- L-Theanine: The Relaxing Compound Found in Tea
- 4 Ways L-Theanine Enhances Your Brain Function
- The Top 5 Health Benefits of L-Theanine
- The Synergistic Effect of L-Theanine + Caffeine
- How Much L-Theanine Do You Need To Feel Its Effects?
- The Takeaway: Is L-Theanine For You?
L-theanine has recently gained popular and scientific acclaim as a natural compound to promote relaxation and focus during times of stress.
It is one of the few nootropic compounds backed by solid research and glowing anecdotal praise.
Better yet, L-theanine can be combined with coffee or other caffeine sources to help prevent any unwanted side effects, like jitters and anxiety (yes, really).
But the benefits don’t stop there.
Scientists are now investigating L-theanine for helping rebalance mood disorders and even protect brain cells.
If you’re a tea drinker, here’s some good news.
Along with potent antioxidants, moderate doses of caffeine, and delicious flavors, tea also contains a unique compound with cognitive-enhancing, neuroprotective, and calming effects[*].
L-theanine or theanine, scientifically known as N-ethyl-L-glutamine, is a powerful amino acid that occurs naturally in all Camellia sinensis teas (white, green, oolong, and black teas).
It was first discovered by Japanese scientists in the 1940s, but has recently stepped into the spotlight as scientific interest in its properties has grown[*].
In nature, L-theanine occurs in just two species: the tea plant and Bay Bolete mushrooms[*]. However, manufacturers also produce theanine synthetically.
Recent human studies have demonstrated profound calming, anti-anxiety, and brain-boosting effects of L-theanine supplementation.
Research shows that L-theanine can promote relaxation without causing any drowsiness, which makes it the perfect supplement for people who need to stay focused and stress-free during cognitively demanding attention tasks[*].
Up next, let’s take a closer look at how L-theanine boosts your brainpower.
L-theanine has four main effects on your brain that make it a powerful ally for getting things done and maintaining a healthy cerebral cortex.
#1: Increases GABA and Other Neurotransmitters in Your Brain
GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, is a brain chemical responsible for keeping anxiety in check, decreasing inflammation and enabling sleep.
Research has shown that L-theanine increases brain GABA, serotonin and dopamine levels, which are all responsible for regulating emotions, mood and sleep[*].
Higher levels of these calming brain chemicals allow you to relax, sleep better, and deal with stress more easily.
#2: Lowers Excitatory Brain Chemicals
Your neurotransmitters are critical in your body’s stress response.
Additionally, research suggests that elevations of “excitatory” brain chemicals like glutamate and acetylcholine are associated with feelings of anxiety and stress. And not only that, but they may even lead to an increased risk of mental disorders[*].
However, studies suggest that L-theanine has the potential to reduce excitatory brain chemicals and even protect brain cells against stress and age-related damage[*].
#3: Increases Alpha Brain Waves
Brain waves are a measure of the electrical activity in your brain, measured in cycles per second or hertz (Hz). They typically range from about 1-100 Hz[*].
Alpha brain waves, between 7-13 Hz, indicate a state of awake relaxation, or “calm focus.” This is the mode in which ideas come readily and creativity skyrockets–but you’re still feeling chill. Think meditation, or a flow state.
Several trials performed on both high-anxiety and low-anxiety test participants concluded that L-theanine supplementation increased alpha brain waves within 30 minutes of administration, which helped foster a relaxed state in both groups[*].
Researchers also reported the intensity of alpha waves was dose-dependent. In other words, the more L-theanine that was administered, the more relaxed the test subjects began to feel[*].
These changes in your brain give you many cognitive perks, which we’ll talk more about shortly.
#4: Antioxidant Effects
Tea is already packed with flavonoids and catechin antioxidants like EGCG, but did you know L-theanine also acts as an antioxidant in its own right[*]?
Whether you take a theanine supplement or imbibe it as part of a tea ritual, this healthy compound works behind the scenes to reduce oxidative stress and prevent wear and tear on neurons in your brain.
#1: L-Theanine Fights Stress and Anxiety
L-theanine reduces anxiety because it shares structural similarities with the neurotransmitter glutamate.
Glutamate, or glutamic acid, is considered the brain’s most important excitatory neurotransmitter.
Theanine has a similar structure, meaning it binds to the same receptors (imagine a lock and key), but L-theanine is inhibitory–in other words, L-theanine can provide an opposite, calming effect that relieves anxiety[*].
In fact, L-theanine can even block glutamate from binding to the glutamate receptors that would otherwise trigger stress responses.
Additionally, L-theanine also stimulates the production of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA. As we discussed previously, GABA is responsible for providing relaxing, anti-anxiety effects[*].
And unlike prescription anxiety drugs such as Xanax or other benzodiazepines, which work by mimicking GABA’s effects, L-theanine provides anxiety-reducing effects without the excess drowsiness and impaired motor function.
Although the anti-anxiety effect may not be as potent as that from prescription drugs, studies show L-theanine can actually improve attention and alertness while keeping the brain relaxed[*]. And of course, it’s not addictive, while benzodiazepines are[*].
Research also shows that supplementing with L-theanine can help prevent the sudden rise in blood pressure and heart rate that people typically experience during times of stress[*].
#2: L-Theanine Boosts Cognitive Function and Protects Brain Cells
There is a strong link between stress, anxiety and your brain’s cognition. Stress has a particularly negative effect on your ability to make decisions, and it can also damage brain cells.
Recent studies find that L-theanine can support cognitive function and improve concentration thanks to it stress-relieving and neuroprotective effects.
Additional research has shown that L-theanine may directly increase measures of attention span and reduce reaction time in people who already experience anxiety[*].
#3: L-Theanine May Reduce the Risk Of Stroke
Keep in mind that unlike most supplements, l-theanine readily crosses your blood-brain barrier. As a result, it can do a lot of good for your brain function and brain health.
And L-theanine also has properties that may help prevent strokes and lessen the damage caused by strokes if or when they happen.
A stroke occurs when there is a blockage of blood to the brain, which results in the loss of brain cells. Strokes are either ischemic (due to lack of blood flow) or hemorrhagic (due to bleeding).
Animal trials have also demonstrated that L-theanine consumption twelve hours after a stroke may protect brain cells and decrease brain damage[*].
Even if you’re at low risk for a stroke, keep in mind that L-theanine has other related benefits for brain blood flow, cognition, and neuroprotection.
#4: L-Theanine May Improve Immune Function
According to one study, L-theanine appears to support a healthier immune response to infection [*].
Additionally, a separate study concluded that L-theanine might reduce inflammation, which could be helpful for people with asthma[*].
#5: L-Theanine Increases Sleep Quality
Although L-theanine doesn’t have sedative properties, it can help you sleep better, especially if you have anxiety.
For example, scientists discovered that people with anxiety got more restful sleep when they took high doses of L-theanine daily[*].
By now, you’ve probably noticed that L-theanine on its own is a serious brain booster–but just wait until you see what happens when you stack it with caffeine.
Monks began drinking tea to achieve a state of zen-like focus during meditation — an effect that’s recently been confirmed by research into the alpha brain wave effects of L-theanine.
Researchers think the focus-boosting effects of tea occur due to the synergistic action of two components in green tea leaves: L-theanine and caffeine.
When they take this combo, people often report:
- Increased focus
- Improvements in the ability to multitask
- Increased learning ability
- A deepened state of relaxation
- Fewer anxiety symptoms
- Less psychological stress
…and in this case, research appears to backs up anecdotal experience.
A systematic review and meta-analysis found that L-theanine has acute effects on cognitive function and mood, especially when combined with caffeine[*].
In the study, caffeine with L-theanine improved alertness, calmness, contentedness, attentional switching accuracy, and attention overall in the first two hours after taking it.
Another study[*] found that combining 250 mg of L-theanine and 150 mg of caffeine…
- Sped up reaction time
- Accelerated working memory reaction time
- Increased accuracy
- Boosted alertness
- Decreased headaches and fatigue
But perhaps most remarkably, L-theanine also “mellows out” the effects of caffeine–in other words, it decreases the jitters and anxiety you might expect from indulging in too much tea or coffee[*]!
This gives your body and mind a feeling of relaxed focus that couldn’t be achieved by either caffeine or L-theanine alone.
Most studies show effects of consuming 100-200 mg of L-theanine once or twice a day[*].
Therefore, feel free to experiment with different dosages to discover what works for you.
As a result, you may need to supplement to experience the full range of health benefits (or drink 3-6 cups of green tea, which is fine if you love tea).
There have been no reports of adverse effects from taking too much L-theanine. That said, you should always talk to your doctor before starting a new supplement–especially if you’re pregnant, take medication, or have a medical condition.
Using a supplement that contains L-theanine, like Keto Nootropic, can help you experience all the brain-boosting perks without having to drink endless cups of tea.
Keto Nootropic also contains other six nootropics besides L-theanine, which help boost your productivity, energy, attention, and creativity.
The overwhelming amount of research demonstrating L-theanine’s effectiveness for achieving a state of “relaxed focus” has made it one of the most popular nootropics, and it’s certainly among the safest, too.
L-theanine’s ability to boost the neurotransmitter GABA, stimulate alpha brain waves and lower excitatory brain chemicals makes it a noteworthy alternative to anti-anxiety medication, and it relaxes you without causing drowsiness.
Beyond relaxation and stress reduction, L-theanine can also protect your brain cells, improve your sleep quality, and ensure heart health.
To get the most brain benefits out of this helpful compound, find a high-quality supplement like Keto Nootropic — and mix it with your morning coffee for ultimate focus.
Whether you are a biohacker or simply looking for a natural way to relax, L-theanine is certainly worth a try.