You may have heard about theanine, a relaxant that is out of the ordinary. It is actually quite rare since green tea is its only source. An ideal product for those who undergo a lot of stress, providing serenity without causing somnolence or tiredness.
What is Theanine?
It is an amino acid from green tea which is quite valuable due to its extraordinary ability to stimulate the alpha waves in our brain.
Therefore, L-theanine helps our body relax, but it has nothing to do with sleep, quite the opposite actually.
It is said that L-theanine (which makes up around a 1-2% of the dry tea leaves) is as relaxing as doing meditation. Moreover, it increases the energy without causing nervousness, providing calmness without producing drowsiness. In fact, it improves the focus and puts you in a good mood.
There are many studies about the multiple benefits of green tea for our health. Most of them are related to theanine, a unique neurologically active amino acid.
It is the main amino acid from green tea leaves and the one responsible for its typical umami flavor. This is also known as the “fifth flavor” apart from the four traditional ones: sweet, salty, acid and bitter.
What are its benefits?
Most of us are constantly exposed to stressors on a daily basis. In addition, some people lack a series of nutrients due to a bad diet, sleep poorly and other circumstances. In the end, all these factors trigger physical and mental health problems.
Consequently, many people start using medicines in order to remain calm and to deal with stress. However, is it really worth it to take these products that have many dangerous side effects?
Properties of the amino acid from green tea
Perhaps you are thinking how paradoxical it is for green tea to have a relaxing effect due to its caffeine content. Nevertheless, this is due to the fact that the amino acid theanine counters said stimulating effect on the nervous system.
Several clinical studies have revealed that after 30 or 40 minutes of drinking tea (L-theanine), it activates two mechanisms that produce a state of relaxation:
- First of all, it activates amino acids that stimulate the brain alpha waves, producing a deep relaxation. In fact, it produces a mental state similar to meditation.
- Second, theanine is involved in the formation of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), an inhibitory neurotransmitter. In turn, GABA affects another two neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin. Consequently, it produces deeply relaxing effects.[/checklist]
Have you heard of its extraordinary effects?
In general, we can conclude that helps us cope with stress, apart from increasing our energy and sharpening the focus. Actually, it is regarded as a natural nootropic that has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine.
These are some of the extraordinary effects of theanine:
Stimulating the brain alpha waves
The brain waves are divided in four different categories. Each one of them is connected to a mental state:
- Delta waves occur in the deepest phases of sleep.
- Theta waves occur in the light phase of sleep and during somnolence.
- Alpha waves occur when we are awake and we pay attention effortlessly.
- Beta waves occur during stressful situations, when we find it difficult to stay focused and pay attention
We know that alpha waves occur during a state of relaxation. Therefore, they are used as a relaxation marker.
A study assessed the topography of these waves, which could be observed from the occipital and parietal regions of the brain 40 minutes after taking between 50 and 200mg of theanine.
A different study confirmed how the intensity of the alpha waves depended on the dose. In fact, a dose of 200mg caused a significant increase when compared to the control group. Said reaction could be observed 30 minutes after its intake.
Increasing the endorphins
L-theanine significantly affects the secretion or reduction of neurotransmitters. For instance, it controls endorphins, dopamine and serotonin, improving our memory and learning ability.
Lowering the blood pressure
Catecholaminergic and serotonergic neurons and the peripheral nervous system are partly in charge of regulating the blood pressure.
The studies conducted on spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) showed the impressive antihypertensive effects of theanine.
A clinical study concluded that:
- The blood pressure seemed to drop depending on the dose. A higher dose of theanine was more effective when it came to lowering the blood pressure.
- L-glutamine was used as one of the control agents.
- Even though l-glutamine has a similar chemical structure to theanine, it did not have any effect on hypertension.
In addition, theanine also buffers the oxidative stress caused by these substances in normal cells. This is possibly due to the antioxidant effect. Moreover, this amino acid reduces the lipid peroxidation or oxidative breakdown of low density lipoproteins (LDL) or “bad cholesterol”.
Coping with stress and anxiety
You may have heard that stress and anxiety weaken the hormone balance. Consequently, they affect our well-being, physical and mental performance on our day to day.
In fact, they can even affect our health and life. Stress interferes with the immune system, making us more vulnerable to infections. Actually, it can even trigger depression.
The drugs designed to relieve the symptoms of these diseases generate millions in profit every year.
Moreover, it can be used as a food supplement in other areas, since it reduces the side effects of caffeine. These are usually caused by an excessive intake of coffee, refreshments and other substances with caffeine.
Theanine to lose weight
One of reasons why theanine is one of the most popular supplements is due to its properties for weight loss. In fact, it is said that it prevents the accumulation of fat, specially in the abdomen.
Clearly, there is not doubt that it is a metabolic stimulator. That is why many specialists recommend using it during weight loss diets.
Why use Theanine supplementation?
The properties of theanine can improve your quality of life in many ways.
These are the main ones:
- Sharpening the focus and attention
- Encouraging a state of pleasant relaxation
- Reducing the anxiety
- Coping with stress
- Helping to relax in case of insomnia
- Countering the effects of caffeine in the nervous system when we take a lot of caffeine
How to take supplements?
According to the current studies, theanine is more effective with a dose between 50 and 200mg. The effect is remarkable after 30 minutes and it lasts for 8-10 hours.
Are you dealing with a lot of stress at the moment? Then, increase the dose of theanine from 100 to 600mg and take them throughout six hours.
The small intestine absorbs theanine in an active transport process together with sodium.
It crosses the blood-brain barrier, as we can see due to its effects on our brain.
In addition, theanine competes with the methionine amino acid group (leucine, isoleucine and valine) to be absorbed by our digestive system and brain. However, the amino acid concentrations remain unaltered by the simultaneous intake of theanine.
All in all, theanine is a physical and mental relaxant that does not cause somnolence. Although there is not a specific moment to take theanine, it is more effective if we take it when we experience the first symptoms of stress.
Contraindications of Theanine
Above all, theanine is extraordinarily safe. In 1964, the Health Ministry from Japan approved its limited use in all food products, except for those meant for children.
Theanine tastes sweet, so you can open the capsules and dissolve their content in water.
Even though theanine is regarded as safe, pregnant or breastfeeding women should consult a physician before using it.
Can you think of a better way to relax?
- Zhang C, Chen KK, Zhao XH, Wang C, Geng ZY. Effect of l-theanine on the growth performance, immune function, and jejunum morphology and antioxidant status of ducks. Animal. 2018 Oct 31:1-9. doi: 10.1017/S1751731118002884.
- Hidese S, Ota M, Wakabayashi C, Noda T, Ozawa H, Okubo T, Kunugi H. Effects of chronic l-theanine administration in patients with major depressive disorder: an open-label study. Acta Neuropsychiatr. 2017 Apr;29(2):72-79. doi: 10.1017/neu.2016.33. Epub 2016 Jul 11.