Emma Sammels

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Coffee: A New Perspective!

Even if you’re not a ‘coffeeholic’, we all have different stories to tell about drinking coffee, good or bad…

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Nowadays we live in a world full of coffee.

And guess what, a regular conversation that crops up in the clinic is coffee too!

So, I’d like to throw light onto the topic from a Chinese medical perspective. Personally, I’m not into drinking coffee but enjoy a morning cup of tea instead. However, rest assured I’m not going to suddenly tell you to cut it out of your diet entirely because I’m a firm believer in everything in moderation. Besides, some coffee contains polyphenols that are thought to contribute to antioxidant activity renowned for good health [1].

Also, in Chinese medicine, there is no such thing as a bad food or drink. The emphasis of coffee is placed on how well it matches the need of the individual. I find myself working with some patients who are lucky and can drink it with little or no side effects while, for others, it can ultimately create chaos in the system. Therefore, it’s important to explain why this may happen.

It’s also no wonder that some of us are feeling confused when it comes down to drinking coffee, as the media giving some very conflicting advice about it. There’s a lot of research showing how it might be suitable for you; equally, there’s lots of inconclusive information too. Nevertheless, I would love t to share a sneak peek of how coffee may be affecting your health and wellbeing from a Chinese medical perspective.

Here’s t Coffee: A New Perspective!

Please note: I’m giving you only some suggestions, which are not intended to substitute any medical advice.

Please discuss with your doctor or traditional acupuncturist if you have a severe medical condition before trying any of my advice. As with all articles on emmasammels.com, this is no substitution for individual medical intervention. If you are interested in finding out more information, please visit my Bookings page.


Apologies guys, this one is for the ladies!

If you feel like your menstrual cycle is controlling your life, then this simple piece of advice might be for you.

Women who are menstruating may benefit from minimising coffee in their diet because in Chinese medicine it can create an imbalance in the Chong Mai and Liver channels, often leading to a disruption of the menstrual cycle. When these channels are imbalanced, a range of premenstrual tension (PMT) signs and symptoms can develop resulting in irritability, tearfulness, sore breasts,  or period pain (before during or after the cycle).

Cutting back on your coffee consumption, alongside regular acupuncture treatment, with some necessary nutritional changes may improve your menstrual symptoms by helping to balance your hormones. When our emotions are tangled and not flowing smoothly – such as bottled up feelings of frustration or resentment – it’s likely to impact your menses. An important thing to remember is when the body is relaxed, and our emotions are flowing harmoniously, then physiologically this will have a positive effect on your cycle and overall health in the long-term.

Indeed, working through any repressed emotions, alongside reducing your coffee intake, is a straightforward and natural way of taking care of yourself around that time of the month.

Why wouldn’t you give it a go?


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In the clinic, I’ve discovered that coffee and anxiety are frequently part of a vicious cycle. Many patients are stressed and anxious when I work with them – and coffee is a popular coping mechanism.

The ancient Chinese recognised that anxiety can affect the Heart energetically, resulting in signs and symptoms including palpitations, disturbed sleep, feeling easily startled or reduced short-term memory (to name but a few).

Interestingly, coffee can also energetically agitate the Heart. When our Heart is energetically out of balance (not the physical organ itself), you may lack in the sense of self-solidity and will feel out of sorts. For example, the mind, body and spirit will become imbalanced.

So, it makes complete sense if you’re suffering from anxiety to gradually cut back on your coffee consumption instead of using it as a pick- me- up. For calming effects, you could check out healthier options such as dandelion coffee, barley cup, caro or a relaxing herbal tea, e.g., rooibos or chamomile. Not only do they taste nice, but they’ll also induce a cleansing effect too.

When your stress levels have reduced, and you are feeling calmer in yourself, it might be okay to drink the occasional cup of coffee for a special treat.

Put it to the test –  if you have anxiety there’s no harm in trying this simple advice.


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I used to be pretty bad at relaxing until I trained as an acupuncturist, but now I know when to listen to my body. If I’m feeling tired or overdoing it, I especially choose not to drink coffee.

When a patient has been running on empty for a while, usually it leads to some Yin deficiency. Typically, the signs and symptoms of Yin deficiency will vary according to the organ involved. But as a general rule, the standard traits for a frequently diagnosed pattern called Kidney Yin deficiency are restlessness, dry throat and mouth at night, urination at night, lower backache towards the end of the day, thirst with a desire to sip in small amounts and a tongue body without a coating and possible cracks.

In particular, what causes Kidney Yin deficiency is overworking or continually being on the go. The Chinese medicine approach encourages a balance between work and rest. Most importantly, when you allow yourself time to relax and slow down, you’ll help to replenish your Yin. Ultimately, traditional acupuncture is a great way to boost your Yin too.

Being a Yin deficient person, you might also be sensitive to stimulants such as coffee, which will prompt you to use up any energy you don’t have [2]. If, however, physically and emotionally there is plenty of water in the well to draw from, then it is likely your Yin is in reasonably good shape. Therefore, it might be alright to drink 1-2 cups of coffee daily.

Having relaxing tools that you can use to replenish your Yin like reading, watching a good film or going to bed at a reasonable hour is essential. Once you start to feel rested, it might be okay to drink coffee again in moderation.


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When a patient is experiencing side effects of drinking coffee, I like to assess their constitutional health.

A particular reason why some patients seem to tolerate coffee better than others is commonly linked to their constitution known as Jing or Essence. Someone who is born with strong Jing will often overcome illness quickly and has good stamina [3]. Jing also provides the physical basis for life itself and supports our growth, reproduction and development. It’s partly inherited from our parents but also cultivated through our lifestyle, e.g. adequate rest and eating the right types of nourishing food.

Other characteristics, in Chinese medicine, that contribute to signs of good Jing are a strong facial structure (jawline), teeth, hair and the overall strength of the Kidneys energetically.

After thirteen years, I have found patients with good Jing often find coffee liberating, while someone with poor Jing who is running on empty tends to find it disastrous. To minimise any side effects from drinking coffee, it’s worth considering what type of constitution you have. For example, is it strong or weak?  If you have weak Jing, it’s probably a good idea to drink coffee only in moderation. But, if you have inherited strong Jing it’s likely you’ll be able to drink coffee with minimal side effects.

Assessing your Jing as a guide to how much coffee you should be drinking may sound daft, but I do think there’s a certain amount of truth behind it. Understanding that it can quickly become depleted through a combination of pushing your body too hard or failing to nourish yourself with healthy food and drink plus inadequate rest is essential.

Yes, certainly the fact that coffee can deplete your Jing is something to be aware of.


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It is very difficult to say to how much coffee a patient should be drinking as we are all so unique with our tolerance levels. Perhaps one of the best things to do is take note of how you feel in yourself after drinking it. For me, I know that 1 cup in a blue moon is best suited. But it’s likely to take a bit of fine-tuning before you know your quota.

There appears to be no definitive research out there about how much coffee we should be drinking. There are various hypotheses about coffee consumption associated with inflammation, heart disease, diabetes and weight plus much more [4]. However, few studies show how coffee can affect our general health and wellbeing.

The Chinese medicine perspective is to match a patient’s coffee consumption according to their diagnosis. When I think a patient will benefit from minimising coffee in their diet, I usually suggest cutting the last one of the day first and then to slowly work up to the morning. For sensitive patients, I advise drinking coffee only in the morning, before lunch, because of its stimulating effects that can disrupt sleep. Sometimes patients are keen to maintain their morning cup of coffee due to finding it enjoyable and satisfying.

In general, I am in favour of patients drinking coffee if they are in reasonably good health and not suffering from anxiety, menstrual problems, adrenal exhaustion, Yin deficiency, poor Jing (as I have mentioned above) or any other contraindications. Usually, 2 cups of coffee a day are enough. If you are drinking more than this, you’ll want to try and wean yourself down to avoid any unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

Work out your coffee weak spot and then gradually make some changes.


When I was completing my training as an acupuncturist it used to baffle me how our emotions and diet can have an impact on symptoms in the body. Initially, I wondered if I was studying the right subject because I have been brought up by a very conventional medical approach towards treating illness. But as soon as I started practising, the penny finally dropped as the interconnection between our emotions and bodily symptoms became very clear. Here’s a classic example of how the Liver can be affected by coffee and your emotions.

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In Chinese medicine, a healthy Liver both physically and energetically is essential because together they work towards creating balance in the body on many levels. Emotional stress such as feeling resentful, angry, a bit stuck, trapped or held back in life can cause the Liver energy to stagnate. Over a period of time, these negative emotions with a swig of coffee may not make you feel so good.

Let’s take a look at a short case study of a patient I treated with acupuncture to see how coffee can affect the Liver along with other factors.

Short case study:

I worked with a man in his mid-thirties who was feeling irritable and suffered from low mood. For many years, he had enjoyed eating regularly hot, spicy food and drank daily six cups of black coffee. He had heard about traditional Chinese medicine and decided to give it a go. The only catch? It was going to take a bit of effort with some of his lifestyle habits.

So, I broke down his diagnosis step by step. By the time I saw him his Liver was energetically frazzled and calling out for some help. And why? Because, in Chinese medicine, too much coffee and hot spicy food can warm the Blood resulting in an excess of Heat in the body. The patient presented with classic signs and symptoms of excessive Heat such as a red face, thirst first thing in the morning, smelly stools, a thick yellow tongue coat and a propensity towards outbursts of anger.

I took a realistic approach toward treating him. One habit changed a week and, slowly but surely, he started to make progress. We gradually reduced his coffee and hot, spicy food intake and he started to work through some repressed resentment feelings with a therapist. And slowly, he started to feel better in himself.

This case study shows how coffee in excess can physiologically affect the Liver due to its Heating effect on the organ. Mixed with a bunch of negative emotions it was disastrous for this particular patient.

So, if you’re someone that drinks lots of coffee and has some of these symptoms, it may be worth considering bridging the gap between your coffee habits and emotional wellbeing too.

“Being mindful of how much coffee you are drinking is key”

Being mindful of how much coffee you’re drinking may help to re-train some of your not-so-good habits. For example, any time you drink a cup of coffee, reflect to see how you feel afterwards. Are you feeling tired or maybe anxious? It’s worth doing this from time to time because they’ll be moments in your life where coffee might suit you more than others.

I hope you find this simple mindfulness tip worthwhile!


Coffee and your digestion: It may be useful to drink coffee after eating meat because it can fend your digestion.

Coffee and curries: To look after your digestion try and avoid drinking coffee after eating a curry.

Drink good quality coffee: When you buy your coffee avoid the processed stuff and opt for the good-quality fresh beans.

Avoid the decaf stuff: Believe it or not, decaf coffee still contains caffeine and other petroleum-based solvents. Drink the fully caffeinated, unprocessed stuff but in moderation.

Please feel free to write a comment below; I’d love to hear from you.~Emma xo


1. Medical News Life Science Understanding the Antioxidant Properties of Coffee. http://medical news life sciences understanding the antioxidant [Accessed 6 Nov. 2017].

2.Flaws, B. and Flaws, B. (2008). The tao of healthy eating. Boulder, Colo.: Blue Poppy Press.

3.Leggett, D. (2017). Helping To Heal Ourselves.

4.http://Patrick Halford The Truth About Coffee [Accessed 6 Nov. 2017].



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