Fact Check

Image Shows What Caffeine Looks Like Under Microscope?

"That's what I see when I get a migraine from lack of or drinking too much caffeine," one Reddit user commented.

Published April 29, 2024

 (Reddit user Squidly_Gentleman)
Image courtesy of Reddit user Squidly_Gentleman
Claim:
Image authentically shows a microscopic view of caffeine crystals.

Although caffeine is the most widely used drug in the world, many people may not know what the substance actually looks like. In April 2024, a post on Reddit (archive) claimed to show "Caffeine crystals seen from a microscope":

"That's what I see when I get a migraine from lack of or drinking too much caffeine," one user commented.

The same image went viral when it was shared on Reddit?(archive) in March 2024. It also appeared on?X?(archive)?and received more than 100,000 views:?

Using a reverse-image search via Google Lens (archive), Snopes determined that Pixels, a photography and art hosting website, published the original photograph. Titled, "Polarized light micrograph of caffeine crystals," the image is described as depicting:

Polarized light micrograph of caffeine crystals is a photograph by Nic Van Oudtshoorn which was uploaded on August 7th, 2023.

Below is how the photo appeared on the image-hosting platform as of this publication:

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Snopes contacted Van Oudtshoorn via email, and he confirmed that the image was genuine. We've rated this claim as "True."

"I am a macro photographer and captured the image using a specialised polarising light microscope after drying caffeine to form crystals on a microscope slide," adding that the enlargement "could have been between about 80 and 200 times."

Von Oudtshoorn is described on his Pixels bio as an award-winning Australia-based photojournalist and nature photographer who specializes in wildlife and macro photography.?

According to the National Library of Medicine, caffeine is a naturally occurring stimulant that affects the central nervous system. The most widely taken psychoactive stimulant globally, caffeine is most often sourced from the coffee bean but is also found in tea and as an additive to soda and energy drinks. Its chemical structure appeared in the June 2016 issue of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine Inpress as below:

Snopes has fact-checked other caffeine-related claims. See our caffeine archive for more.

Sources

Evans, Justin, et al. "Caffeine." StatPearls, StatPearls Publishing, 2024. PubMed, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519490/.

Evon, Dan. "Snopes Tips: A Guide To Performing Reverse Image Searches." Snopes, 22 Mar. 2022, //articles/400681/how-to-perform-reverse-image-searches/.

Ferré, Sergi. "Caffeine and Substance Use Disorders."?Journal of Caffeine Research, vol. 3, no. 2, June 2013, pp. 57–58.?PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.1089/jcr.2013.0015.

Google Lens. https://lens.google.com/search?ep=cnts&re=df&s=4&p=AbrfA8qwztFkQy45R_a2C29MV_NrOeV5-eLkRH_QTDB9RZjZSmAop4GT3tmGQ9ZZOr2eo74QpmkzTFwfVGSPZic4Ny8v2qqkCfc4Xio1a7mW27vJmu3jnytbWNoV2a2XGHkmGGB65DurSnbrmfp-e5r5H7Zx4yFSUeFtkt6oN_M_GTNT5wbr3Fy1iq8XgDyI2Y8rGb5a6A6haa6-PTam3cA5mvhki1WiUPGrslG4s9R7bn4WiCTCIr9tXB_KlfSIU-adjdRERDiih7mJBBLI_JH7f2pIWYhqpA%3D%3D#lns=W251bGwsbnVsbCxudWxsLG51bGwsbnVsbCxudWxsLG51bGwsIkVrY0tKRFl4WkRRM1pHSTJMVEZsWW1JdE5EVXlPUzA0WmpNMExUazBZMkU1TlRReE56ZGlOeElmWnpkdGFuRXpXa3hmU3pCalZVTm1hVWxtYTFwaVJFRTVNa1JMY2pSU1p3PT0iXQ==. Accessed 7 Mar. 2024.

"Nic Van Oudtshoorn." Pixels, https://pixels.com/profiles/nic-vanoudtshoorn. Accessed 7 Mar. 2024.

"Polarized Light Micrograph of Caffeine Crystals by Nic Van Oudtshoorn." Pixels, https://pixels.com/featured/polarized-light-micrograph-of-caffeine-crystals-nic-van-oudtshoorn.html. Accessed 7 Mar. 2024.

Madison Dapcevich is a freelance contributor for Snopes.