I'm a morning person, so caffeine doesn't hold the allure for me that it does for my husband, whose head feels like a giant puffball until he downs his double cappuccino every morning. If you're like 80 percent of Americans you, too, count on that morning cup to get you out the door fully dressed and at least semi-conscious. But is consuming caffeine a safe way to perk up? Many researchers say yes; others disagree.
While past studies linked caffeine to several health ailments, recent research has largely absolved caffeine from blame. However, as anyone who's had a coffee buzz knows, caffeine is not benign: Too much can overwork adrenal glands and exacerbate insomnia or stress.
Sensitivity to caffeine varies (half a cup of black tea sends me into orbit for several revved-up hours). If you're having headaches, difficulty sleeping or just feel too wired, caffeine could be the culprit: Many teas, sodas, nonprescription medications, chocolate and even "decaf" coffees contain some caffeine. If you decide to wean yourself from the caffeine habit, start by mixing your regular coffee with an herbal coffee blend made from roasted barley, chicory root or carob pods. For a morning wake-me-up that's jolt-free, try herbal teas such as peppermint, orange peel or ginger root, or a cup of hot lemonade with honey. Just be sure to check that your shoes match before you leave the house.