Natural Caffeine vs Synthetic Caffeine: Our Detailed Breakdown


Natural Caffeine vs Synthetic Caffeine: Our Detailed Breakdown

Caffeine is a stimulant that invigorates the central nervous system and the brain to alleviate fatigue and help you stay alert. The use of coffee began in Arabia during the Middle ages. Currently, this natural stimulant is widely consumed throughout the world.

When taken, caffeine makes the brain alert and stimulates the nervous system. It also offers a wide range of other benefits that promote overall health. However, only a few caffeine consumers are aware that caffeine has many sources. Basically, caffeine is sourced either from plants or is synthetically produced.

Read on to find out about these two sources and their differences.

Natural Caffeine

Natural occurring caffeine was first discovered in plants such as the leaves of yerba mate, cacao beans, and guarana berries. Presently, natural caffeine is available in more than 60 plant species throughout the world. Other natural sources of caffeine include kola nuts, tea buds, yaupon holly, and guayusa.

Caffeinated drinks such as tea and coffee are examples of drinks that source their caffeine from plants. Naturally sourced caffeine is safe and does not have side effects like insomnia and nervousness.

Better yet, natural occurring caffeine offers a longer and sustained energy than the synthetic caffeine. Unknown to many caffeine users, it is rare to find natural caffeine on its own. Usually, this caffeine includes vitamins and methylxanthines that are also present in the plant, which ensure a more sustained and balanced lift.

They help to balance the lift and fall of caffeine in your body, so you can have a sustained energy boost. Consequently, this prevents common side effects of synthetic caffeine products like jitters, a harsh crash, nervousness, and difficulty in sleeping.

Synthetic Caffeine

As the name suggests, synthetic caffeine is not naturally occurring, and it is sourced from urea and chloroacetic acid. This type of caffeine was first developed in World War II by the Nazis after they were unable to obtain several goods including coffee. This led to the development of the synthetic version.

Unknown to many people, synthetic coffee is used in sodas, workout supplements, and energy-boosting drinks. It is also widely found in food products. This is because it is cheaper to produce compared to the natural caffeine.

As the demand for caffeine increases, most brands are embracing lab production where they mass produce the synthetic coffee. Synthetic caffeine is usually produced in Chinese pharmaceuticals plants. This type of caffeine offers a highly potent caffeine isolate than what is present in naturally occurring caffeine.

Most companies use synthetic caffeine because it is quickly absorbed in the digestive system than natural caffeine. Consequently, it has more powerful effects which can cause instant energy boost followed by a quicker spike, faster rash, and anxiety side effects.

This is unlike caffeine that naturally occurs in coffee, tea, and yerba mate, which offers a balanced and more sustained caffeine lift. According to the FDA, synthetic caffeine is in five types of products including beverages, foods, dietary supplements, energy drinks, and over-the-counter drugs.

In some instances, synthetic coffee can be considered harmful because various chemicals are used to process it. Since it is produced from chloroacetic acid and urea, it is believed that these chemicals remain in the caffeine. It is exposed to various harsh chemicals like carbon dioxide, ethyl acetate, and methylene chloride.

It has also been established that even a small amount of this caffeine can be lethal to humans. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has established that two teaspoons of synthetic caffeine are likely to kill most adults. In real sense, one teaspoon of synthetic caffeine is equal to taking 28 cups of regular coffee.

Also, drinking synthetic caffeine can cause negative side effects like heart palpitations, difficulty in sleeping, nausea, and nervousness. This is caused by the fact that synthetic caffeine lacks the balancing effect of the botanical, which helps control the reaction of the body to the caffeine’s energizing properties.

However, not all synthetic caffeine is harmful or dangerous when consumed in moderation.

Differences Between the Natural and Synthetic Caffeine

Natural and synthetic caffeine are almost indistinguishable. This is because both are chemically identical. Nonetheless, there are several factors that can be used to note the differences between these two caffeine.


The first difference is that natural caffeine is extracted from plant products while synthetic caffeine is obtained from urea and chloroacetic acid.

Body Reaction

According to experts, the major difference between these two caffeine lies in how the body responds. As mentioned earlier, synthetic caffeine is more powerful than naturally occurring caffeine. It gets absorbed through the digestive system much faster. Once it does, the body will respond with a quicker spike and faster crash than natural caffeine.

Nonetheless, a scientific research that was published in 1947 showed that both natural caffeine and synthetic caffeine have similar stimulating effects.

Check the Label

To determine whether you are consuming natural or synthetic caffeine, it is advisable to check the label. Beverages or food products that contain natural caffeine will include a list of ingredients such as coffee or green tea in the label.

However, beverages like sodas that have synthetic caffeine will have the word “Caffeine” listed in the ingredients. So, this is a practical way to know whether your caffeinated drink is natural or synthetic.

Stable-Isotope Analysis

The other method was developed by scientists to determine the differences between these two in a faster and simpler way. In the study, scientists used a technique known as stable-isotope analysis to bring out the differences between natural and synthetic caffeine.

The researchers analyzed 42 caffeine samples from naturally occurring plants like mate leaves, coffee beans, guarana powder, and tea leaves. They also analyzed 20 synthetic caffeine samples.

This technique helped them determine variations of the carbon isotopes to differentiate between natural plant chemicals and petroleum-derived chemicals. During their analysis, the researchers found that 4 products (1 mate, 2 ice teas and an instant coffee) contained synthetic caffeine, but they were labeled the complete opposite.

Is Caffeine Good For you?

Other than the differences between the natural and synthetic caffeine, another question that has stirred debate is whether any of them is good for your health.

About 90 percent of the world’s population consume caffeine due to its mood-altering effect and other benefits. The most popular beverages that contain caffeine include coffee, brewed tea, decaffeinated coffee, cocoa beverage, energy drinks, yerba mate, espresso, soft drinks, and chocolate milk.

Truth be told, caffeine is still caffeine regardless of the source. While most people prefer to consume natural occurring caffeine than synthetic caffeine, the long-term benefits of consuming caffeine remain the same.

In recent years, studies have shown that caffeine offers numerous benefits both mentally and physically.  According to a 2017 meta-analysis, caffeine helps improve cognition by enhancing alertness and performance. The other benefits of caffeine include:

  • Enhances memory
  • Lowers risk of cancer, heart risk and multiple sclerosis
  • Alleviates migraine headaches
  • Alleviates fatigue
  • Boosts semen production
  • Lowers risk of Type II diabetes
  • Lowers risk of erectile dysfunction
  • Lowers risk of kidney stones
  • Boosts athletic performance

Caffeine Alternatives

Although synthetic caffeine offers the benefits of caffeine, there is no denying that natural caffeine is a better alternative. This is especially true if you don’t want to experience the fast crash that is caused by taking products with synthetic caffeine.

Also, if you want to increase your energy boost, consider incorporating energy-boosting foods in your diet. While they can boost your energy levels, energy sodas and beverages are high in sugar and other artificial ingredients, which may be harmful to your health.

Luckily, there are some caffeine alternatives that will help boost your energy levels. They include:

1. Coconut Water

Coconut water is rich in rehydrating electrolytes like sodium and potassium. These electrolytes prevent muscle weakness and reduce fatigue and cramps. Plus, they are naturally low in coconut water.

2. Ginseng

Ginseng tea is a great alternative to coffee. Studies have shown that it has antifatigue effects and even alleviates fatigue experienced by cancer patients. Furthermore, it enhances the performance and mood of the user.

3. Water

Looking to boost your energy levels naturally? Consider replacing your energy drink with a glass of water. Once cause of low energy levels and fatigue is dehydration. Water enhances cell growth and boosts energy levels and overall health.

4. B Vitamins

B vitamins supply natural energy to the user and ensure a healthy metabolism. Also referred to as B complex, B vitamins can be sourced from foods such as bananas, oranges, milk, yoghurt, whole grain breads, barley, pork, cottage cheese, tuna, organ meats, and poultry. You can also obtain B vitamins from potatoes, leafy greens, beans, chickpeas, coffee, and lentils.

5. Chai Tea

Chai tea is a mixture of spices and aromatic herbs and is a great way to start your day. This is one of the healthiest drinks that enhances energy production in the body.

6. Kombucha

This is another energy healthy drink that is fermented with bacteria cultures and yeast. This sweet tea contains B vitamins that gives the body necessary energy. Plus, this caffeine alternative boosts the immune system and enhances gut health.

7. Pomegranate Juice

Looking for a natural way to get your pre-workout or post-workout energy fix? Pomegranate juice is believed to improve blood flow and circulation, improving exercise performance. Another reason to incorporate it into your exercise routine is because it supports muscle recovery.

8. Orange Juice

Caffeine is not the only mind stimulant available. A glass of orange juice in the morning has been found to boost brain energy and keep you alert over an extended period.

Frequently Asked Questions About Natural Caffeine

Is natural caffeine bad for you?

Studies have shown that natural caffeine is not harmful. On the contrary, natural caffeine can stimulate the brain and make it alert, among many other benefits. However, it is important that you consume caffeine in moderation to avoid side effects like jitters, nausea, irritability, increased blood pressure, anxiety, drowsiness, and fertility/pregnancy issues.

What is the healthiest form of caffeine?

Coffee is the most common way to get that caffeine fix that your body craves for. Brewed coffee is healthy, and it takes effect within a few minutes. Also, dark chocolate is a healthy form of caffeine.

What foods are high in caffeine?

Several foods and drinks contain caffeine in varying proportions. Some popular foods that are high in caffeine include dark chocolate, energy drinks, green tea, black tea, coffee, energy drinks, espresso, sodas, coffee liqueur, and chocolate cake with frosting.

A Final Word From Energetic Lifestyle

On average, most people are likely to consume natural caffeine compared to synthetic caffeine. Regardless of the source, it is important to ensure that you consume caffeine in moderation, so you can draw from its benefits without the side effects. You should also take the time to read the label, so you know what you are taking.

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Article by:

Energetic Lifestyle Team

Our detailed review has been contributed to by multiple members of the Energetic Lifestyle Review Team to ensure the best research and highest standard of quality. Have a good or a bad experience with one of the products? Please let us know, we love the feedback!

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