Archive for November 30th, 2014

November 30, 2014


Lu Yu

Caffeinated drink

Caffeine is a naturally occurring chemical found in various seeds, leaves, nuts, and berries. It serves a dual function in plants: as a toxin against unwanted pests, and as an enticement to pollinators, who are stimulated by it. Common sources of caffeine include coffee seeds (beans), tea leaves, kola nuts, yerba mate leaves, and guarana berries. It is extracted from the plant by steeping in water, a process called infusion. Chemically caffeine is an alkaloid, a non-acidic, nitrogen containing compound. A number of alkaloids are produced by flowering plants (e.g. cocaine from coca, nicotine from tobacco, morphine from poppies) to reduce or avoid being eaten by herbivores.

Specifically, caffeine is a xanthine alkaloid, an organic (carbon-based) compound from which many stimulants are derived. It is the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive drug, but unlike many other psychoactive substances, it is legal and unregulated in nearly all parts of the world. Part of the reason caffeine is classified by the FDA as ‘generally recognized as safe’ is that toxic doses, over 10 grams per day for an adult, are much higher than the typically used doses of under 500 milligrams.

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