L-Theanine: The Amino Acid That Fights Anxiety and Sleep

It is considered a non-essential amino acid because although it has certain benefits, we do not require it from our diet.

L-theanine (also called theanine, or sometimes r-glutamylethylamide) is an amino acid that impacts nerve impulses in the brain and the release of neurotransmitters, including GABA.

It is known as a natural anansiolytic because it can have a calming and sedative effect on the body and mind without making you feel drowsy, which is why it is often used to reduce anxiety, hyperactivity, and sleep-related problems.

Most people do not get much theanine from their diets as it is not available in many commonly eaten foods.

It is a unique amino acid because it is not used to make proteins, unlike many other amino acids, such as l-carnitine, leucine, lysine, methionine, or tryptophan, and it is not used to make enzymes.

The major sources of L-theanine in our diets are green, black, and white teas, but since most people don’t drink large amounts of tea on a daily basis, L-theanine supplements can be beneficial.

Drinking tea and taking L-theanine supplements has been shown to help reduce the effects of stress, protect the brain, support the cardiovascular system, and much more.

What does L-theanine do for you?

It is used to help prevent and treat conditions, including:

  • Anxiety, depression, and other mood-related disorders.
  • Insomnia and trouble sleeping.
  • Cognitive loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Withering attack.
  • High blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Schizophrenia.
  • Little attention.
  • Substance dependence.
  • Helps improve the effects of drugs used in cancer treatment.

L-theanine and the amino acid glutamine are structurally similar but have different effects and benefits.

Both can be beneficial for general mental health and energy levels, but theanine is better able to act as a natural stress reliever.

Glutamine is one of the 20 naturally occurring amino acids in dietary protein and is the most abundant amino acid in the bloodstream, accounting for 30 to 35 percent of the amino acid nitrogen in the blood.

Glutamine is necessary to make the neurotransmitter glutamate. Glutamate is considered an excitatory neurotransmitter, but L-theanine binds to the same receptors in the brain as glutamate and therefore has opposite inhibitory effects.

Is L-theanine the same as caffeine?

No, the two are different, although both are found in beverages, including green tea. Because L-theanine tends to promote relaxation, while caffeine promotes alertness, the two have opposite but complementary effects.

However, studies suggest that both L-theanine and caffeine may have beneficial effects on cognition and mood when used appropriately.

5 benefits of L-theanine

What are the benefits of L-theanine?

Here are five ways you can benefit your sleep, mental health, cognition, and more.

1. It can help relieve anxiety and reduce the effects of stress

One of the most researched L-theanine benefits is its ability to promote relaxation and combat stress. It is said to be “a non-sedating relaxing agent,” meaning it can help improve your ability to cope with stress without making you feel lethargic or tired.

If you suffer from nervousness, anxiety, depression, or other stress-related issues, you can likely benefit from L-theanine’s relaxing effects, although it likely won’t have a strong enough effect to reduce severe anxiety.

In one study, L-theanine was shown to lower scores on an anxiety and tension test compared to placebo. The effects of L-theanine and caffeine on mental task performance and physiological activities were investigated.

The participants were placed in conditions of physical or psychological stress, in which they took orally L-theanine and placebo, caffeine and placebo or placebo only.

Results after mental tasks showed that L-theanine significantly inhibited stress-associated blood pressure rise, while caffeine tended to have similar but smaller blood pressure inhibition.

What does L-Theanine do to the brain to help calm it?

L-theanine has anti-stress effects because it inhibits (blocks) the excitation of the cortical neuron.

Theanine has been found to cross the blood-brain barrier, especially when given as an injection, and when taken orally it can increase brain concentrations of the compound for up to five hours.

Theanine appears to affect two important areas of the brain called the amygdala and the hippocampus, which help control fear responses and memory.

Theanine can also increase alpha brain waves (α waves), which are associated with a state of “awake relaxation,” mechanisms of selective attention, arousal, and mental alertness.

One study evaluated the effects of L-theanine on brain waves 45, 60, 75, 90 and 105 minutes after ingestion of 50 milligrams of L-theanine.

The results showed that there was a greater increase in alpha activity over time in L-theanine status relative to placebo.

According to the study authors, “These data indicate that L-theanine, at realistic dietary levels, has a significant effect on overall mental alertness or arousal.

Furthermore, alpha activity is known to play an important role in critical aspects of attention, so further research is focused on understanding the effect of L-theanine on attention processes. ”

2. It can help improve sleep and fight insomnia

Why is L-theanine good for sleep?

Mainly because it helps reduce stress and anxiety, which can keep you awake at night if you are constantly worrying, tossing and turning. The effects that theanine has on sleep are mild, so it will not work for every person to improve the quality of sleep.

While it may have positive effects on sleep quality, it is probably not enough to help a person with moderate or severe insomnia get a good night’s sleep.

Certain studies have found that L-theanine can help improve sleep quality in people with conditions that cause hyperactivity, including ADHD.

Another positive attribute of L-theanine when it comes to sleep is that it can counteract the effects of stimulants. This means that if you drink a lot of coffee or use other stimulants for medical reasons, the calming effects of L-theanine can help reduce wakefulness, nervousness, etc.

Some people choose to take L-theanine and melatonin together to help them sleep. A common dose is around three grams of melatonin before bed with 100-200 milligrams of L-theanine.

The two can work together to reduce stress and help with sleep quality, although L-theanine taken in high doses (over 600 milligrams) can have opposite effects.

3. It can help improve attention

Some people choose to use L-theanine and caffeine together to improve alertness, cognition, and attention.

The two have a “synergistic” relationship and can lead to better focus without feeling too “wired” or nervous. For this purpose, consuming approximately 200 milligrams of L-theanine and caffeine tends to produce the best results.

4. Can help protect memory and cognition

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, patients with mild cognitive impairment were given 360 milligrams of green tea extract along with 60 milligrams of theanine (a combination called LGNC-07) three times a day for 16 weeks.

The researchers found that LGNC-07 helped improve recognition skills without having any negative effect on verbal and visuospatial memory.

According to the study researchers, “Theta brain waves, an indicator of cognitive alertness, increased significantly in the temporal, frontal, parietal and occipital areas after three hours in the open and eye reading states.

Therefore, this study suggests that LGNC-07 has potential as an intervention for cognitive enhancement ”.

One way that L-theanine can help protect the brain is by preventing excessive glutamate stimulation of brain cells (excitotoxicity), which some believe is linked to neurodegenerative disorders, stroke, and schizophrenia.

By blocking some of the effects of glutamate, L-theanine may offer neuroprotection for the aging brain.

5. May help support cardiovascular health

Green tea is the main source of L-theanine, and many studies have found evidence that green tea can help reduce inflammation and support heart health.

Some experts believe that green tea is protective of cardiovascular health primarily because it provides theanine, rather than other active compounds such as the catechins in green tea or theaflavins.

Theanine can help prevent blood pressure spikes in response to stressful events and help regulate nitric oxide.

Nitric oxide is a molecule our body produces to help cells communicate, regulate blood pressure by dilating arteries, reducing inflammation, supporting the immune system, improving sleep quality, and more.

The endothelium layer of our arteries produces nitric oxide, which helps relax narrowed blood vessels and increases the flow of oxygen and blood.

Adequate nitric oxide production can help protect against clots or blockages that block the arteries, heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular problems.

Some studies have also found that giving L-theanine after a stroke, ideally within 12 hours but potentially up to 24 hours later, can help protect brain cells and reduce damage caused by stroke.

In studies conducted on roundworms (the species C. elagans), supplementation with theanine has been shown to help slightly increase life span and promote longevity.

Roundworms that were exposed to L-theanine in high concentrations experienced extended lifespan at an average value of 3.6 percent and up to 4.4 percent.

The researchers did not find that more theanine will provide more benefits when longevity arrives; a dose at the lower end of the range was actually the most effective.

L-theanine Food / Beverage

Is L-theanine natural?

Yes, it is found in certain foods and beverages, including green tea (made from the leaves of the camellia sinensis plant).

Along with caffeine and catechins, L-theanine is one of the main active ingredients found in green tea.

Theanine is believed to actually give green tea its slight umami flavor and help counteract the bitter taste of green and black tea, and other bitter tasting foods like cocoa.

How much L-theanine is in green tea?

L-theanine comprises up to 50 percent of the total amino acids in tea. About 0.9 to 3.1 percent of the dry weight of green tea leaves is theanine. This equates to about 25 to 60 milligrams of theanine per 200 milliliters of tea, or about 6.7 ounces.

This amount of tea is typically made from about 2.5 grams of dried tea leaves. The theanine content in green tea varies depending on the specific type of tea. Teas made from younger plants have a higher theanine content than teas made from older plants.

The theanine content is also reduced from fermentation (part of the process used to make tea leaves), but it becomes more concentrated when the leaves are dried.

What other foods have L-theanine?

L-theanine can also be found in the leaves used to make black and white teas, although most research has focused on the theanine in green tea. Other plants that provide L-theanine include:

C. japonica and C. sasanqua 

These are small shrubs that produce pink and red flowers. They are sometimes used to make tea, although not as commonly as camellia sinensis.

The species of fungus called Xerocomus badius. Also called a bay bolete, it is a brown, edible, porous mushroom found in Europe and North America.

Side Effects and Precautions of L-Theanine

Is L-theanine safe?

Research suggests that it is safest when used in the short term, for several weeks to four months. It is usually taken by mouth once a day for about three to 16 weeks. It is not clear if it is always safe or effective if taken for longer periods.

How Much L-Theanine Is Safe To Take?

Most people can safely take up to 200 milligrams daily (usually divided into two or three doses), although higher doses of around 400 milligrams have also been used safely.

L-theanine can interact with certain medications, including those taken to control high blood pressure (called antihypertensive drugs) and stimulants.

Theanine can lower blood pressure, so you should not supplement it before speaking with your doctor if you already take medications that lower your blood pressure.

Examples of medications that lower blood pressure include captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), losartan (Cozaar), valsartan (Diovan), and diltiazem (Cardizem).

Theanine will also interfere with the effects of stimulants (including food / drink and medications), as it can slow down the activity of the nervous system.

If you take any stimulant drugs, including diethylpropion (Tenuate), epinephrine, phentermine (Ionamin), or pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), then don’t take L-theanine without checking with your doctor.

While this can be a good thing, L-theanine can also decrease the stimulating effects of caffeine and certain herbs, including coffee, tea, green tea extract, guarana, yerba mate, cola, and other caffeinated soft drinks. and energy drinks.

Because there has not been much research focused on the safety of L-theanine supplementation during pregnancy, it is best for pregnant women to avoid taking L-theanine (although drinking a cup or two of green tea during pregnancy is recommended). considered safe for most women).

L-teanina vs. GABA

L-theanine can help stimulate the production of the inhibitory and relaxing neurotransmitter GABA.

GABA, like serotonin and dopamine, is known as a neurotransmitter. Helps regulate emotions, moods, concentration, motivation, and alertness. GABA can also affect sleep, appetite, and sex drive.

GABA is known to have calming and anxiolytic effects, making it beneficial for lifting your spirits and preventing nervousness or hyperactivity.

By increasing GABA, this is one of the ways that L-Theanine has calming effects. By raising GABA, L-Theanine can help reduce symptoms of depression, such as fatigue, changes in appetite, insomnia, and lack of motivation.

Some anti-anxiety medications work by mimicking the effects of GABA, but these are commonly associated with drowsiness. What makes L-theanine so attractive as a calming agent is that it does not impair motor skills or make you feel tired.

In fact, it can increase alertness and promote relaxation at the same time.

Theanine injections have been found to increase most brain concentrations of GABA, sometimes by as much as 20 percent when given in high doses.

Taking moderate doses of theanine will likely have a slight effect on GABA levels, although it may be enough to cause a noticeable difference in your mood.

Historical facts about L-Theanine (including use in Ayurveda and TCM)

L-theanine was first identified in tea leaves by Japanese scientists in 1949.

One of the reasons scientists began studying theanine was because it was believed to be a source of umami, which basically means a suffocating, salty taste that is only found in certain foods like meat, fish, mushrooms, and some vegetables.

Researchers believe that umami taste may actually affect the brain in a way that helps lower the risk of obesity, stimulates metabolism, alters the perception of bitter food, increases satiety and fullness, and stops hunger. and cravings between meals.

In Ayurvedic medicine, the best source of theanine, green tea, is considered valuable for its high antioxidant content, however, the caffeine in green tea is not recommended for all body types.

Because green tea contains low amounts of caffeine, it is considered a better choice than coffee and other stimulants, especially for Vata and Pita types who can already deal with restlessness and anxiety.

Another reason green tea is considered a healing beverage in Ayurveda is because it can help balance the effects of stimulants and stress.

This is beneficial in achieving dosage balance, especially when green tea is consumed with herbs and spices. Because each type has unique properties, many varieties of tea are included in the Ayurvedic diet, such as:

  • Jasmine green tea, which can also have sedative effects on the nervous system.
  • Moroccan mint green tea, which can help calm digestive problems and nausea.
  • Bancha tea, an expensive tea that is a good source of catechins.
  • Ginger green tea, which supports the immune system and digestive system.
  • Cinnamon green tea, which fights inflammation.
  • Genmaicha tea, which is warm and energizing.
  • Matcha tea, which contains concentrated levels of L-thianine.

Green tea has been consumed in China and other parts of Asia for thousands of years. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), tea is the most beneficial of all herbs and has numerous benefits, including:

  • Improved attention.
  • Immunity support.
  • Balance of body fluid production.
  • Satisfied the thirst.
  • Eliminate heat.
  • Eliminate phlegm.
  • Promotes healthy digestion and urination.

In TCM, the amount of green tea that is recommended depends on the condition being treated. An average of three cups of green tea (approximately 750 milliliters) per day is generally recommended, however, more than 10 cups (2,500 milliliters) can be beneficial for treating certain conditions.

While green tea is most valuable in traditional Chinese medicine, many other types of teas are also recommended, including white, black, and oolong teas.

L-theanine dosage and supplements

Because L-theanine is found almost exclusively in tea leaves, it can be difficult to get enough from food and drink just to notice its positive effects. This is the reason why people use L-Theanine in supplement form.

Theanine supplements generally come in the form of L-theanine, which is the bioavailable supplement form of the amino acid theanine. Suntheanine is a theanine supplement made with a proprietary fermentation process.

While the manufacturers of suntheanine may claim that it is more potent, there doesn’t seem to be much difference between the quality of L-theanine and suntheanine when it comes to efficacy and tolerability.

Where to find and how to use L-theanine

Theanine supplements come in different forms, including capsules, pills, and tablets. To make sure you are buying a quality product, always check the ingredients in the supplement formula.

Buy a supplement that is pure theanine / L-theanine and does not have fillers or other chemicals. Note that some energizing theanine formulas may include caffeine, which would not be beneficial for reducing anxiety or helping you sleep.

L-Theanine is generally taken in doses of 100-200 milligrams per day. It can be taken along with caffeine, but it is not necessary.

The calming effects of L-theanine usually appear 30-60 minutes after taking it.

To help treat insomnia, ADHD, and hyperactivity, doses of 200 milligrams twice a day are generally most effective.

Higher doses of L-theanine, around 400 milligrams, can be used to help control symptoms of schizophrenia or severe anxiety disorders. This dose can be used for up to eight weeks.

To help with anxiety reduction, a combination of L-theanine (400 mg per day) and the hormone pregnenolone (50 mg per day) is sometimes used.

Can you take L-theanine on an empty stomach?

Yes, L-theanine can be taken with meals or on an empty stomach. If you haven’t eaten recently when taking L-theanine, you may feel the effects a bit more quickly and intensely (similar to taking caffeine with a meal versus alone / on an empty stomach).

If you are using L-theanine to help you sleep, try taking it 30 to 60 minutes before bed.

How to get more L-theanine?

The best way to get L-theanine is to consume high-quality green tea and other black or white teas.

Green tea is believed to be the main source of theanine and therefore the best way to increase your intake, especially since green tea also has other benefits such as providing catechin antioxidants (including epicatechin, epigallocatechin, and gallocatechin) and EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate).

Most experts recommend drinking three to four cups of unsweetened green tea per day for the most anti-aging benefits, but even drinking a cup or two is still a healthy addition to your diet.

The standard way to prepare green tea is:

Put your high quality tea bag or tea leaves (buy organic from a reputable company for the best tea) in your kettle.

Heat or boil the water, but don’t bring it to a full boil and it gets too hot as it can destroy some of the delicate compounds found in green tea leaves.

The “ideal” temperature for preparing green tea is between 160 degrees Fahrenheit and 180 degrees F (traditional Chinese green teas are made at slightly higher temperatures).

Pour hot water into the kettle to drop the leaves for about 1-3 minutes. Larger leaves take longer to rise than smaller, thinner leaves. At this point, you can also add the fresh herbs that you plan to soak.

Once brewed, pour a little tea at a time into each cup so that the strength of the tea is evenly distributed. At this point, you can add a little lemon juice or raw honey as a finishing touch.

Here are some recipe ideas for green tea (although you can also use black or white tea) to help you increase your L-theanine intake:

Make a cup of concentrated matcha green tea.

Try steeping herbs, such as rosemary, ginger, wild sage, oregano, marjoram, peppermint, or dandelion, in tea for an antioxidant supplement and flavor enhancer.

Add chilled green tea or matcha to one of these 34 green smoothie recipes.

Add matcha green tea powder to desserts and baked goods, like homemade berry muffins or pancakes.

Make homemade coconut ice cream with cold green tea and this ice cream recipe.

Final thoughts

L-theanine (or simply theanine) is a non-dietary amino acid found in green, black, and white teas, and can be taken as a supplement.

L-Theanine has relaxing properties without making you feel drowsy. It can be used to make you feel calmer, improve attention span and focus, and support restful sleep.

Not only does L-Theanine calm and focus, it can also help protect the heart and brain, as well as help regulate blood pressure and reduce symptoms of schizophrenia.

The best natural way to get L-theanine is to drink several cups of quality green tea and other teas every day.
L-Theanine is safe when taken in supplement form, but it will reduce the effects of blood pressure medications and stimulants.

The typical dosage is between 100-400 milligrams per day. Some people use low doses of L-theanine and caffeine together to improve focus without feeling jittery.