A Powerful Calm: L-Theanine

tea leaves - l-theanine

Contributed by Rylen Feeney

Need an afternoon boost that improves your sense of wellbeing and focus while taking stress down a notch? Need help dealing with test, performance or generalized anxiety? Consider L-Theanine, a free (non-protein) amino acid found primarily in tea leaves, (Camilla Sinensis).

Functions and benefits of L-Theanine

L-Theanine, otherwise know as gamma-ethylamino-L-glutamic acid, is thought to be the key to tea’s subtle but calming effects despite the caffeine content in tea.

L-Theanine is thought to counter the stimulating effects of caffeine by increasing the production of alpha brain waves. Alpha waves are associated with a state of deep relaxation while being mentally alert.

In studies, subjects on L-Theanine exhibited alpha brain wave patterns similar to the state achieved by those during meditation.

Additionally, L-Theanine easily crosses the blood brain barrier, and is thought to play a role in increasing and regulating several neurotransmitters, most notably GABA (gamma amino butyric acid), which is an important inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. GABA promotes a pleasant calm without the drowsiness. L-Theanine is thought to interact with dopamine and serotonin as well, resulting in increased focus, improved memory and learning ability.

Other potential benefits of L-Theanine:

  • Gently lowers mildly elevated blood pressure
  • Antioxidant
  • Boosts immunity
  • ADHD & ADD
  • Reduces PMS symptoms
  • Increases effectiveness of Chemotherapy drugs, while protecting healthy cells and reducing side effects of the drugs themselves
  • Brain protective (reduces damage incurred from strokes, other potentially brain damaging conditions, i.e. Alzheimer’s, Lou Gehrigs, ALS etc…)
  • Antidote to being over-caffeinated

L-Theanine as a supplement

L-Theanine is available as a supplement (without caffeine), it is considered very safe with little and/or mild reported side effects. There are no known contraindications or interactions. In 1964 the Japanese government approved it as a food additive available for all foods other than infant formula and foods.

Typical dosage is 50 – 200mg at a time, with 200mg being the most common dose. Alpha brain wave levels rise in 30 -40 minutes and the effects last up to 8 hours. Although there are no reported toxicity levels the FDA recommends 1200mg as the upper limit in a 24-hour period.

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