Coffee and CBD: A Match Made in Heaven

Written by David Stearns

Cannabis and coffee a long time combination for hippies all over the world, but what is the connection? It turns out that the real connection lies in the combination of coffee and CBD.

It is estimated by USA Today that 83% of Americans drink coffee daily. In comparison, a measly estimated 3.0% of Americans smoke Cannabis daily. I think it is safe to bet the actual numbers are higher than the estimates. How many of these cannabis coffee drinkers are aware of the relationship between coffee and CBD? Whereas some see coffee as a daily ritual, others are addicted to that all too well-known caffeine high. Similarly to Cannabis, it may be seen as a daily ritual but may also be a portion of a greater addiction problem. While I concede that the physical biochemical dependence may not be the source of addiction, I would argue mental/emotional connections to things can present a greater addictive force. Furthermore, let us agree that whether or not it is even an issue that someone is emotionally addicted to Cannabis is a discussion that can be had at another time.

The Coffea Arabica L. and Cannabis sativa L. can be related to their classification as dicotyledons (Magnoliopsida class) which signifies that they bear two seedling leaves upon sprouting, both plants also produce flowers. After that, the two plants diverge and go on to produce different body forms and active compounds. So, how else are these two plants similar? Biochemically!

Caffeine is a molecule that is very similar to Adenosine – a natural compound in our body. Adenosine activates the A2a receptor. Caffeine will bind to these A2a receptors and block, or inhibit, Adenosine binding. By ingesting Caffeine, we are not allowing our body to receive Adenosine. Adenosine binding to A2a causes drowsiness and full activation of what we call in the Anatomy & Physiology community “rest-and-digest.” Consequently, blocking our body from absorbing Adenosine via an A2a receptor antagonist (Caffeine) will cause vasodilation, decreased microglial cell activity (reduced inflammation leading to neuroprotection), and increased alertness. Ever seen the ingredients on a bottle of Excedrin?

It turns out components of Cannabis also act as antagonists to the A2a receptor. Many people speak about these neuroprotective effects and increased alertness/clarity when writing about the positive aspects of Cannabis. They never seem to tell you what exactly is causing this or how. Within most strains, a terpene called ᴅ-Linalool is found. You can also find this in Lavender as it is its main terpene constituent. You might also find CBD in your strain. These two molecules interact with the A2a receptor and act to partially inhibit its main purpose – binding Adenosine. There is one caveat with the use of cannabinoids for various reasons: cannabinoids mostly exhibit a concentration-dependent mechanism of action and as concentrations vary so do the effects (this is what we call a Biphasic drug).

At low doses, CBD acts to elevate your mood and work similarly to Caffeine. At high doses, CBD will cause a sedative effect. Combining coffee and CBD can elevate our mood, make us feel energized, and keep our anxiety levels at a minimum. 

Advantages CBD has over Caffeine is actually three-fold:

  • Non-addictive
  • Interacts with other receptor systems to provide a balance and not an over-driven feeling
  • Promotes full body homeostasis via Endocannabinoid interactions

And then we have a whole host of other similarities between the two gifts these plants provide us. For one, simply the aroma of roasted coffee beans may strike a similar note in someone’s brain as a freshly ground flower of a New York City Diesel.

This is not by accident. The human brain is wired in such a way that certain Olfactory sensations can invoke strong flashbacks of emotion or memories. These emotions and memories might lead to the act of consuming these products for the act of personal pleasure. I know personally that I fall asleep at night knowing that when I wake up, I am going to grind some beans boil the water and brew some coffee. The process, aroma included, instills an emotion from my subconscious that I cannot explain. It is likely that for many who use Cannabis daily, and especially in the morning, are benefitting from the positive physiological effects outlined before, but also from these Olfactory associations.

It is important to note, I had the chance to use a CBD tincture for a few weeks. I noticed that when taken at low to moderately low doses, coffee would hit me more quickly and more effectively while providing reduction in heart palpitations/tachycardia and anxiety. This is likely due to CBD’s classification as a partial antagonist leaving some A2a receptors open for Caffeine binding. Combining two A2a antagonists saturates the receptors and completely blocks Adenosine from binding. Lastly, I noticed increased clarity and calmness with this mix.

A good mix is a third of a dropper of CBD tincture and 4oz of unfiltered coffee. Trust me on that… and everything I said in this article. Coffee and CBD are a true match made in heaven.




  1. Boia, R; Ambrósio, AF; Santiago, AR. “Therapeutic Opportunities for Caffeine and A2a Receptor Antagonists in Retinal Diseases.” NCBI – PubMed. 10 March, 2016.
  2. USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Services. “Coffea Arabica L. Arabian Coffee.Plants Database.
  3. USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Services. “Cannabis sativa L. Marijuana.Plants Database.
  4. Mecha, M;  Feliú, A; Iñigo, PM; Mestre, L; Carrillo-Salinas, FJ; Guaza, C. “Cannabidiol provides long-lasting protection against the deleterious effects of inflammation in a viral model of multiple sclerosis: a role for A2A receptors.” NCBI – PubMed. 11 July, 2013.
  5. Excedrin. “Excedrin® Extra Strength Caplets Drug Facts.” GSK Group.
  6. Fernau, Karen. “Coffee grinds fuel for the nation.” USA Today. 9 April, 2013.
  7. Dovey, Dana. “Marijuana Addiction? 8.4 Million Americans Smoke Weed Every Day.” Medical Daily. 2 September, 2016.

About the author

David Stearns

I have always had an analytical mindset and was curious about the world. In the last five years I have been doing literature research on the legality/morality of Cannabis legalization since 10th grade but as of the past four years I have shifted my focus to the science of the Endocannabinoid System and anything Cannabis related. In the spring, I will have completed my undergraduate Biology degree at Ramapo College of New Jersey. I had planned a comprehensive research study with funding approved by my advisers to test the effectiveness of Cannabidiol as an anti-cancer agent. However, due to legal issues the plan was scrapped. I do plan on completing this research in the future any way possible. My passion is science and knowledge, and it is my duty to help people.

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