Theanine – Benefits and Uses of the Latest Supernutrient

couple drinking tea with theanineDid you know that tea is the second most popular beverage in the world next to water?

That’s right, dear readers. Aside from Asians, there are millions of people around the world who drink tea everyday. Because of its popularity, countless varieties of teas were made available – from black tea, earl gray tea, chamomile, lemon, strawberry – and the list goes on.

However, there is one variety that is very popular because of its health benefits: green tea. Based on clinical studies, green tea can improve cardiovascular health, boost cognitive function, helps you in your weight loss and provide relief from anxiety and stress.

So what makes green tea beneficial to your body? Its ingredients, of course! Over the last few years, experts have uncovered an essential ingredient that is found in green tea: L-theanine.

Learn everything about this nature’s supernutrient and find out why theanine and green tea should be a part of your daily consumption.

What Is Theanine? I’ve Never Even Heard of It!

If you find yourself saying these words, then welcome to the club. As a matter of fact, there are not many people who also know about theanine and what it can do to your health.

L-theanine is a water-soluble amino acid that is derived from tea leaves and naturally found in green tea. This evergreen tea, which is native to eastern Asia, has dark green and serrated-edged leaves that are alternate and oval. If you are looking for the best way to get theanine, then drinking green tea or taking theanine supplements where the theanine was isolated are your options.

Aside from tea plant, did you know that L-theanine can also be found in certain mushrooms too? This component was found in Boletus badius, an edible mushroom that is commonly found in the United States during late summer and autumn. This type of mushroom is reddish to dark brown in color with white to yellow flesh.

Theanine has a chemical structure that is similar to glutamate, a naturally occurring amino acid found in the body that helps transmit nerve impulses in the brain. Still, some of the effects of L-theanine can either be similar to or block the glutamate.

What Is Theanine Used For?

Theanine has many uses which can be categorized into two:

  • Traditional or Ethnobotanical – L-theanine was first discovered in 1949 as a constituent of green tea. However, it took several years and experimentation before it was approved for use. Today, L-theanine can be used in all foods such as chocolates, soft drinks and other herbal teas. It also gives additional savory taste to foods and flavour to green tea infusion.
  • General – Aside from satisfying your stomach, L-theanine can benefit your body too. It can affect your cardiovascular system – in a good way, of course – and plays a preventive role in cancer. Aside from this, did you know that L-theanine can also be a good stress reliever because it can induce a relaxing effect to your body? All this may seem promising, however further studies need to be conducted to support and prove these claims.

What Are the Benefits of L-theanine?

You all know what green tea can do to your body. The question now is do you know how L-theanine can work its magic and affect your body in the best way possible? Let’s take a closer look at the different health benefits of theanine.

Say Bye-Bye to Stress and Anxiety

Various studies show that theanine can naturally calm and help your brain focus. It helps center your mind in just one thing by increasing the alpha frequency activity in your brain, instead of letting it run in different directions. In other words, its calming and relaxing properties reduce the symptoms of anxiety, even if you have a serious mental condition. At the same time, L-theanine can improve cognitive function and alertness too.

And the best part? You can experience all of this minus the drowsiness. So, would you still want to go for anti-anxiety medications? Of course not.

When you are under stress, your body releases stress hormones, including cortisol. These stress hormones can disrupt your brain’s neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine which can cause an imbalance in the brain chemistry. As a result, your mood and memory changes, or worse, too much cortisol can even shrink your brain.

The good news is L-theanine can protect your brain from that because of its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, or the protective filter that prevents some compounds from reaching the brain. At the same time, it has neuroprotective effects against environmental toxins and other oxygen-based free radicals, keeping your brain healthy.

Some experts are suggesting that theanine can reverse dementia and help improve the memory of subjects. However, further studies must be made to prove it.

No Sleep? No problem!

Want to know the secret towards a healthier, happier life? A good night’s sleep. It helps your body rest and recovers from your daily activities to help you get enough energy for the following day. Plus, sleep is essential to keep your body strong and function properly.

If you are having trouble sleeping soundly at night, then theanine might be the solution. Researchers in Japan have found out that theanine was able to improve the quality of sleep, speeds up the body’s ability to recover from exhaustion and promote refreshing feeling after waking up.

Also, if you know someone who has an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD, theanine can also help, at least in improving the quality of sleep. Disturbed sleep is a common problem with ADHD, especially among the children, and theanine is a safe solution to address this concern.

Theanine, a Liver Lover

Staying away from liquor and other alcoholic drinks may be the best way to protect and take care of your liver. The good news is L-theanine can also help improve its liver function. In fact, Japanese researchers have shown that theanine can improve liver function by restoring glutathione, a powerful antioxidant, in the liver cells.

So if you really can’t say no to alcohol or you need to take prescription drugs to address your existing medical condition, then take theanine. It can counteract the drug-induced losses of gluthathione and keep your liver in tip-top shape.

At the same time, L-theanine speeds up the removal and lowers the alcohol levels in your body. Theanine breaks down the acetaldehyde, a toxic by-product of alcohol breakdown, and counteracts the free radicals produced from drinking alcohol, thereby protecting your body from further damages.

Say Goodbye to Your Flabs

One of the best ways that can help you in the weight loss department is by taking green tea. Green tea, where L-theanine is found, is known for its weight loss and fat-burning effects. According to an animal-based research published in In Vivo in 2004, theanine and caffeine can prevent weight gain and fight the build up of fat.

Further, theanine is found to lower the triglyceride or fat levels in the blood, making it effective especially when you are trying to cross into the fit and healthy arena.

PMS no More!

Admit it ladies, having that time of the month is not only annoying and irritating but also painful. And that menstrual cramps and other physical and mental symptoms associated with menstruation make you wish you’re not a girl.

Good thing theanine was discovered. It improves those unwanted symptoms that come with menstruation so you can finally stop worrying about that day after your 28-day cycle.

Beating the Common Colds and Flu

Nobody wants to get sick. It’s annoying, irritating and disrupts your normal activities. However, there will be instances that you will get struck with common colds and flu and there’s nothing you can do about it. If that happens, then theanine might just do the trick.

According to a study conducted involving 200 health care workers, those who received theanine were not afflicted with colds and flu. Another study was also conducted involving athletes and the researchers found out that theanine boosts their immune function. Also, a study published in the BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine says that taking green tea-derived theanine and antioxidants in supplement form can prevent flu.

This only shows that L-theanine is a great supplement to prevent getting colds and flu, especially during the sudden changes in the weather. At the same time, it can also be a better and cheaper alternative to influenza vaccination.

An Effective Antioxidant

Antioxidants are needed to keep your body strong. And when it comes to antioxidant, L-theanine definitely has a place on the list. It prevents the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol and even boosts the production of nitric oxide according to the July 2012 Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry issue. Theanine can help you maintain excellent cardiovascular health.

L-theanine = Improved alertness and energy levels.

Did you know that theanine and caffeine can improve your energy levels? If you have been slacking lately, maybe you need some theanine to give you a boost. Theanine can increase the levels of calming neurotransmitters (serotonin and GABA) that can help improve your attention, focus and accuracy especially during a mental exercise or attention-switching tasks.

Alpha Brain Waves and Theanine – Is There Something Going on Between These Two?

Apparently, alpha brain waves and theanine will always be drawn to each other. Alpha brain waves can be detected during a focused, alert and relaxed mental state. Every time you will do your tasks during the day, you need to have a focused mind to do it better. Hence, it is important to boost the frequency of alpha brain waves and one way to do that is by taking theanine.

So what can you get from having an increased alpha brain waves? The right amount of frequency for alpha brain waves, which is eight to thirteen hertz, can:

  • Increase your creativity.
  • Improves on your sports or training performance.
  • Reduces the symptoms of depression and at the same time, relaxes your mind and relieves you from anxiety.
  • Promotes better sleep at night.
  • Slows down your body’s response to stress.

Are there other ways to boost the alpha brain waves?

Yes. Taking theanine can already do the job for you. However, there are other natural ways to help you increase alpha brain waves. You can do this by regular practice of meditation, breathing exercises and even relaxation techniques. These techniques, along with the theanine, can give you a relaxed and alert mental state.

What About Side Effects?

Generally, theanine is safe to use. Medical specialists also say that using theanine as a food supplement poses no threat and until now, there are no harmful effects reported.

The truth is there are only a few studies conducted and limited scientific proof that can explain the safety and correct amount of usage and dosage for theanine. To be safe, L-theanine must be consumed based on various factors such as health, age and any existing conditions. Also, L-theanine must not be used in excess although a cup or two of green tea per day won’t hurt. Since theanine is listed as L-theanine, a dose of 100 to 200 mg once to twice a day is safe.

The bottom line is to consult your doctor and ask about the right amount of dosage. If you are taking anti-anxiety medications, ask your doctor first if adding theanine won’t result in adverse effects. And if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, taking theanine is strongly discouraged.

L-theanine has a lot of health benefits that can promote your overall health. Although the studies revolving around this amino acid are only a handful, you cannot deny the fact – from the green tea alone – that theanine is really beneficial to your body.

Boost your health and try theanine. You can never go wrong with it.

Barbara Komorek

Barbara is the founder and owner of www.leanhealthyandwise.com. She is a former research scientist with a serious passion for health. She enjoys writing about nutrition, wellness and lifestyle and empowering people to take control of their health.