Updated: Feb 5
Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh once said; "Tea is an act complete in its simplicity... This is the act of life, in one pure moment, and in this act, the truth of the world suddenly becomes revealed: all the complexity, pain, drama of life is a pretence, invented in our minds for no good purpose..."
While many turn to tea in times of stress, or to wind down before bed, they may not even realize the incredible benefits the leaves in their cup hold. Fortunately, the science is there to back up the effects one feels when sipping on a humble cup of tea.
Tea leaves contain many beneficial compounds that aid in a healthy lifestyle, one being L-theanine. This compound has been studied many times throughout the years, and proven itself useful for sleep, anxiety (and relaxation), and focus.
For those who don’t enjoy indulging in a cup of tea, there are of course other ways to supplement with L-theanine. This article delves deeper into the many benefits of L-theanine, and why it’s a worthwhile supplement to add to one’s health regime.
What Is L-Theanine & How Does It Work?
First identified by Japanese scientists in 1949, L-theanine is an amino acid primarily found in green and black tea leaves, and is the catalyst behind the mood changing effects of the drink.
It works by affecting a number of changes in the brain:
Increases calming levels of neurotransmitters: Increased levels of brain calming chemicals (GABA, serotonin and dopamine) which regulate emotions, sleep, concentration, mood, energy, cognitive skills, and appetite; help to promote a feeling of relaxation and overall good sleep.
Decreases “excitatory” brain chemicals: While increasing brain calming chemicals, L-theanine simultaneously decreases the levels of chemicals in the brain linked to stress and anxiety.
Intensifies alpha brain waves: These brain waves are linked to the feeling of “wakeful relaxation” or “alert calmness” typically experienced while participating in a creative project, daydreaming, or meditating, and also during REM sleep.
Where Is L-Theanine Found In Foods?
Aside from the Imleria badia, or bay bolete mushroom, L-theanine is easiest consumed through green, black, and white tea. The tea with the highest levels of L-theanine seem to be those grown organically in Japan and China, and have been shaded (grown in the shade) for more than 20 days prior to harvest.
L-theanine levels vary with each tea, and a single cup may contain anywhere from 25 to 60 mg. A dose of 50 mg has shown sufficient to have a significant effect on alertness. Of course, not everyone wants to drink tea all day. Below are a few alternative ways to get L-theanine in.
Healthy L-theanine rich recipes:
An acquired taste, with a surprising flavour, Tibetan Butter Tea is more of a light soup than a tea.
A great alternative to traditional, sugar packed iced teas, this citrus and mint infused green tea is a refreshing drink than can be sipped throughout the day.
A vibrant green breakfast alternative made with Matcha green tea and chia seeds for a boost in the morning.
What Are The Benefits Of L-Theanine?
Lowers stress and anxiety, while maintaining alertness
While other anxiolytics (such as hops and valerian root) are known to have a tranquilizer or sedative effect, L-theanine does not. Instead, it promotes a sense of calm, while allowing one to maintain alertness. One could say L-theanine is as close to a “meditation drug” one can get.
A study of 12 participants undergoing 4 separate trials, showed promise in the stress relieving properties of L-theanine. By blocking glutamate receptors in the brain, the study showed that oral intake resulted in a “reduction in the heart rate (HR) and salivary immunoglobulin A (s-IgA) responses to an acute stress task relative to the placebo control condition.”
Improves quality of sleep
Without acting as a sedative, L-theanine can safely promote relaxation and help one fall asleep easier, as well as promote better sleep quality. In fact, a randomized, double-blind study showed that even children with ADHD can have improved sleep quality on a 400 mg daily dose.
Helps to maintain healthy body weight
Properties in L-theanine contribute to both better sleep quality, and lower stress, the combination of which help in maintaining a healthy body weight. L-theanine has also been linked to limiting the accumulation of fat, which can protect against obesity.
In Japan, L-theanine is seen as the source of umami, referred to as the fifth taste, and responsible for the savoury, pleasant flavour present in broths. This is important to note because there have been links between umami and it’s decrease in the risk for obesity, given that it may stimulate the metabolism and stretch time between hunger strikes.
What Are The Possible Side Effects Of L-Theanine
The following is not to be considered medical advice, but can certainly be used as a topic of conversation when speaking with a medical doctor.
Although tolerated well by most adults, those with the following health or physical conditions should consult a physician, as taking supplemental L-theanine may have adverse effects.
Children, pregnant, or breastfeeding women
Those with a tendency for low blood pressure
Those taking stimulant medications (and/or supplements) or high blood pressure medications (and/or supplements)
What Is The Recommended L-theanine Dosage?
The recommended dosage for healthy adults is 100-400mg. It is always recommended to start on the lowest dosage, before increasing.
Due to its ability to provide multiple targeted benefits, it can be found in the Veeva Anxiety formula at a daily dose of 200mg, the Veeva Stress formula at 100mg and the Theanine & Magnesium learning enhancement formula at 250mg.