If you have ever made a cup of green tea, or matcha, to kick back and relax than you probably know the power of L-theanine, the anti-anxiety molecule found in green tea leaves that we are going to discuss in this article.
For hundreds of years in Japan the ritual of serving green tea, known as Chadō or sadō, has been practiced with the goal of bringing yourself, and guests, inner calm and harmony. In 1773, did you know 20% of the tea thrown overboard at the Boston Tea Party was green tea?
Among the many reasons for this herbs lasted value of the more interesting is the discovery of L-theanine. This bioactive amino acid was first discovered by Japanese scientists in 1979 and has been studied to exhibit a variety of interesting beneficial properties.
In the 21st century you can find L-theanine being sold in vitamin shops and online retailers in a variety of forms from drinks to pills and powders being marketed to lower anxiety, improve sleep and even to be paired with caffeine (100mg L-theanine and 200mg Caffeine) as an effective substitute for pharmaceutical stimulants (adderall etc).
So what’s so special about L-theanine?
How L-theanine helps to reduce anxiety
To start, L-theanine has recently been studied to be a source of the 5th taste, Umami. Ever hear of the food enhancer molecule, MSG? Glutamate is the G part of that acronym, and as foods ripen and become mature they naturally gain more glutamate, like tomatoes and cheese.
It is suggested that the more umami flavor you enjoy with a meal, the lower your blood pressure and greater stimulation of your metabolism. Pretty good so far!
But that’s not all. L-theanine has also been shown to increase alpha waves in your brain. Why is this important? Because our brains hum along with the help of billions of neurons communicating with each other, and this humming can be detected via rhythms of electrical pulses. Increasing alpha rhythms is associated with brain states such as meditation and daydreaming.
Take a Breathe
In fact, you can make your brain produce alpha rhythms by just closing your eyes for a moment and taking in a few deep breathes.
L-theanine also increases GABA, a “neural inhibitor” (think of it as brakes for your brain) neurotransmitter that is essential in normal brain functioning and referred to as “nature’s Valium” for it’s anti-anxiety effects. L-glutamine, coincidentally, also helps increase GABA via the Krebs Cycle (the process by which nutrients are converted into cellular energy).
Amazingly, L-theanine has been shown to have almost zero levels of toxicity, dependency, or tolerance build-up.