Health & Wellness

Coffee Alternatives: A Modern Spin on the Hippie Speedball

A little caffeine with your THC?
A little caffeine with your THC? /

The wake n’ bake strategy – a well known, stoner approved method for mornings when we need a little somethin’ to pick us up and level us out. When paired with coffee, this method is called the Hippie Speedball. 

This creative way to describe the pairing of coffee and cannabis is a tried and true method of increasing popularity in our American society that consumes over 400 million cups of coffee per day. 

We’re not only the primary consumers of coffee on the planet, but approximately 25% of Americans regularly consume cannabis, according to a 2021 article in Forbes.

While coffee and cannabis seem like a match made in heaven, coffee, and its stimulating compound, caffeine, is known to give its drinkers an increased heartbeat, jitters, anxiety, nervousness, and sweating. 

Since approximately 41% of medical marijuana patients use cannabis to treat anxiety disorders (according to New Frontier Data), pairing cannabis with an anxiety-inducing stimulant is problematic. 

As more people adopt nutrient-rich coffee alternatives, maybe it’s due time to give the Hippie Speedball a millennial makeover. 

Firstly, what determines cannabis's effects?

As legalization spreads throughout the US, a major uptick in cannabis-focussed studies allows us to better understand why sparking that joint and taking a sip of freshly brewed coffee feels so good. 

Better still, we can now assess how different strains of cannabis affect our bodies and offer various therapeutic benefits when paired with other substances like coffees, teas, botanicals, and so on. 

To grasp this more simply, let’s briefly break down the major compounds present in cannabis, how these compounds work together, and why they either keep us on the couch, or spark creativity and focus.

To start, let’s talk cannabinoids. 

Cannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds found in the Cannabis sativa plant. There are approximately 100 of these compounds, with some of the most well-known being delta- 9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD)

Each of these compounds are responsible for eliciting certain effects within the body, and each have their own set of therapeutic properties to boot. But cannabinoids aren’t the only phytochemicals, or plant-derived chemicals, present in cannabis – there are upwards of 500 – including substances called terpenes and flavonoids.

Terpenes are aromatic compounds that are responsible for the way plants smell. 

Present in plants, fruits, and vegetables, terpenes aren’t only responsible for creating the delicious scents we associate with things like fresh orange peel or soothing lavender; for some plants, terpenes attract pollinators, others deter predators, repair damage to the plant, and boost a plant’s immune system. 

Recent research suggests that terpenes may possess health benefits for humans as anti-inflammatories, antioxidants, anxiolytics, and more. So, next time you pick up an eighth of Lemon Haze, that sweet lemon smell and uplifting high is all thanks to a specific terpene profile.

In addition to cannabinoids and terpenes, another important group of phytochemicals present in cannabis are flavonoids. As the name suggests, flavonoids impact the flavor of a plant, fruit, or vegetable. 

But that’s not all. Flavonoids help regulate cellular activity and fight off free radicals that cause oxidative stress on the body. Simply speaking, flavonoids help the body function more efficiently while protecting it against toxins and stressors.

All of these phytochemicals work together in what is called the entourage effect to elicit more significant benefits within the body. Since terpenes and flavonoids are present across plant species, these substances are also impacting the effects of the coffee and teas that we consume regularly.

Coffee: the most popular legal stimulant

There are more than 1,000 chemical compounds in coffee including caffeine, antioxidants, and diterpenes. Caffeine is a mild central nervous system stimulant that is found in some 60 plant species – the most well known being cocoa-beans, kola nuts, tea leaves and coffee beans. 

Extensive research has shown that there are several beneficial effects of caffeine such as improved attention, alertness, and enhanced physical performance, however, there can be adverse effects, such as disturbed sleep patterns, nervousness, and anxiety.

When consumed together, coffee and cannabis are found to elicit a variety of effects:

  • A study from 2017 found that both caffeine and cannabis increased dopamine levels in subjects. Together, the pairing creates an increased sense of euphoria.
  • Live Science reports that despite popular belief, cannabis and caffeine don’t cancel each other out. In fact, consuming coffee while consuming cannabis will actually enhance the high from THC.
  • A study on squirrel monkeys found that coffee increased the high from THC.

If you’re a person that suffers from disturbed sleep patterns, increased heart rate, anxiety, or panic attacks, you may want to reconsider your morning routine. 

When the compounds in cannabis work together with those in coffee, an enhanced high could potentially lead to paranoia, or many of the unwanted side effects of THC. 

This experience is especially uncomfortable if they start setting in on your morning commute, or just as you’re about to hop on your first Zoom call of the day. Yikes.

Coffee Alternatives for folks that don’t want the jitters

For those of us that hold the Hippie Speedball in high regard, it’s tough to consider an alternative to coffee with our morning jay. 

That being said, there are numerous delicious and nutritious coffee alternatives on the market that will satisfy both our taste buds and our desire to feel focused and balanced. 

Here are a few examples of beverages that will be a great addition to your morning, while also pairing nicely with your favorite AM cannabis strain.

Cacao

Chocolate contains hundreds of nutrients, minerals, and compounds, some of which react within the human brain to alter our moods. All chocolate is derived from the cacao plant’s bean, which is antioxidant-rich and nutrient-dense. 

However, we’re not suggesting drinking hot cocoa for breakfast. Raw cacao has not been combined with any sugars or dairy products. Cacao contains caffeine as well as a similar compound called theobromine, both bearing stimulant and slight anti-inflammatory properties.

Cacao & Cannabis

  • Chocolate contains three compounds which stimulate the production of anandamide, the “bliss molecule”, which binds to and activates cannabinoid receptors. It’s possible that cacao may enhance the functional properties of cannabis. 
  • Cacao also contains salts, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and iron. These essential minerals are present in small amounts, but they add up when you’re consuming cacao in its pure form. 

TIP: Cacao is naturally bitter. Add unsweetened coconut cream, agave, and spices like cinnamon to jazz up your morning cup. Choose a cannabis strain like Harlequin with balanced levels of cannabinoids for the best effects.

Adaptogen Drinks

Adaptogens decrease sensitivity to stressors, and prolong stimulation. By ingesting adaptogens, instead of experiencing exhaustion, we will experience a higher level of equilibrium, or homeostasis – essentially, adaptogens keep us balanced. And that’s what we’re all ultimately aiming for, right?

There are tons of adaptogenic beverages on the market today and most of them are using mushrooms to create their products. 

These mushrooms are not the same as psilocybin – the hallucinogenic, “magic” mushrooms – rather, several species (reishi, shiitake, cordyceps, chaga, and maitake) are part of a special category of herbs and medicinal compounds. 

These mushrooms are non-toxic and are believed to support the body’s response to stress, help to maintain healthy metabolic levels, boost cognitive brain function, and aid in maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. 

There isn’t yet a ton of research on the subject of cannabis paired with adaptogens, but anecdotal evidence suggests that combining weed with adaptogens like fungi can actually enhance the effects of both the adaptogens and cannabis. 

Currently, there are several products on the market that combine CBD or CBN with adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms. Whether they’re capsules, powders, or beverages, this trend has been catching steam for the past five years.

TIP: Since many products tout the benefits of combining CBD with adaptogens, try it yourself with a CBD-rich strain like ACDC or Harle-Tsu.

Botanical Teas

For thousands of years, teas existed as top of the line remedies in folk medicine. 

Herbal teas like chamomile help us sleep, green teas are antioxidant rich and energizing, black tea is bold with stronger levels of caffeine. 

When we pair cannabis with tea, we need to consider the effects of the tea first – especially caffeine content. If you prefer a highly caffeinated black tea – think English Breakfast – you can reduce your buzz by choosing a heavier, relaxing cannabis strain. If you’re sipping white tea or an herbal tea, an energizing strain pairs well.

Again, there is not much clinical research on the intersection of teas and cannabis at the moment. 

However, as interest mounts, the benefits of what is referred to as the ​“synergistic” effect of pairing botanicals and plant compounds are beginning to reveal themselves. Synergy – from the Greek synergos meaning ​“working together” is essentially when the therapeutic effects are greater when combining botanicals than when taking the botanicals by themselves, individually. 

This theory holds true when we pair botanical teas with our cannabis. So if you’re looking to drop your caffeine intake, choosing an antioxidant rich tea as your morning brew may be right for you.

TIP: Pairing note - consider how you normally enjoy your tea. If you’re someone who prefers a slice of lemon in your cup, choose a lemon-forward strain like Lemon OZ for the ultimate flavor combination.

The Takeaway

There are hundreds of ways to upgrade your Hippie Speedball, and most of the options pack tons of flavor and natural therapeutic benefits. It’s important to remember that every person’s biology is unique to them, so what might work for one person may not be the best for another. 

Our mornings are sacred, and so is our relationship with cannabis. Don’t suffer with jitters and anxiety, or brain fog and lethargy – sip your morning bevvy and smoke your favorite preroll knowing that the combination you’ve created is working to keep you at your optima, highest vibrational self.

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