of rare books in the late 1990s from the Cambridge University, London and British Libraries
  • Jailed again in 2012 for theft from Royal Horticultural Society's Lindley Library
  • Iranian-British businessman Farhad Hakimzadeh jailed for two years in 2009 for stealing pages from rare books in the British Library
  • Antiques dealer Raymond Scott jailed for eight years for handling a 1623 first folio of Shakespeare's plays stolen from Durham University library in 1998
The thief's true motives have also gone to the grave with him, but the fact that he damaged so many of the books provides a clue. He had removed or tried to remove marks of ownership using chemicals, cut off the coat of arms of the archbishops from covers and removed the bindings from some books.
"The fact they were defaced suggests he was intending to sell them. He may have had a go and been questioned and given up. The fantasy of the secret collector who wants to gloat over his private collection is not common in reality," Harding says.
Some of the stolen books are still missing. The thief removed index cards for the books he stole and these were found at his house. But not all the corresponding books were recovered. The remainder may have been sold.
"Damage affects the value a lot. A book without the arms may have lost 90% of its value. It's cultural vandalism," Harding adds.
Carley says the thief appeared to be interested in books and this may have saved them. "I think he just decided at the end of the day that he couldn't destroy them, so why not give them back?"
Some 10% of the retrieved books have now been repaired and 40% of them have been entered in the library's online catalogue.
"It's great to have this stuff back and scholars and others can now access them to see what was available to people at the time to inform themselves," Kelly says.
Prof James Carley was interviewed on the BBC World Service programmeNewshour

Frank Wildman, GCFT, Ph.D.


If You Are In Pain, You Might Be Surprised To Find What Your Posture Has To Do With It

Posted: 04/30/2013 7:59 am

Pain, stiffness, fatigue these are issues that affect us all as we age. How many times have we said, "I'm just stiff" or "Just tired today." But if we take another look at how we view pain, stiffness and fatigue, we can come to understand that much of our pain is the result of postural habits that shrink us.
To me, the visible signs of aging -- stiffness of movement or a slouched posture, for example -- are evidence that we are drying up -- our joint capsules are drier, the connective tissue throughout our bodies becomes drier. As we age, many of us get shorter as a result of our spinal discs losing fluid and flattening.
Sound hopeless? It's not. One strategy to combat this march of time is to pay special attention to re-hydrating. Take a warm bath or shower first thing in the morning and the warmth will push fluids around your body and expand your tissues. If you drink coffee to increase your alertness, have a glass of water with it as coffee has a dehydrating effect. If you like to have a glass of wine or a cocktail, realize that alcohol also has a drying effect on your body, so a glass of water per ounce of alcohol is a good practice.
But another important strategy for combating our shrinking postures is to expand the way we think about posture in the first place.
Almost every day I hear the question, "What is good posture?" To me, this question reveals that posture is difficult to think about and difficult to feel. You may think about posture in the standard way: as the bones of your body being stacked up like bricks and your balance and mechanical alignment being ideally expressed with your head in a precise position above your chest, which is in a precise position above your pelvis, and so on, down to your feet on the floor.
You can stand in this kind of alignment, like a breathless etiquette teacher with a book balanced on her head, but the difficulty with this concept of posture is that it does not allow you to move very easily and your breathing becomes strained.
Your body cannot be compared to a stack of bricks or a building because you have a brain. And your brain determines your posture. What you sense, what you are feeling at any particular moment, your intentions -- all of these things determine your posture.
For example, if you are stressed, apprehensive, hesitant, fearful, your posture will reflect it. Your shoulders may hunch, your chest may be drawn in, you hold your breath. We can see the opposite emotions and intentions -- confidence, eagerness, curiosity -- also expressed in posture -- a head held up high, a chest and belly open to the world.
No one just stands up for no reason -- we all stand up for something. Our posture contains our entire emotional history: We learned to stand up as infants to do something, and we learned finally to form a personality so we could stand up for ourselves.
Our self-image, our ego, and our intentions to perform actions determine our posture, not some abstract and artificial ideas based on mechanical alignment.
Good posture while you are standing and talking intimately to a good friend or your lover is quite different -- and rightly so -- from the posture you have when talking to someone you've never met before or someone you feel threatened by. What would be the ideal posture for being prepared to receive a tennis serve? What would be the ideal posture for a quarterback who is about to receive the ball from the center and intends to make a long pass? Good posture is being able to adapt our posture to many situations and to use it to express who we are socially.

So perhaps a better question than "What is good posture?" -- as if posture were a static sort of thing -- would be: "What is the range of postural possibilities?" How adaptable is your posture to different situations? If your posture creates pain, then you need to move differently inside of yourself and not stand like a stack of bricks.
Do you have a slumped posture?
A slumped posture indicates a curvature of the spine. The forward head position, tight neck, and depressed chest that result make it difficult to hold the face up.
While standing, can you reach one arm up toward the ceiling or the sky? Look at your hand and keep reaching until you feel your outstretched arm lifting your ribs. Make sure your jaw stays open.
Put your arm down and do the same with the other arm. Let the reach occur as if someone were pulling you up higher through that arm. Your heels might come off the floor.
Then simply stand and notice how much taller you feel. As you walk, you can always be posturally prepared to reach up and point to the sky.
Frank Wildman, Ph.D. is the creator of a program specifically for baby boomers called Change Your Age. The program is available as a book, a series of DVDs, and courses and weekend workshops spread around the country.
To help guide people into a movement program that could put more life in your years, Dr. Wildman developed a Mobility Survey where you can find out your real mobility years, which might be functionally quite different from your actual age. You may be surprised!
Most people function in an easier, more fluid manner or in a more tense, stressful and limited manner than their actual age. Get a sense from the Mobility Survey what your Mobility Age is and then consider participating in some way in the Change Your Age program, where you can learn how to move more easily and more youthfully.
To find out more about the Change Your Age program, please visit my website, http://www.changeyouragenetwork.com.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Reclaiming the True Power of Femininity.

Femininity and feminism are not mutually exclusive.

Let me first allay any fears that you have upon reading the title of my post. This is not about becoming an anachronism or letting go of equality. This is not about a return to Jane Austen and Downton Abbey-style gender roles, but maybe it’s time to talk about why so many of us find them attractive.
Recently, I have noticed the following:

1. I have noticed an absence of a discussion of the definition of femininity among educated American women.

While there is a never-ending stream of articles about how women think men should behave or what we enjoy about masculinity, any man that tries to celebrate or discuss what he enjoys about women is nearly drawn and quartered. There is a cultural reluctance to define what it means to be feminine, offset by an ever-growing list of demands for men.
Why the dichotomy, friends? Are we still seeking equality, or something else? If we take time to appreciate or discuss masculinity, why does it ruffle feathers when the reverse happens? I would agree that it helps no one if we cling to gender stereotypes or restrictive, outdated roles. But if we throw all of it out, we throw out some valuable truths about being women.

2. Our vibrant third-wave of feminism has continued to challenge the notion that nudity on screen and across our pages is something that should be glossy and flawless.

In the past, the feminist reaction to the female nude in popular culture was to cry “exploitation!” There are those who still take that stance, but many more are simply challenging the Photoshopped ideal and applauding women who represent the full spectrum of female beauty.
300px-LascapigliataRecently, Lena Dunham has taken a lot of flak in the press for her nude scenes in Girls, with the press calling her “frumpy,” or worse. Several writers have responded, most notably, Kate Spencer:
“Something very obvious hit me, and I haven’t been able to shake it: Lena Dunham is really the first woman I’ve ever seen on-screen who looks like me. But not only that—she’s comfortable in her skin, in her nakedness, in her sexuality and as herself.”
We have stopped accepting the “women should only come in one variety” message of the media. “Real women” are soft and small or tall and muscular. Some are curvy, others muscular. There are many ways for women to be beautiful. As we have this discussion, maybe we grow closer to embracing the French ideal of bien dans sa peau, or finally, truly being content in our own skin. And yet, while the discourse on the female body is full of celebration, many are less accepting of other feminine attributes.
The yin parts of us are the parts that are yielding—vulnerable—and this is part of what it means to be feminine. Why reject it?

3. While in our business and social worlds, many women strive to be seen as the same as their male counterparts, our popular culture is reflecting different desires.

Look at the popularity of Downton Abbey and the resurgence of all things Jane Austen. These influences are carrying over into the fashion world as well. It isn’t that we want an equality throw-back to another era. Certainly, we all want to see equal pay for equal work and the same choices available to men and women. But the allure of these strong, feminine characters didn’t come about in a vacuum. There is a longing to reconnect with a part of femininity that has been neglected.
Yet, this idea raises eyebrows. We were taught that women can, and should, be everything men can be. We were taught that in order to be successful in life, it meant we had to put those things aside. We were told that femininity was the realm of the past—or of ultra-conservatives who would keep women barefoot and pregnant.

We seem to have accepted the idea that if women are feminine, they are somehow less powerful, less intelligent or less equal to men.

There is not one way to be feminine, any more that there is one way to be masculine. In fact, I’d go as far to say as this craving to re-embrace the feminine goes beyond gender. What we are talking about here is something that resurfaces over and over in these pages. As a civilization, we were fed the line for several generations that “only the strong survive” and that we need to be bigger, better, faster and more in order to get ahead. We have been fed the idea that all of us—male and female—need to tough it out, rather than admit where we are tender.
What if it wasn’t true?
What if the only thing that could really save us, truly improve our lives was reconnecting with our vulnerability?

In Shambhala: the Path of the WarriorChogyam Trungpa talks about where we find our fearlessness:

“Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness.
You are willing to open up, without resistance or shyness, and face the world.”
Everywhere we turn, people are crying out for authenticity, for genuine connections, for renewed empathy. As we move forward, we need to take this step away from lives propelled by aggression and step into true fearlessness, which is a product of our raw, tender hearts.
If in this new era we are truly going to move forward as human beings, it will not be through strength or force.Strength of force is no match for the boundless strength of surrender. If, as has been implied by the Dalai Lama and other leaders, that women will save Western Civilization, it will not be through intellect, nor ambition, nor any overt power.

It won’t be because we are perfect. It will be because we are vulnerable.

This Poster Might Just Change Your Life. ~ Nicole Duncan

Lost? Find yourself with the Holstee Manifesto.

Before I even knew what was wrong, I knew how to fix it.
I had to make a change, a big change.
As far as I could tell I had everything, and nothing to complain about. Reliable employment, a coveted corner office, a loving boyfriend and supportive family, my good health.
I was living in the most beautiful town in the US, and I was (somewhat) financially secure…the list goes on. Fellow Americans, these days, are wondering where they’ll get their next meal…and I’m pondering personal happiness. Call my discontent pathetic, but it was ruining my life.
My life was empty, somehow. No peers challenged me or my beliefs. My community rarely inspired me, and my ambition was stagnant. Work felt unimportant, pointless. Just about every day, I woke up to the screaming question, What are you doing with your life?
My internal compass pointed toward change. And lots of it. So, finally, eventually, I quit my job, broke up with my boyfriend, and got out of town. Almost instantly, and surprisingly, clarity came. As it turns out, I was living my life by the Holstee Manifesto before I even knew it existed. I haphazardly stumbled upon this graphic one day while surfing the web.
While I was in the thick of making change (otherwise known as disrupting and destroying my life), shoulder-deep in judgment from the people in my world, and bailing buckets of tears trying to stay afloat, this credo brought reassurance. Despite everything, I knew I was right, and carrying out my plan was somehow instinctive. When I read the manifesto for the first time, my whirling world slowed—its words affirmed me, and the flat-out changes I’d made.
I couldn’t help but smile at its simplicity.
Therein lies the power. I love this progression of words because they simplify a prescription for happiness, without oversimplifying it.
“If you don’t like something, change it.”
It’s plain and simple, yet so difficult in practice. The message inspires me to never settle, and it reminds me that happiness is a choice.
Now, the Holstee graphic adorns my Mac desktop, prompting me to “wear my passion.” So I am. After all, what’s the point if you’re not?
“Life is about the people you meet, and the things you create with them. So go out and start creating.”
Nicole spends her free time in the outdoors via kayak, ski, bike, trail, rope, rock, water and mountain. Although a writer and editor by trade, she ventured out as a sea kayak guide in Alaska, and most recently ski-bummed in Telluride, CO. When she’s not plotting her next big adventure you’ll find her with a Colorado microbrew in hand, a good read or with friends. Nicole has zero tolerance for to-go cups, pickles and complainers, and she challenges you with the question:
“How intensely do you wish to exist?”

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Barking Blondes: Could your dog find its way home?

Joanne Good and Anna Webb
barking blondes 225x300 Barking Blondes: Could your dog find its way home?Our local yoga centre, in Marylebone, has a yoga dog called Jalebi. She is a 10-month old Sheltie.
On Monday, a keen and kind friend took Jalebi to Regents Park for a walk and let her off the lead. The dog then bolted. Whilst the well-meaning friend, distraught with fear, called the owner and the police and searched every inch of the park, Jalebi got herself to Baker Street station, onto the Bakerloo Line and home to her front door in Ealing. Anyone familiar with the London Underground will realize that this involved a change onto The District Line. There were, apparently, witnesses to this urban equivalent of Lassie Come Home, commuters who watched in disbelief.
Lassie’s journey of course was fictional, unlike Jalebi’s, however there are millions of anecdotes about dogs and other animals finding their way home from unfamiliar places, using an uncanny in built sat nav, or innate sense of direction.
Homing pigeons can find their way back to their lofts from hundreds of miles of unfamiliar terrains. Tapping into this ‘avian GPS’ ability proved invaluable during both world wars, being harnessed as ‘messengers’, and their extraordinary ability saved many lives.
There is still is no rigorous scientific explanation to how pigeons do this.
In Jalebi’s case, she followed a route that she took every day and was familiar to her.
However, ‘science’ can’t work out and explain how dogs frequently find their way back home from somewhere they’ve never been before, or how migrating birds know when, where and in which direction they need to fly to get to warmer climes.
‘Sense of direction’ is an example of ESP or a ‘sixth sense’ like ‘telepathy’ and ‘precognition/ premonitions’. Some people call it being psychic.  And it falls beyond the limits of quantum physics, and traditional science.
Dr Rupert Sheldrake, the world’s pre-eminent ‘paranormal’ scientist, has investigated these unexplained phenomena. In his book “Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home’, Sheldrake presents a view based on his theory of Morphic Fields. This is a type of energetic connection or complex social bond between all living creatures. The connection between dogs and their owners is described as similar to an invisible stretched elastic band, or a magnetic attraction.
As well as knowing how to find their way home, dogs can ‘home’ to their person, not a place. There’s the heroic case of Tim the famous Irish Terrier that ‘homed’ to his master all the way from Wales to find him on the frontline, in France, during WW1.
Skeptics of a sixth sense argue that a dog uses his sense of smell prompted by familiar landmarks and routine, to find its way home – but there’s no way a dog can use this to find their master from Wales to Normandy! Or account for hundreds of cases that prove dogs don’t depend on memorising smells or details of a route, particularly when they’ve been ‘transported’ in a car or by plane, only to travel enormous distances to find their way home.
Sheldrake explores many ‘unexplained’ phenomena like the ability for dogs to ‘know’ when they’re soon to arrive home when travelling in the car. He also investigates thousands of cases where dogs literally ‘know’ when their owners are coming home. And most recently he’s exploring how dog’s know when their owners are phoning home.
So next time you are lost whilst driving and you pull over to ask directions ….ask the Labrador NOT the local.
The Barking Hour, every Thursday, 3-4PM, BBC London 94.9FM – www.barkingblondes.net

Coffee! The Good, the Bad, and the Ayurvedic Perspective.

"Coffee: Out of focud before, clearer after," by Ben Cumming.
In recent years, we have seen an astonishing amount of research being published touting the health benefits of coffee. The question is:  do these studies negate the health risks reported in studies past?

The Good

Recent findings show that if you drink one cup of coffee a day, you can reduce your risk of diabetes by 13% (1), but if you drank twelve cups a day, you could reduce the risk of diabetes by 67% (2). Twelve cups!
Six cups of coffee a day had an 18% reduction on prostate cancer and a 40% reduction of aggressive lethal cancer (3).
Four cups of coffee a day could reduce your risk of liver cirrhosis by 84% (4)!
Five cups a day for five weeks began to reverse Alzheimer’s damage in the brain by reducing levels of amyloid-beta, both in the blood and the brain (5).
One to four cups reduced the risk of Parkinson’s by 47% and five cups a day reduced it by 60% (6). In this study, the greater number of cups of coffee per day, the lower the risk of Parkinson’s disease.
And while there are many more studies citing the cardiovascular risks posed by coffee consumption, a recent study showed that women who drank 1-3 cups of coffee a day had a 24% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease (7).
High blood pressure—once the holy grail of anti-coffee publicity—is now being questioned. Studies have shown for years that coffee will raise blood pressure(8), but new studies  show that while the blood pressure will go up initially, if you continue to drink it daily for 8 weeks, the blood pressure will normalize (9).

What’s the secret ingredient?

Photo courtesy of United Nations Photo
If you take the caffeine out of coffee, the benefits cited above remain relatively the same. So, if it isn’t the caffeine that is responsible for these benefits, then what is it?
There are about 1000 active constituents in the coffee bean and only a few of them are understood. We do know that the coffee bean, the seed of the fruit, is loaded with antioxidants.
Perhaps the most powerful known antioxidant in the coffee bean is called chlorogenic acid, a compound that is most concentrated in the green, unroasted coffee bean but dissipates somewhat in the roasting process. The weakening of this compound in the coffee bean’s journey from bean to beverage may be why we need such high amounts of coffee to reap its many benefits. Today, green coffee extracts are available to deliver the benefits of chlorogenic acid without actually having to drink the dark roasted brew.

The Bad

Most of the negative research on coffee can be linked to its impact on the nervous system. Coffee is a stimulant and increases the release of stress hormones, which are usually reserved for life or death, fight or flight situations (10). The elevation of these hormones is detectable hours after consumption. Interestingly, the release of the same hormones occurs with decaffeinated coffee (11).
DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a steroid hormone that decreases with the consumption of coffee. DHEA is responsible for cellular and tissue repair. It also enhances memory and cognitive function, protects against stress, and supports numerous physiological processes (12).
Coffee consumption (including decaffeinated coffee) releases an addictive neurotransmitter calleddopamine. Dopamine is a pleasure hormone and when the brain is bathed in dopamine, it never forgets the source. After the coffee rush wears off, the brain starts thinking about its next cup, so that when a coffee drinker drives by a coffee shop, they may be compelled to stop even if they were not previously thinking about coffee. This is the effect of dopamine on the brain—it’s the addictive “I’ve gotta have it” hormone (13).
Dopamine may only be one mechanism for the addictive nature of coffee, however. Withdrawal symptoms such as painful headaches, nausea, vomiting, loose stools, depression, anxiety, and fatigue are common when a coffee drinker tries to stop (14).
In addition, coffee:
• Raises homocysteine levels – a major risk factor for heart disease (15).
• Raises blood pressure (16).
• Raises cholesterol (17).
• Is associated with heart irregularities (18).
• Increases inflammation (19).
• Damages the nervous system (20).
• Interferes with neurotransmitters in the brain (21).
• Alters DNA repair (22).
• Increases risk of kidney stones (23).
• Lowers bone density (24).
• Interferes with sleep (25).
• Is linked to erectile dysfunction (26)
• Increases gastric reflux and heartburn (27).

The Ayurvedic Perspective

It seems that most of the negative research on coffee stems from the damaging effects of the increased production of degenerative stress hormones. Because these effects seem to be true for both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, it would be logical to assume there must be other stimulating elements in coffee.
If you are using coffee as a stimulant to get energy, that in itself creates an imbalance. Using a stimulant to create energy you do not naturally have can potentially push you into debt, sometimes referred to as adrenal exhaustion.
Also, coffee, via its dopamine activation, is a very addictive substance that creates highs and lows in energy. In turn, these highs and lows can affect mood and physiological function.
It is also recognized in Ayurveda that coffee has an effect on the quality of mind, stimulating it into a “rajasic”, or overly active, state. This goes against the volumes of teachings that expound on the health benefits of stilling the mind, as in meditation.
Our world is already over-stimulated to the point that many of us cannot keep up. Taking a stimulant on top of that will quite possibly drive us to exhaustion.

Food or Medicine?

That said, I am a believer that all plants have a purpose and we must try to understand them rather than pass judgment on them. Some plants are meant to be used as a food and are safe to eat regularly, others are more like medicines.
We also have to consider that the way we process coffee may seriously alter its properties.There is a long process from bean to brew, and many factors along the way that can change the effects of the original plant as nature intended it. Until more studies are done on the raw green bean, the research we have to work with is based on the coffee drink, and it’s clear from this research that coffee has medicinal properties. But is it safe for regular long-term use?
Sometimes the best way to understand a controversial substance is to look at how it was traditionally used. Before coffee became widely grown in so many parts of the world, it was considered an elite drink. In Europe as early as the mid-1600’s, coffee was only used in very small quantities after the large meal in the middle of the day. Being very acidic, coffee may stimulate the digestive process and act as a digestif. There is also research that suggests that coffee may help control after-meal blood sugar spikes. However, even using coffee in this way can have undesirable effects in the long-run:
1.    It is an intestinal irritant that can inflame the digestive tract.
2.    It is overly acidic, which can congest the lymph and detox pathways.
3.    It can desensitize the mucosa of the gut, causing chronic constipation.
4.    It is extremely dehydrating and can dry out the skin, gut, and respiratory tract.
For these reasons, I wouldn’t suggest an espresso with every meal, but in moderation and for the right body types, coffee may be supportive for digestion. However, that same cup of coffee on an empty stomach in the morning will stimulate the adrenals to make excess energy and stress hormones that may deplete the body’s reserves. As I mentioned, the boost one feels from coffee is in fact stimulating the body to prepare for an emergency.
It is possible that coffee has the capacity to create a higher state of health for a short period of time, so as to help the body best cope with the “emergency state” of an illness such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s, to name a few that I mentioned earlier (see “The Good” section, above).
My concern is the long-term effect of stimulating the body in this way. Given the facts, it seems more logical to recognize coffee as a drug or medicine: it boosts dopamine and drives degenerative hormones like cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), and norepinephrine,  and inhibits calming GABA. These changes may be helpful in an emergency state or illness, but whether you would want your nervous system affected in this way in the long-term is questionable.
As for the reported health benefits, I attribute them to
-    Stimulating the body into a medicinal/emergency response to deal with a potential health threat, and
-    The wealth of antioxidants present in coffee, which certainly can’t be ignored. But has the roasting process altered the natural blueprint of coffee’s delicate balance of caffeine and antioxidants?

A Constitutional Approach

Ayurvedically speaking, certain constitutions will tolerate coffee better than others:
• Vata types: The hyper-metabolic vata types will be easily over-stimulated by coffee and quickly become depleted by the over-stimulation.
• Pitta Types: The already over-competitive pitta types will be driven even further by the coffee boost. Coffee is also very acidic and heating. This can be too much for the already hot pitta body type.
• Kapha types: The hypo-metabolic kapha types are easygoing and heavy by nature. Coffee may in some instances offer a medicinal boost to stimulate or enhance metabolic function of the body.
*What’s your body type? Take our easy quiz and find out now.


Coffee as a drug or medicine may have its place. But how long will the benefits last?
If you find yourself depending on coffee for boosting energy, mental clarity or keeping your bowels regular, this may be a problem as the benefits may be short-lived.
Soon, more coffee may be needed to create these “benefits,” eventually leading to over-stimulation, adrenal exhaustion, negative side effects and even addiction. And, as with any addiction, it will ultimately leave us and our health at a disadvantage.
The green coffee extracts on the market may show some promise as preventative and healing agents, and I look forward to more studies about their efficacy. If we could harness the amazing benefits of this plant without risking the negative side effects, that would of course be ideal.
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