Caffeine & The Brain
I learn something new everyday. The more I learn, the more I learn how much I don't know about the world around me. It's an exciting world out there full of stuff I will never understand no matter how long I live and how much I learn.
The latest thing I learnt, which I found so fascinating, is about coffee. Well, caffeine, strictly speaking, so it includes tea, soda drinks, and everything we consume that contains this incredible chemical .
Apparently, the plants that produce this bit of brain altering chemical may have evolved it as means of propagating themselves in the insect-plant arms race. Experiments have shown that bees exposed to caffeine tend to "remember", and return to, the specific flower from whence they got the hit from. Caffeine plays a role in ensuring permanent, or at least longer lasting, memory! As such, plants with caffeine more efficiently propagate their pollens, hence are more successful.
Another hypothesis is related to the dose. High doses of caffeine are toxic, hence fatal, to insects like bees. Too high a dose would kill off predatory creepy-crawlies like caterpillars and ladybugs in the short term, but may lead to the evolution of caffeine-resistant bugs, which would put the insects ahead in the arms race. These plants regulate the dose such that the insects get just enough to render them harmless, but not kill them. That way, natural selection of resistant bugs doesn't occur.
I listened to a book about this called "Caffeine: How Caffeine Created The Modern World". You can get this book free with a free Audible trial.
In the book above, the author takes this further. "Imagine if, instead of us using caffeine as we assume, it is in fact caffeine plants using us?". So in this hypothesis, the caffeine producing plants have somehow achieved a symbiotic relationship with us where they provide us with the benefits (with moderation) of caffeine, and in return we propagate them and ensure their survival. It's a lot of food for thought for sure. The whole mechanism seems so intelligent in hindsight.
It's not actually that hard to believe. Nature is full of symbiotic relationships. Our mitochondria - the powerhouse in our cells, were once stand-alone organisms.
I'm off to have a cup of coffee. The plants are calling me. LOL. 🌱☕️
Peace & Love,