9 Ethnobotanicals That Are Healthy Alternatives to Coffee


If you drink coffee regularly and enjoy more than one or two cups a day, “quitting” is going to be a headache. Literally.

Your temples will pound. You’ll feel irritable. In more dramatic cases of caffeine addiction, you may feel symptoms of mild depression.

“Wait,” you cry, “quitting coffee? Why would any sane human being do that?”

Here in the Pacific Northwest, especially, it seems like blasphemy to stop drinking the comforting, hot beverage.

But caffeine – the key component of coffee that makes it such a wonder drink to so many of us – isn’t all that great for our body. This and other chemical compounds in coffee trick our bodies into believing that it makes us more productive. The truth is that going without will help us think clearer, sleep better, and lead better lives.

Don’t believe me? Here are some of the things coffee messes with with on its way through your body:

Skin – Coffee dehydrates you and contains tannin. Tannin is a chemical used to make leather soft and shiny and may have the same effect on you. Is that the look you’re going for?

Brain – If you’re already suffering from anxiety and depression, coffee can make it worse. When you drink coffee, your brain releases stress hormones and amplifies your nervousness.

Intestines – Coffee makes it more difficult for your body to absorb vitamins and minerals, like iron and vitamin B.

Adrenal Glands – Coffee may decrease your sex drive. Chemicals in coffee interfere with your adrenal glands, which are responsible for generating arousal hormones.

And this is the short list. Coffee also has negative effects on your blood pressure, immune system, and liver.

If you’re not convinced that giving up coffee will change how you feel on a day-to-day basis, this post isn’t for you.

But if you’re ready to make a change, keep reading.

The key to eliminating coffee from your diet is to make sure you have some backups handy. These are for days you wake up in a fog, or feel like you just need that extra boost. Luckily, there are natural alternatives to coffee that some people think can give you the energy you need to be productive without wrecking your body. Here are some ethnobotanicals people have tried.

Cacao Powder

Cacao powder is packed with antioxidants, magnesium, sulfur and zinc. Together, these minerals pack nutritional punch. Advocates say cacao powder’s antioxidants make you feel great and may even protect against cancer. Magnesium possibly keeps your energy levels up without stressing your heart. Sulfur and zinc might help keep your insides healthy and strong. Drink cacao with warm coconut, soy, rice or other non-dairy milk to reap its full benefits.


Chai tea is a mix of black tea with a blend of complementary spices. In the parts of Southeast Asia where the tea is especially popular, everyone has their own special recipe. Coffee connoisseurs will appreciate with subtle flavors in chai, and their bodies will appreciate the reduced caffeine level.

Dandelion Root

This root is popular with almost everyone – from traditional Chinese and Native American doctors to the famous Dr. Oz. People are excited about the ability of dandelion root to help you digest and detoxify.

A word of caution: Be careful if you have ragweed allergy. Dandelion can cause allergic reaction in folks with ragweed and plant allergies.

Ginger Root

This root isn’t just a garnish served up with your California roll. You can also use it to make a tangy tea that’s perfect when served hot with a little honey. Coffee dehydrates you, leading to cramps and muscle aches, but in contrast, ginger might relieve tired muscles.

If you suspect that your morning latte is contributing to your midday slump, know that ginger helps manage glucose levels. This helps you feel energetic all day long.

Licorice Root

Licorice tea is appreciated world-over for its relaxing properties. It eases the body in many ways. People have used it to relieve the liver of toxins, and act as a mild laxative.

Reishi Mushroom

Doctors in Ancient China called reishi mushrooms the “mushroom of immortality.” It has since been proven to benefit the immune system and help with sleep issues. Drinking reishi mushroom tea or taking it as a tincture might help reduce stress. Coffee-lovers appreciate the comforting, woody flavor of the mushroom tea.


Rooibos tea, also known as red bush tea, contains a wealth of minerals and might help stimulate your brain without the caffeine. Doctors link chrysoeriol, an antioxidant found in rooibos tea, to improved circulation. Some people say this makes them feel more alert without the extra caffeine.


For thousand of years, people have used the berries of the schizandra tree medicinally. This “adaptogen” is said to help prevent disease and stress while increasing energy, physical performance, and endurance. It does the exact opposite of what coffee does to your body. It improves your skin, nourishes your liver, and increases sex drive.

Yerba Mate

In South American countries like Argentina and Brazil, yerba mate is the pick-me-up beverage of choice. The drink is traditionally sipped from a hollowed gourd with a metal straw. Yerba mate provides a smooth, gradual buzz like coffee, but without the jittery drawbacks.

Have you stopped drinking coffee in favor of another energizing beverage? Let us know your experience in the comments.

(Image Source: Wendell Smith)

This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.