iCaffeic acid (CFA), also known as 3,4-dihydroxy-cinnamic acid, belonging to a group of chemicals called hydroxycinnamic acids, is a naturally occurring phenolic compound commonly found in food and plant items such as coffee, tea, fruits, herbs, spices, beans, and vegetables.

Caffeic acid (CFA), also known as 3,4-dihydroxy-cinnamic acid, belonging to a group of chemicals called hydroxycinnamic acids, is a naturally occurring phenolic compound commonly found in food and plant items such as coffee, tea, fruits, herbs, spices, beans, and vegetables.

It’s a potent antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory compound believed to have several potential benefits, including fighting cancer, promoting cardiovascular health, and improving neurological conditions.

Although it may have a name almost similar to caffeine, these compounds do not correlate.

See, Vegetables Containing Folic Acid and Foods Highest In Beta Carotene

dried fruits and nuts with caffeic acid

Health Benefits

1. Anti-cancer effects

Caffeic acid has been shown to have anti-cancer effects in various clinical studies. The compound is beneficial in apoptosis induction, also known as programmed cell death in cancer cells. This helps in regulating the proliferation of cancer cells while promoting their death.

It also prevents angiogenesis. Angiogenesis is the process through which new blood vessels are formed. Angiogenesis may sometimes lead to the growth and metastasis of tumors, which lead to the formation of cancer cells.

Caffeic acid prevents angiogenesis by blocking the activity of angiogenic factors such as Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) and basic Fibroblast Growth Factor (bFGF). This reduces the tumor’s blood supply while limiting its growth and spread.

Additionally, it is known to prevent tumor cell migration and invasion by affecting various signaling pathways involved in cancer metastasis. 

2. Promotes healthy skin

As an antioxidant, caffeic acid protects the skin by neutralizing the harmful effects of free radicals. These radicals are unstable molecules that can cause damage to cells and contribute to the aging process.

Caffeic acid also protects the skin from damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can cause sunburn, skin cancer, and premature aging.

It does this by reducing the production of inflammatory compounds such as prostaglandins, cytokines, and matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) that are produced in response to UV exposure. This helps to minimize the harmful effects of UV radiation on the skin.

Additionally, due to caffeic acid’s anti-inflammatory properties, such as reducing the production of inflammatory compounds and promoting the production of anti-inflammatory molecules, the compound can help soothe and calm irritated or inflamed skin. 

In the long run, this helps prevent skin problems such as acne, eczema, or rosacea while improving the overall health and appearance of the skin.

The compound also stimulates the production of collagen. This is an essential protein that helps maintain the skin’s elasticity and firmness.

Consuming foods rich in caffeic acid can also improve the skin’s ability to retain moisture. This helps in reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

3. Improving athletic performance

Caffeic acid boosts athletic performance by increasing energy production. It does this by stimulating the increased production of ATP, the primary source of energy for cells.

The compound also contains antioxidant properties which are essential in reducing oxidative stress. Research suggests that high levels of oxidative stress can cause muscle fatigue, reduce endurance, and negatively affect athletic performance.ff

Caffeic acid can be beneficial in enhancing muscle function by improving contractibility. This leads to improved strength and endurance, thus helping enhance overall athletic performance.

Additionally,  anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce muscle damage. 

As such, this helps to alleviate muscle soreness while promoting faster muscle recovery, thus assisting the athletes in training more frequently and intensively.

4. Preventing diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic condition characterized by high levels of blood sugar, which can have several serious health consequences if left untreated.

Generally, caffeic acid is essential in preventing and managing diabetes in several ways. 

It improves insulin sensitivity and regulates glucose metabolism, thus controlling the amount of insulin the body needs to maintain blood sugar levels. This prevents the development of insulin resistance, which may lead to prediabetes and, eventually, diabetes.

The antioxidant properties \\are also important in reducing oxidative stress. Research has linked high levels of oxidative stress to the development of diabetes and other chronic diseases, such as heart disease and neurodegenerative disorders.

Furthermore, it enhances insulin production, improving glucose movement from the blood into the cells. This helps prevent the development of hyperglycemia, a common complication of diabetes.

Additionally, consuming foods rich in caffeic acid can improve lipid metabolism. Lipid metabolism is the process through which the body converts, transports, and stores fats and other lipids. Too many lipids in the blood can lead to lipid-induced hepatic insulin resistance, which will increase the risk of diabetes or make it worse.

5. Antioxidant properties

As an antioxidant, caffeic acid has the ability to scavenge reactive oxygen species (ROS), such as free radicals, known for causing oxidative stress and cellular damage. Therefore, caffeic acid acts as a reducing agent and can donate electrons to neutralize ROS.

Additionally, caffeic acid can stimulate the activity of antioxidant enzymes in the body, such as superoxide dismutase and catalase, thus, enhancing the antioxidant defense system, which helps to protect cells and tissues from oxidative damage.

6. Gut health

Caffeic acid can boost gut health by enhancing the growth of good bacteria or probiotics while restraining the expansion of harmful ones. This helps maintain a balanced gut microbiome.

Additionally, caffeic acid can help protect the gut lining. It does this by strengthening the gut barrier, which curbs gut leakage and other gut-related issues such as food sensitivity.

Also, the anti-inflammatory effects of caffeic acid are essential in reducing gut inflammation. This is important because chronic gut inflammation has been linked to several gastrointestinal disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

7. Contains Anti-Ageing Properties

As mentioned earlier, caffeic acid is rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

For this reason, the compound is mostly used in skin care products and regimens.

Studies have shown that applying products with caffeic acid from garlic protects the skin from aging and prevents the formation of wrinkles that come from UVB (Ultraviolet B) rays.

UVB has a shorter wavelength and is responsible for producing sunburn and has also been linked to causing skin cancers.

Being an antioxidant, it also inhibits oxidative stress and protects your body from free radicals. The result is glowing skin, which is a sign of good health.

8. Inhibits HIV Virus

Caffeic acid has many derivatives, some of which can obstruct HIV.

The CAPE (caffeic acid phenethyl ester) derivative contains a high amount of flavone antioxidants.

Since caffeic acid naturally occurs in plants, researchers found that those who consumed more vegetables and fruits received potent nutritional supplementation and had an enhanced antiretroviral effect on the HIV virus.

While caffeic acid will not replace HIV treatment and management practices, it will make things easier for the patients when incorporated into the diet.

9. Alleviates Inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis

Dealing with arthritis can be a nightmare as one experiences unending pain and inflammation.

It is even worse when one is suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. This involves the body’s immune system attacking its own tissues, including joints. It often affects many joints, including those of the hands and feet.

Considering its anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects, CFA can alleviate the body’s inflammatory response, thus improving this condition.

10. Enhances weight loss

Caffeic acid activates brown adipose tissue or brown fat. Brown fat is a type of fat that keeps you warm when feeling cold. It does this by generating heat through calorie burning process. This, in turn, promotes calorie expenditure leading to weight loss.

The process of generating heat (thermogenesis) is even more when your body is exposed to cool and even cold temperatures. According to experts, activating brown adipose tissue may be a promising strategy to increase energy expenditure and promote weight loss.

Even in the absence of caffeic acid, you can recruit more brown fat cells with just 2 hours of exposure to low temperatures of about 19 degrees Celsius. Taking a cold shower or an ice bath can also provide the same results.

That being said, caffeic acid may also regulate fat metabolism and glucose regulation, both of which can boost weight loss.

Food Sources of Caffeic Acid

Some of the most common food sources of caffeic acid include the following;

Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy diet as they not only elevate the taste of food but also offer various nutrients. Some of the most commonly used herbs, such as basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and dill, are abundant in caffeic acid. Incorporating these herbs into your daily meals is a simple and tasty way to increase the nutritional value of your diet.


Fruits are another delicious and nutritious way to introduce more caffeic acid into your diet. 

Those containing high levels of caffeic acid include plums, apples, raspberries, apricots, cranberries, cherries, tomatoes, and blackberries.

Generally, you can consume these fruits as snacks, use them as ingredients in cooking, or blend them into smoothies.

Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are also rich in caffeic acid. Some examples of nuts and seeds containing high levels of caffeic acid include peanuts, sunflowers, and almonds. Notably, the exact amounts vary based on the type. For example, almonds contain higher concentration levels of caffeic acid compared to peanuts or sunflower seeds.

Regardless of the type, adding nuts and seeds to your diet is an excellent way to improve the nutritional value of your meals and snacks. Whether you prefer to snack on them solo, sprinkle them on a salad or yogurt, or use them in baking, they’ll bring a delicious and nutritious boost to your meal.


As mentioned in the introductory part, caffeic acid is a type of phenolic acid naturally occurring in various plant-based foods, including vegetables. Some examples of vegetables containing caffeic include artichokes, asparagus, beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, eggplant, onions, garlic, and tomatoes.

Furthermore, caffeic can be found in both the leaves and stems of these vegetables.

Whole grains

Whole grains are also known to contain high levels of caffeic. Some examples of whole grains that are rich in caffeic acid include whole oats, barley, cornmeal, brown rice, bulgur, and quinoa.

Again, the levels of caffeic acid in these whole grains can vary depending on several factors, such as the type of grain, growing conditions, and processing methods.

Even though whole grains offer high levels of caffeic acid, nutritionists recommend having a balanced and varied diet containing whole grains and other nutrient-rich foods to have a sufficient intake of all essential nutrients.

Caffeic Acid Potential Side Effects

Caffeic acid is mostly safe even when used in relatively large doses. This is because it is a naturally occurring compound in most foods. Like caffeine, caffeic acid could have stimulant effects, keeping one more active and alert. For this reason, it could make insomnia worse. However, the effects are far much less than with caffeinated beverages.

Additionally, it should never be used as a substitute for standard medical care.
As a consumer, it is crucial to understand that this natural product is not subjected to the requirements set by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).

While there is no known interaction of conventional medication with caffeic acid, you must be cautious about the combination. If you notice any effects from supplements or products containing caffeic acid, consult your doctor immediately.

Or, if you are taking drugs for a particular condition, it’s good to lay off your CFA intake until you’re done with medication.

Nonetheless, if it’s a natural source of food, there’s nothing to worry about.

Final thoughts

Caffeic acid is a polyphenolic compound popular in the human diet.

It has a generous amount of antioxidants, and antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties and can help prevent diabetes, fight cancer, improve gut health, and promote weight loss.

You can get it from consuming readily available fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

The consumption is safe but could slightly impact insomnia.

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