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Caffeine is an effective stimulant of the central nervous system and in large amounts can produce undesirable side effects such as nervousness and insomnia, rapid and irregular heartbeats, elevated blood sugar and cholesterol levels, excess stomach acid, and heartburn. It is definitely a teratogen (produces deformed fetuses) in rats; the FDA has advised practitioners to counsel patients who are or may become pregnant to avoid or limit consumption of foods and drugs containing caffeine. This is sound advice, for based on our incomplete knowledge of side reactions to caffeine, prudent use seems desirable for all consumers, male and female. The problem is particularly significant in children because the effects of caffeine are related to body weight of the consumer.

Nonpregnant adults should probably limit their consumption of caffeine to no more than 250 mg. per day. Pregnant women and children should be even more conservative. And moderation in the use of caffeine-containing products should be the watchword for all.

Half-a-dozen caffeine-containing plants are more widely used by mankind, primarily as beverages, than all the other herbal materials put together.

COFFEE: Coffee is made from two basic types of beans, Coffea Arabica and Coffea Robusta. Coffea Arabica beans are more expensive but provide a rich and smooth taste that is easy on the gastrointestinal tract. Coffea Robusta, the inexpensive beans, make a bitter, harsh coffee that can cause gastrointestinal discomfort in the form of a slight stomach ache. The beans are roasted until dark brown in color to develop their characteristic aroma. Coffee beans contain 1 to 2% of caffeine, but the amount of caffeine in coffee varies greatly according to preparation methods (see chart below).

TEA: The prepared leaves and leaf buds of Camellia sinensis, a large shrub with evergreen leaves native to eastern Asia and extensively cultivated. Black tea is prepared by an initial slow drying of the fresh leaves which allows them to begin to ferment. For green tea the leaves are quickly dried. Because of these different methods of preparation and the many different varieties of the cultivated plant, the average caffeine content of tea ranges widely from about I to more than 4%.

KOLA: Kola (or Cola) comes from the nuts or seed leaves of plants native to West Africa, where much of our commercial supply still comes from, but also cultivated in the West Indies and other tropical areas. Kola contains up to about 3% caffeine.

COCOA: When processed, cocoa (or cacao beans) yield chocolate and all its related products such as breakfast cocoa and cacao (cocoa) butter. Cacoa contains between 0.07 and 0.36% caffeine.

GUARANA: A dried paste made chiefly from the crushed seed of a climbing shrub native to Brazil and Uruguay. Guarana has a relatively high caffeine content, ranging from 2.5 to 5% and averaging about 3.5%.

CAFFEINE TABLES: Caffeine can also be found in the following products:

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