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  • Quality Assured
  • See Contact Page for details
  • Free Delivery on 10kg/£75+ *Excl. Channel Islands, IOM, N.Ire, Scottish Highlands & Islands

How does caffeine work in our brain?

Every day, billions of people worldwide rely on caffeine to perk up in the morning or get through that afternoon slump – it’s actually the most widely consumed stimulant ‘drug’ in the world. Classifying our mugful of coffee as a drug may sound a bit over the top, so let’s take a look at how caffeine works in the body.


First up, meet adenosine. It’s one of the best-known sleep-regulating molecules, and sits in our central nervous system, helping us get sleepy as the day winds down. It’s primarily produced from physical work and brain use, which is why people get tired as the day progresses, especially if we've worked hard - that'll be a major poo-picking session with several wheelbarrows then.

So how does adenosine makes us feel sleepy? Think of a lock-and-key model where the locks are receptors in the brain, and adenosine is a key. Once adenosine locks into a certain receptor in the brain, it begins to take effect. There are many different receptors in our brain, all with different functions. Here, we’re looking at the A1 receptor – once adenosine locks with the A1 receptor, it promotes muscle relaxation and sleepiness.

So, if we can somehow block adenosine from locking into the A1 receptor, we won’t feel tired – right?

Now to caffeine, and how it works in the brain

Our body breaks down the adenosine molecules overnight, so when we wake up in the morning, our brain is slowly waking up but of course we need a boost to get on with our day, especially on those early yard visits, and doubly-especially in winter when it's dark and flipping cold. So we have that first magic cup of coffee, and the caffeine peaks in the bloodstream anywhere from 15-minutes onwards for around 2-hours. And ... as it enters our brain, it starts competing with adenosine.

Now picture a bunch of small polystyrene cups on a table, and a bucket of ping-pong balls – some are white, some are black. The cups are our brain’s receptors, with the white ping-pong balls being adenosine, and the black ones the caffeine. Now hold the bucket of ping-pong balls in the air then drop the lot onto the table - they’ll bounce around manically until some of them land inside the cups.

It’s the same with adenosine and caffeine molecules – they ‘bounce around’ until they can land in one of the receptors. As more caffeine molecules enter the scene, they start to override the adenosine molecules from binding, which blocks the signal to the brain that we’re experiencing fatigue.

Thing is though, caffeine doesn’t fully bind or lock into the A1 receptors - it just gets in the way and blocks the lock, sitting inside it rather than actually unlocking it. So, we’ll experience a jolt of wakefulness and a release of dopamine and glutamate – the major excitatory neurotransmitter in the nervous system - which is what makes us feel good after we drink coffee.

But - caffeine isn't sustainable energy

Caffeine has a half-life of around 2-10 hours, meaning it takes between 2-10 hours to be fully metabolised and stop blocking adenosine from binding with our A1 receptors. Which means, as we’re trying to wind down for bed, while we still have some caffeine molecules blocking the A1 receptors, it’ll prevent the sleep signals from making it to the brain.

Then, because adenosine is metabolised overnight, if persistently present caffeine molecules are preventing us from getting a restful sleep, we’ll have an increase in adenosine molecules in the morning. So, we wake up feeling extra tired, reach for even more coffee, and perpetuate the cycle.

The good news? Caffeine isn’t the only way to get an energy boost

Enter 'adaptogen' herbs

There’s a range of powerful adaptogen herbs that actually enhance the way the body creates energy and deals with stress. Because they work with the brain, certain adaptogens can also help increase mental endurance, improving our ability to focus, and boosting mood.

We’ve combined clinical strength doses of 5 wonderful adaptogens known for energy, mood and focus, into one energy-boosting tincture formula :

  1. Bacopa revitalizes cognitive function, helping to improve clarity.
  2. Rhodiola is an adaptogen that boosts energy and helps the body adapt to daily stressors.
  3. Panax ginseng improves mental and physical endurance, which helps the mind focus longer.
  4. Eleuthero (Siberian ginseng) enhances oxygenation in the brain and throughout the body, improving overall energy and stamina.
  5. Because the impacts of the day can take a toll on the body, we also include Liquorice root, a powerful antioxidant that supports overall health and helps calm the adrenals.

So, if you’re looking for an alternative to caffeine for sustainable energy, improved focus, and a better mood, maybe give our Energy Tincture a try.