Mother Earth Living

Consider a Caffeine Detox

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For a country so historically fixated on regulating drugs, there’s one that’s so central to the daily diet of adults that not only is its production unregulated, but so is its consumption. Its effects on our bodies aren’t yet fully understood, and the call to minimize our intake only newly considered. The drug is, of course, caffeine, and an impressive 90 percent of Americans consume it multiple times a day. Most of these jittering adults get over 280 milligrams in one day; a daily intake of over 400 milligrams is determined unsafe. This would be the equivalent of two energy drinks, four cups of coffee, or 10 cans of soda. On a long drive or when meeting a deadline, we’ve probably all teetered close to, if not right past, this limit. Starbucks alone offers four coffee drinks that exceed 400 milligrams. There, at the country’s most ubiquitous café, a venti (20-ounce) Medium Roast contains 410 milligrams, while a venti Blonde Roast contains 475.

Beginning in the early 2000s, the caffeine craze was hitting new and dangerous heights in America; the nation was universally afflicted by the “Great Starbucks Expansion,” which meant citizens didn’t even have to cross the street to get a cup of corporate joe. This was a new era full of 5-hour ENERGY drinks, Red Bulls, and caffeinated alcohol.

The fifth (and most recent) edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (commonly referred to as the DSM-5) was released in 2013, coinciding with skyrocketing consumption of caffeinated drinks. To much shock, the DSM-5 added a disorder known as Caffeine Withdrawal. This was defined as the symptoms experienced by a person following sudden caffeine cessation: headaches, flu-like symptoms, fatigue, difficulty focusing, irritability, and even depression. For anyone whose first cup of coffee in the morning has been delayed for some cruel reason, these symptoms can sound all too familiar.

Signs of withdrawal begin to present themselves as early as 12 hours after cessation. Fifty percent of adults will experience headaches at this time, while 13 percent will experience “clinically significant distress or functional impairment,” according to several studies.

The authors of DSM-5 suggested in their 2013 bombshell that Caffeine Use Disorder be considered for further study. Researchers are now discovering that many caffeine users are unable to reduce consumption even when they know it is — in excess — bad for their health. They’ve found that those exceeding 400 milligrams a day can be at risk for cardiovascular and perinatal complications. Where there are withdrawal symptoms, there’s an addiction, and while an addiction to caffeine doesn’t often ruin lives, it’s worth addressing in order to better understand your personal health.

Contemplate Your Consumption

When deciding if you need to consider a caffeine detox, you must first take stock of how much you consume in a day. There’s approximately 100 to 150 milligrams of caffeine in one cup of coffee. It’s vital to understand that as a concrete measurement: One cup is about 240 milliliters or 8 fluid ounces. Your favorite mug filled to the brim is only a “cup” in the colloquial sense. At Starbucks, only their little-known “short” size fits the appropriate standard of an 8-ounce drink. This means that in their first coffee serving of the day, most Americans are consuming well more than a cup. So figure out how much you are consuming. There’s no sense in watering down the truth.

Once you’re aware of the amount and the scale of your addiction, it’s time to take stock of how it’s affecting you. Do you feel shaky or jittery during the day? Any upset stomach or abnormal bowel movements? Do you have trouble sleeping? Caffeine hits the bloodstream pretty quickly, and you’ll generally start to feel its effects 15 to 20 minutes after consumption.

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Next, it’s time to consider when and why you’re drinking caffeine. Most commonly, Americans consume their caffeine in the morning as part of a ritualized routine, and because of the inextricable fact that it’ll help hasten the wake-up process. Caffeine is energy.

When is your next caffeinated pick-me-up? Do you have a midday slump? Are you drinking a coffee or soda in place of a solid lunch or a brisk afternoon walk? There are many ways to feel energized, but caffeine is reliable, convenient, and quick, and thus is the one we turn to once, twice, or even several times a day.

Reduce Your Reliance

Now that you know the extent of your addiction, its nuances, and its underlying reasons, you can deliberate a detox from the drug. Consider it especially if you consume more than 150 milligrams a day. By following the steps below, you can successfully and safely remove caffeine from your body. 

Step 1. Set yourself up for success. Caffeine affects everyone differently, and everyone consumes it in personalized ways, so there’s no one way to detox. You’ll want to detox gradually, and choose a time in your week or year when you’re not under much pressure. If you don’t have the time to treat your body and mind kindly during this detox attempt, you might find that you fall off the wagon as soon as the headaches begin.

Step 2. Stay well-hydrated. Carry a reusable water bottle, and consider adding electrolytes to your water to help with hydration.

Step 3. Plan three well-rounded meals per day. A detox is not the time to trifle with fast food or sugary snacks; you’ll need all the energy you can muster, and this energy must come from foods that’ll release it slowly and reasonably into your bloodstream.

Step 4. Wherever you are, make time for outdoor exercise. Plan a brisk afternoon walk, maybe 20 minutes around your office complex or out on your driveway. This will get your blood pumping and immediately re-energize you.

Step 5. Find suitable caffeine substitutes. Since caffeine consumption can become a ritual, our daily lives may seem lacking during a detox. Try replacing the cup of addiction in your tightly clenched hand with another warm and sweet drink, such as the recipes below. If you brave the withdrawal, you can look forward to a variety of natural, healthy, warm treats that offer more than an energy boost.

When detoxing from caffeine, the majority of adults will experience withdrawal symptoms, so it’s imperative that you adequately prepare yourself. Consider taking a few months off from coffee, and then, when you’re ready and your body has rested, you can add it back into your daily diet, this time in moderation. You’ll be amazed at the difference this break makes in your health and energy!

Hot Switchel

While this is a warm take on the Vermont classic, Haymaker’s Punch, it can easily be served on ice. Yield: 2 cups.

Photo by Stocksy/Darren Muir


  • 2 cups water
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger


  1. Whisk all ingredients in a small saucepan, and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat and simmer on low until flavors have merged, about 10 minutes.
  2. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into two cups, and enjoy.

Golden Milk Latte 

This recipe was inspired by Andrea Bemis’ “Golden Goat Milk.” Turmeric will temporarily stain your mouth, so this is best consumed at home where you have quick access to a toothbrush. Yield: 2 cups.

Photo by Adobe Stock/DIA


  • 2 cups oat milk
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves           
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger


  1. Whisk all ingredients in a small saucepan, and bring to a low boil. Watch carefully, as the milk can boil over quickly. Reduce heat, and simmer on low for 7 minutes.
  2. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a blender. Blend on high for a few seconds until frothy.
  3. Divide and enjoy.

Caffeine-Free Chai Tea

This classic group of flavors so often accompany black tea that you can almost trick your mind into thinking it’s getting its caffeine fix. Yield: 2 cups.

Photo by Adobe Stock/GreenArt


  • 2 cups whole milk, oat milk, or coconut milk
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tablespoon crushed cardamom pods
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon dried ginger
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon dried orange peel
  • 1 tablespoon peppercorns


  1. Whisk all ingredients in a small saucepan, and bring to a low boil. Watch carefully; the milk will boil over quickly. Reduce heat and simmer on low for 10 minutes.
  2. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a blender. Blend on high for a few seconds until frothy.
  3. Divide between two mugs, and enjoy. 

Kate MacLean shares a farm in the green and chilly hills of central Vermont with her children and husband, extended family, and 100 furred and feathered beasts. Presently, she’s finishing a children’s book about the farm, illustrated by her sister. Follow her on Instagram @LongestAcresFarm.

  • Published on Jul 30, 2019
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