L-theanine is an amino acid contained in green tea that stimulates the alpha waves in the brain. L-theanine is therefore as calming as meditation. It increases energy without exhaustion, soothes without making you sleepy, and motivates without overpowering. The result: relaxation, recovery, concentration and a good mood.
There are hundreds of studies on the many health benefits of green tea. What makes it the most consumed drink in the world, after water, is its pleasant taste and relaxing effect.
Both properties - and many others - can be attributed to a unique, neurologically active amino acid called L-theanine.
In our everyday modern life, we are exposed to many stress factors, which are aggravated by a lack of nutrients, lack of sleep etc. which leads to physical and psychological problems.
It is no wonder that more and more people are using medication to find calmness and cope with stress. However, these have many dangerous side effects.
Wouldn't you rather take something that is natural and has no known side effects? Many people are doing exactly this, which makes theanine increasingly popular.
What is L-theanine?
L-theanine (or just theanine) is a free amino acid that is found almost exclusively in the green tea plant and makes up around 1 to 2 percent of the dry weight of the tea leaves.
It is the predominant amino acid in green tea leaves and gives tea its umami flavor, the "fifth taste" (in addition to the four traditional flavors sweet, salty, sour and bitter).
The calming effects of green tea can seem like a contradiction to the stimulating properties of caffeine in tea - but it can be explained by the effects of theanine. This amino acid counteracts the stimulating effects of caffeine on the nervous system.
Research on volunteer test subjects has shown that L-theanine provides relaxation through at least two different mechanisms around 30-40 minutes after ingestion.
- First, this amino acid directly stimulates the production of alpha brain waves, creating a state of deep relaxation and mental alertness similar to that of meditation.
- Second, theanine is involved in the formation of the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA affects the levels of two other neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin, which produce the important relaxing effects.
1. L-theanine promotes the alpha brain waves
The brain emits weak electrical impulses (brain waves) that can be measured on the surface of the head. The prevailing frequency of electrical impulses is related to different types of mental states and activities.
Brain waves can be divided into four categories (Delta, Theta, Alpha and Beta), each of which can be associated with a mental state.
- Delta only occurs during the deepest sleep phases.
- Theta can be observed with light sleep and drowsiness.
- Alpha occurs while awake when there is a relaxed and effortless attention.
- Beta can be observed in stressful situations when mental concentration and focus become difficult.
Alpha brain waves are known to originate in a relaxed state, so alpha waves are used as a sign of relaxation.
In one study, the topography of the brain waves showed that alpha waves from the back to the top of the head (occipital and parietal regions of the brain) could be observed within around 40 minutes after taking either 50 or 200 mg of theanine.
In a separate study, the intensity of the alpha waves was described as dose-dependent (with a dose of 200 mg causing a significant increase compared to the control group) and was detectable after 30 minutes.
2. Theanine increases the happiness hormones
L-theanine has a significant effect on the delivery or reduction of neurotransmitters such as the happiness hormones dopamine and serotonin, which improves the memory and learning ability.
Theanine can also affect emotions due to the increased release of dopamine. Theanine reduces serotonin levels in the brain by either limiting serotonin synthesis or increasing its breakdown in the brain.
3. Theanine reduces the blood pressure
The regulation of blood pressure depends in part on catecholaminergic and serotonergic neurons in the brain and the peripheral nervous system.
Studies in spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) showed an impressive hypotensive effect of theanine.
- The reduction in blood pressure was dose-dependent, with the highest test doses causing the most significant reduction.
- L-glutamine was one of the control agents.
- Even though L-glutamine has a chemical structure similar to that of theanine, it has no effect against high blood pressure.
Preliminary studies show that L-theanine can increase the anti-tumor activity of some chemotherapeutic agents and reduce some side effects of these drugs.
It appears to increase the inhibitory concentration of these drugs in the tumor cells, although the exact mechanism is unknown. At the same time, theanine reduces the oxidative stress that these active substances cause in normal cells - possibly due to its slightly antioxidant effect. Regarding this, theanine has been shown to inhibit lipid peroxidation caused by copper in vitro from low density lipoprotein (LDL).
4. Theanine reduces stress and anxiety
Stress and anxiety are disabling conditions that disrupt the balance of our hormones, which contributes to the loss of our well-being, performance and even lifespan. Stress disrupts the immune system, which makes us susceptible to opportunistic infections and can trigger depressions.
In the year 1998, pharmaceutical sales of anti-anxiety medication totaled $700 million, while sales of antidepressants totaled nearly $5 billion!
People under stress can use theanine to alleviate many of the damaging effects of stress without being immobilized. Theanine does not make you sleepy because this amino acid does not produce theta waves in the brain. Theanine does not cause additional relaxation in people who are already relaxed.
Theanine can also be used as a dietary supplement in other areas, since it reduces the side effects of caffeine, which are caused by excessive consumption of coffee, soft drinks and other substances containing caffeine.
The most important information about theanine at a glance:
- Theanine is an amino acid. Animal studies have shown that it is completely non-toxic and has no side effects.
- Theanine works in around 30 minutes.
- In Japan, theanine is considered an example of the fifth taste - in addition to sweet, sour, salty and bitter.
- Theanine is the reason that green tea is better for concentration than coffee. The theanine reduces the energy boost from coffee, but still increases concentration.
- Theanine increases the amounts of the brain messenger GABA, which ensures a good mood. GABA levels usually decrease as we get older. Theanine increases the amount of GABA to more youthful levels.
- Theanine also appears to harmonize the levels of the happiness messengers serotonin and dopamine that provide well-being. This means that you feel calmer and more attentive through theanine.
- Theanine is Buddha in a bottle.
- Theanine has anti-cancer and antioxidant properties.
- Theanine also boosts the immune system and lowers blood pressure and stress.
- Unlike dangerous drugs, theanine is not addictive.
Theanine is recommended for:
- increases concentration and attention
- ensures pleasant relaxation and calming
- reduces fear
- reduces stress
- helps with sleep disorders by relaxing
- with high caffeine consumption to counteract the stimulating effects of caffeine on the nervous system
L-theanine intake and use
Most clinical studies and information about theanine come from Japan.
- It is known that the small intestine absorbs it through an active transportation process combined with sodium.
- It crosses the blood-brain barrier, which is illustrated by the mental effect.
- Theanine fights with the amino acids of the methionine group (leucine, isoleucine and valine) to be absorbed by the digestive tract and the brain - the concentrations of the amino acids remain unchanged when theanine is taken at the same time.
Theanine is extremely safe. In 1964, the Japanese Ministry of Health and Social Affairs approved theanine for unlimited use in all foods except baby food.
Theanine is intended for use as a mental and physical relaxant that does not cause drowsiness. Although there is no fixed schedule for taking theanine, it can be even more effective if it is taken at the first sign of stress.
- Based on the results of clinical studies, theanine is most effective at a dose of 50 -200 mg. The effect can be felt after 30 minutes and lasts 8 - 10 hours.
- People with high levels of stress can increase their theanine dose to at least 100 mg, with no more than 600 mg taken in six hours.
- The FDA recommends a maximum dose of 1200 mg per day, although the reasons for this limitation are not entirely clear, as theanine has been shown to be very safe.
There are no known negative reactions to theanine and no drug interactions have been reported. The effect of theanine is not influenced by food and can be taken at any time - as needed.
Since theanine has a mild taste, the capsules can be opened and the contents can be dissolved in water.
Even though theanine is likely to be safe for pregnant and lactating women, we recommend not taking it without checking with your doctor first.