Theanine is one of our favorite supplements to take when you need to relax.
More properly known as L-theanine, it’s a relatively unique amino acid in that it is really only found in the common tea plant, Camellia sinensis. Many types of tea, including black and green teas, are made from this plant. This may be part of why having a cup of tea can be so relaxing, despite the caffeine content!
L-theanine is most often used for promoting a relaxed state. It does this by enhancing production of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, as well as GABA, which is our chief ‘relaxing’ neurotransmitter. Theanine balances out our neurotransmitters when we’re in stress mode.
By the way, GABA is another popular supplement that is also used to promote relaxation. Some research says it can’t cross the blood-brain barrier, thereby limiting its efficacy. Clinically, I’ve seen it work well in some people and not at all in others. This is why I favor theanine over GABA as theanine seems to work for most everyone.
Back to theanine – there are some interesting studies showing that it can modify brain waves (in a positive way) and a kind of side effect of this is that it can also help with focus and memory. Taking L-theanine enhances alpha brain waves, which are a marker of a relaxed state. And, it makes sense if our neurotransmitters are tipped into producing a relaxed state, that our focus and memory will be enhanced as well.
How much should you take? Many studies have used 200mg to produce changes in brain waves and a sense of relaxation. L-theanine isn’t a sedative – it won’t make you sleepy, but rather people who have taken it report feeling relaxed yet alert.
That being said, theanine can be used to promote sleep by creating a relaxed state. Several studies have shown that taking theanine greatly improved sleep quality.
Still, theanine is also great for daytime use when stress is high but you need to also stay focused. Generally, its effects can last an hour or two and this is dependent on dosing and your individual metabolism.
Theanine is best used for:
There are no confirmed side effects of theanine or known drug interactions. As always though, your doctor needs to know what supplements you’re taking just to be safe.
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