Known chemically as 1, 3, 7 – trimethylxanthine, caffeine is an alkaloid (occurring substances in plants) belonging to the methylxanthine family, which also includes theophylline and theobromine. All have very similar effects in stimulating the central nervous system, though caffeine is the most potent.
Caffeine occurs naturally in the leaves, seeds or fruit of more than sixty plant species the best known of which are coffee, tea, cola and guarana. In nature, caffeine protects plants from parasites.
Since the discovery of its chemical structure in 1895, caffeine – a white, odourless, crystalline powder with a bitter taste – has become one of the most comprehensively studied food ingredients.
Caffeine may be present in some soft drinks because of the addition of flavourings extracted from the cola nut. It is, however, also added to a range of food and drinks, including soft drinks and colas, as a flavouring agent, and in `energy’ drinks for its stimulant effects.
It is included in the formulation of some over-the-counter medicines, such as cold relief products, diet aids, and in some (but not all) migraine treatments and painkillers to increase the pain-relief effect and potentiate anti-inflammatory.
Caffeine can help to dull pain and is sold in tablet form as a stimulant to relieve tiredness