When the alarm goes off in the morning, do you jump out of bed, refreshed and ready for the day? Or do you groan, pull the pillow over your head, and curse the dog for not turning on the coffee pot?

According to the National Coffee Association, 63% of Americans drink at least one cup of coffee a day, up 6% from 2016[i]. Coffee drinkers average 3.2 cups of coffee a day for a whopping 304 grams of caffeine.[ii]

In addition to coffee, the global community consumes 1.9 billion servings of Coca-Cola™ each day, with 35 – 45 grams of caffeine per serving.

“Oh, but I just drink one cup a day,” many patients tell me.

How does one cup of coffee affect your health?

Caffeine pushes the adrenal glands to produce catecholamines epinephrine and norepinephrine, stress-related hormones that trigger a “fight or flight” response. Caffeine gives you a lift in energy. That boost comes with a cost, though, as caffeine increases blood sugar and blood pressure. Caffeine also acts as a diuretic causing you to dump more fluid than you take in.[iii]

In Chinese medicine the kidneys are viewed as the “bank account” for energy in the body. Caffeine pushes the adrenal glands (which sit on top of the kidneys) to produce more energy than they really have. Initially you borrow from your kidneys’ energy “savings account”; eventually you deplete the savings and then borrow against credit until even your credit line is exhausted. At that point, you move into the realm of “adrenal fatigue” – not complete adrenal failure, but adrenal insufficiency, often with a host of vague but troubling symptoms such as poor blood sugar regulation, fatigue, salt craving, and abdominal pain.

How can you break this pattern of relying on caffeine to jump start your day?

Essential oils offer a powerful, healthy way to increase energy, boost athletic performance, improve memory and enhance mental endurance.

Here are the top 3 essential oils to give your mind and body a lift – without caffeine.

 Peppermint Mentha x piperita essential oil improves mental performance while completing demanding mental tasks and also helps overcome mental fatigue.[iv]

Peppermint essential oil also has an astonishing ability to improve athletic performance. Meamarbashi and Rajabi (2013) divided 30 college athletes into two groups. They measured several physiological and performance parameters. The experimental group then ingested one drop of peppermint essential oil. The athletes were tested five minutes and 60 minutes after ingesting 0.05 ml of peppermint essential oil (about as much as you would drink in a cup of peppermint tea).

Compared with the control group, the experimental group had improved grip force (36.1 percent); standing vertical jump (7 percent); and standing long jump (6.4 percent). After five minutes, the experimental group showed several improvements in breathing and lung capacity.[v]

Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis boosts memory and concentration.  Moss and Oliver (2012) studied 12 women and 8 men and found inhaling rosemary essential oil increased speed and accuracy of recall[vi]. In another clinical study with 66 people[vii], the group inhaling rosemary had a 60 to 75 percent improvement in memory. The group inhaling rosemary remembered to do seven things from a list while the control group remembered only four tasks and completed them at a slower pace. The rosemary group also showed improvement in remembering events, remembering to complete tasks at particular times, and increasing the speed of recall.

Spanish sage Salvia lavadulafolia inhibits cholinesterase breakdown which improves mental performance, alertness and memory while reducing fatigue.[viii]

Follow these suggestions to maximize the benefit of these essential oils:

  • Use an inhaler for immediate delivery of essential oils to the lungs and brain. Inhalers are easy to carry in your pocket for use at work or while traveling. Add 8 – 10 drops of an essential oil OR an essential oil blend to the cotton wick of the blank inhaler. Insert the wick into the inhaler tube and push the stopper into the tube. Screw the tube into the outer sleeve. Unscrew the out sleeve and inhale for 10 minutes at a time, 1 – 4 times a day.
  • Use a diffuser for 5 minutes every hour OR for an hour followed by a four-hour break. Continuous diffusion is very hard on the liver (the primary organ that breaks down and excretes essential oils).
  • Add 2 or 3 drops of essential oil to your morning shower. Inhale the steam deeply. Place the drops on the outer edges of the shower. Essential oils will create a slippery surface underfoot, so avoid putting the drops where you stand in the shower.
  • Rotate the oil(s) you are using every two weeks to minimize the possibility of developing sensitivity to the oils. Use peppermint essential oil daily for a maximum of three weeks; then, take a 3-week break If you become sensitized to one essential oil, you may become reactive to all essential oils, and then you will have lost this powerful therapeutic tool.
  • Choose oils you enjoy. If you dislike a scent, even if it is indicated for boosting energy and concentration, you probably won’t use it. Don’t waste your time or money on essential oils you won’t use.

Yes, you really can ditch that cup of coffee in the morning and still feel awake and ready for the day. Essential oils are natural allies for improving alertness, memory, concentration and mental endurance.

[i] Brown, Nick. (2019, March 11). 2019 Coffee and Beverage Trends: Inside the NCA’s Annual Report. Retrieved on 4/3/19 from

[ii] E-Imports, Espresso Business Solutions. Coffee Statistics. Retrieved on April 3, 2019 from

[iii] Zang, Y., Coca, A., Casa, D.J., Anonio, J., Green, J.M., & Bishop, P. (2015). Caffeine and diuresis during rest and exercise: A meta-analysis. J Sci Med Sport. 18(5): 569–574.

[iv]  Kennedy, D., Okello, E., Chazot, P., Howes, M.J., Ohiomokhare, S., Jackson, P.,… Wrightman, E. (2018). Volatile Terpenes and Brain Function: Investigation of the Cognitive and Mood Effects of Mentha× Piperita L. Essential Oil with In Vitro Properties Relevant to Central Nervous System Function. Nutrients, 10(8). pii: E1029. doi: 10.3390/nu10081029.

[v] Meamarbashin, A. & Rajabi, A. (2013). The effects of peppermint on exercise performance. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 10(1), 15.

[vi] Moss, M. & Oliver, L. (2012). Plasma 1,8-cineole correlates with cognitive performance following exposure to rosemary essential oil aroma. Ther Adv Psychopharmacol 2(3) 103 –11.

[vii] Hope, Jenny. Sniffing Rosemary Can Increase Memory by 75%. Published 8-April-2013 by Jenny Hope at

[viii] Kennedy, D.O., Dodd, F.L., Robertson, B.C., Okello, E.J., Reay, J.L., Scholey, A.B., & Haskell, C.F. (2011).  Monoterpenoid extract of sage (Salvia lavandulaefolia) with cholinesterase inhibiting properties improves cognitive performance and mood in healthy adults. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 25(8):1088-100. doi: 10.1177/0269881110385594. Epub 2010 Oct 11.


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