Natural Standard Monograph, Copyright © 2014 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified health care professional before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.
Uses based on scientific evidence
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare professional.
In preterm infants, apnea is defined as the stoppage of breathing for 20 seconds or longer. It is one of the most common breathing disorders in the neonatal intensive care unit. Caffeine is a breathing stimulant commonly used to treat apnea. Scientific evidence supports the use of caffeine in the treatment and prevention of apnea in premature infants.
Caffeine has a long history of use for enhancing mood and cognitive (mental) function. Caffeine may be useful when consumed prior to a cognition-related task. It also appears to heighten working memory and improve reaction time, but it has less effect on long-term memory.
Caffeine is a known stimulant that may enhance endurance and performance when used before exercise, particularly in low-to-moderate doses. Caffeine in dry form appears to be more beneficial than coffee or tea. However, its use as a performance-enhancing agent remains controversial. Caffeine should be used with caution, as it may increase blood pressure, heart rate, and urine flow.
Caffeine is a weak type of methylxanthine. Methylxanthines are a class of drugs that open the airways and promote airflow. As such, these types of agents are used to help manage conditions whereby airflow is restricted, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Research suggests that caffeine reduces asthma symptoms, including exercise-induced airway constriction. Caffeine has also been suggested to reduce airway muscle fatigue.
Evidence suggests that caffeine may have pain-relieving effects. In particular, caffeine has shown useful effects for relieving hypnic migraines (headaches that occur during sleep) and headaches that occur after punctures to the lower back. Although promising, more well-designed trials are needed in this area.
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
There is conflicting evidence supporting the use of caffeine in the treatment of ADHD in children. Additional research is needed in this area.
Caffeine and coffee may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and prevent exercise-induced low blood sugar in type 1 diabetes. However, the research in this area is not consistent, as caffeine has been previously associated with impaired glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity. Additional research is needed in this area.
Limited evidence suggests that caffeine may have positive effects on physical capacity in patients with intermittent claudication (muscle pain in the limbs). Additional research is needed to confirm early results.
Preliminary evidence suggests that caffeine improves alertness and appetite during the nutritional rehabilitation of children and may therefore have positive effects as an added therapy in the treatment of kwashiorkor (a form of childhood malnutrition). More high-quality research is needed in this area before any firm conclusions can be made.
Preliminary research suggests that caffeine may have beneficial effects against excess tissue buildup in the liver and that it may be associated with a lower risk of liver disease. However, well-designed trials are needed in this area before any firm conclusions can be drawn.
Caffeine is well known for its mood-changing effects. However, current evidence on the relationship between caffeine and depression risk is conflicting, with some studies showing beneficial effects and others showing a lack of effect. Further high-quality research is needed in this area before any firm conclusions can be made.
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
Limited evidence suggests that the effects of caffeine are similar to those of d-amphetamine. D-amphetamine is a drug known to promote alertness and focus. Although this is promising, additional research is needed to clarify these early findings.
Evidence suggests that caffeine may have pain-relieving effects. According to early research, caffeine has shown beneficial effects against headache- and muscle ache-related pain. More well-designed trials are needed in this area before any firm conclusions can be drawn.
Limited evidence suggests that increased coffee and caffeine consumption may be related to decreased risk of Parkinson's disease. Further high-quality research is needed in this area before any firm conclusions can be drawn.
Skin conditions (wrinkles, stretch marks, cellulite)
The skin application of caffeine for the treatment of wrinkles, stretch marks, and cellulite is growing in popularity. However, the effect of caffeine alone cannot be determined, as most products contain a mixture of agents. Further research assessing the use of caffeine alone is needed in this area.
Both theophylline and caffeine are types of methylxanthines. Methylxanthines are a class of drugs that narrow blood vessels in the brain. Due to this effect, early research suggests that theophylline may be useful in stroke patients. However, the effect of caffeine in this area is unclear. More high-quality trials are needed before a conclusion can be drawn.
Early research suggests that caffeine may be useful for weight loss, particularly when combined with other agents, such as green tea. Although caffeine has shown some positive effects on urine flow, exercise performance, heat production, and feelings of fullness, conflicting results have been seen with respect to its effects on blood sugar levels. Further studies are needed in this area before any firm conclusions can be drawn.
*Key to grades:
A: Strong scientific evidence for this use;B: Good scientific evidence for this use; C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use;D: Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work);F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).
For full grading rationale, click here.
Uses based on tradition or theory
The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional
Aging, alcohol abuse, allergies, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, bladder disorders, bowel health, brain tumors, cancer, cataracts, cavities, cerebral insufficiency (decreased blood flow to the brain), cocaine dependence, diuretic (increases urine flow), eczema (inflamed and irritated skin), epilepsy (seizure), gallstones, gout, Huntington's disease, immune system regulation, insecticide, ischemic heart disease (decreased blood flow to the heart), kidney disorders, low blood pressure (upon standing), malaria, motion sickness, multiple sclerosis, nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, neurological disorders (Joubert syndrome), photoprotection (protection from UV radiation), sepsis (bacterial infection of the blood or tissues), schizophrenia, sinusitis (nasal sinus inflammation), snoring, traumatic brain injury, UV-induced erythema prevention/sunburn, vasorelaxant (relaxes blood vessel walls), viral infections, vitiligo (white patches on the skin), work shift sleep disorder.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare professional before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare professional immediately if you experience side effects.
Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare professional before starting a new therapy.
Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
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