L-Theanine probably isn't on the top of your list of amino acids. I can think of five or six others that are much more widely known and used. However, than doesn't mean that its not important. Green tea is rich in L-Theanine and this amino acid is one of the reasons why you feel better after a warm cup of green tea. L-Theanine is an anti-anxiety amino acid. Research shows that it works in a way that is similar to certain neurotransmitters (like GABA and glutamate) to relax the brain without causing a sedative response.
Here are five ways that L-Theanine can help you feel better:
1. Mental Alertness
You’ll feel increased awareness with L-theanine thanks to the way that it exerts influence over the brain’s alpha band. You have probably read about the different frequencies or wave states at which your brain functions. The alpha state is the frequency band that your brain enters when at a resting state. Alpha waves aid overall mental coordination, calmness, alertness, mind/body integration and learning. This means that L-Theanine can help you feel alert, yet relaxed. Part of this comes from the paring of caffeine with L-Theanine. The combination helps you achieve rapid alertness (within about 30 minutes of your cup of tea) for demanding tasks, without the anxious effects of strong caffeine on its own. See here and here.
2. Anxiety and Stress Relief
L-theanine has the potential for serious relief from anxiety or chronic stress. Research finds that L-theanine can prevent low levels of anxiety and promote overall relaxation. A 2007 study showed that L-theanine works by reducing the body’s stress response, like increased heart rate, due to its ability to downgrade the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, the “fight or flight” response.
3. Better Sleep Quality
L-theanine doesn’t induce sleep or cause drowsiness, it may help you to fall asleep faster. Anxiety, stress, and restlessness are often at the root of insomnia. L-theanine calms the area of the brain that constantly runs under this stress pattern, allowing the mind to calm and the body to naturally fall into a state of rest. It appears that L-theanine is especially helpful for those with hyperactivity issues, like ADHD.
4. Supports Immunity
I really like this effect. Stress can damage the immune system in the long-term, resulting in more frequent episodes of illness and infection. Stress downregulates certain immune cells while activating others and this can make us more susceptible to illness and infection. L-theanine counteracts this process by giving a boost to the immune system cells that fight infection and tumors (See this article and this one too about cold and flu symptoms). As a result, L-theanine decreases your chance of getting the common cold or the flu (here and here). In addition, L-theanine can also help those who struggle with allergies. When you take L-theanine, it reduces the release of histamine to prevent immune over-response (here and here).
5. Promotes Healthy Blood Pressure Levels
Stress can also lead to higher blood pressure levels, which can become an ongoing health challenge in chronic cases. So it stands to reason that decreased stress levels would help promote healthy blood pressure levels. L-theanine does more than that, it also supports healthy blood vessel function by boosting natural nitric oxide production in the body, lowering blood pressure during stressful situations.
While cholesterol alone isn’t a risk factor for heart disease and your body, especially your brain, needs cholesterol oxidized LDL cholesterol can be dangerous. Fortunately, L-theanine can protect against oxidation of LDL and hardening of the arteries.
The next time you get the urge for a cup of Joe, give your body a boost and pour a cup of green tea instead.
To your health,
Dr. Dave, ND