Gaby Vaca-Flores, RDN, CLE, outlines the benefits of L-theanine, how it helps reduce symptoms of stress, and why it deserves to be part of your routine to support mental health.
If you regularly feel stressed out, you might have tried all the stress-reduction techniques in the book. Ready for one you likely haven’t tried? Taking L-theanine. This amino acid is one of nutrition science’s best-kept secrets—but fortunately, it’s gaining more popularity for its ability to help people feel calm and relaxed.
Here’s an introduction to the benefits of L-theanine and how it positively influences the brain. Plus: need-to-know info on safety and dosage.
What is L-theanine?
L-theanine (or theanine for short) is an amino acid with impressive benefits for mood and cognition. It’s found in green and black tea leaves, as well as some types of mushrooms. But chances are you’re probably not getting much of the amino acid in your diet naturally, which is why it’s also found in supplements in more concentrated forms. L-theanine is a star ingredient in supplements for stress since it promotes calmness and relaxation.
How does L-theanine work?
Numerous studies have investigated how L-theanine influences brain activity.
During stressful events, mood-regulating brain transmitters like GABA can become depleted. L-theanine works to boost their levels back to a healthy range. In addition, theanine can increase other “feel-good” transmitters like dopamine and serotonin.
On the other hand, L-theanine lowers levels of excitatory transmitters that can amplify feelings of stress. For example, L-theanine can prevent excess build-up of glutamate, a brain chemical linked to age-related cognitive disorders that can disrupt the body’s stress response.
Theanine also enhances alpha brain waves. Increasing alpha activity in the brain can result in improved focus and relaxation.
Theanine tends to draw attention for its mood-boosting effects. However, the benefits of L-theanine extend beyond feeling calm.
1. L-theanine improves sleep
Researchers believe that theanine exerts an anxiolytic (aka stress-inhibiting) effect to induce sleep. To support high-quality sleep, the body must calm down. Unlike traditional sleep aids that also have anxiolytic effects, L-theanine promotes better quality sleep without acting as a sedative.
In fact, a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that 200 milligrams of L-theanine resulted in improved sleep quality.
A different study evaluated the effects of theanine on mental health. Since poor sleep can be a secondary consequence of stress, the same researchers simultaneously looked at L-theanine’s effect on sleep quality. Participants saw a reduction in sleep quality problems such as latency and disturbances after four weeks of supplementation.
2. L-theanine ENHANCES COGNITIVE skills
We don’t often associate the words “alert” and “relaxed” too closely. However, L-theanine makes it possible to feel both calm and focused in demanding situations—quite an impressive benefit in and of itself.
One study found that participants who took 200 milligrams of theanine daily experienced significant improvements in attention, performance, and reaction time.
Another study took a closer look at the effects of L-theanine when paired with caffeine. Interestingly, researchers discovered that 97 milligrams of theanine paired with 40 milligrams of caffeine helped participants focus better during a stressful cognitive task and improved accuracy. Study participants also self-reported an improvement in alertness and a reduction in tiredness.
3. L-theanine helps reduce symptoms of stress
The majority of research on L-theanine has investigated its role as a therapeutic agent against stress. More importantly, research has consistently showcased the positive effects of theanine for individuals under stress.
In fact, a systematic review of the literature reveals that 200 to 400 milligram doses of L-theanine resulted in significant stress reduction. A more recent systematic review confirms that theanine effectively reduces stress levels in people facing stressful situations.
We also can’t forget that theanine can help promote a good night’s sleep, which of course can influence stress levels. Moreover, unlike many anti-stress solutions, L-theanine has the ability to enhance relaxation without drowsiness.
Who should try l-theanine?
L-theanine may be beneficial for people who frequently experience feelings of overwhelm and/or have trouble managing stress. In addition, theanine can be helpful if you have difficulty:
- Getting high-quality sleep
- Falling asleep
- Staying focused
- Overcoming brain fog
- Studying or memorizing information
- Feeling alert
L-theanine side effects and dosage
According to the relevant literature, there are no known side effects from consuming L-theanine.
In fact, the Food and Drug Administration has classified theanine as a generally recognized as safe (GRAS) dietary ingredient. Moreover, teas that contain L-theanine like green tea or black tea are safe to drink. Plus, these teas boast a handful of health benefits, so they’re always a great addition to your routine.
Before you brew a pot of tea, keep in mind that a single cup delivers roughly 20 mllligrams of L-theanine. However, most studies have demonstrated a clinically effective daily dose of 200 milligrams. For this reason, supplementing with theanine is recommended for maximum results.
If you’re looking for a supplement that contains L-theanine, ensure that it has a clinically effective dosage. HUM’s Ashwagandha Calm (formerly known as Calm Sweet Calm) contains 200 milligrams of L-theanine as well as the adaptogen ashwagandha, which helps manage the stress hormone cortisol. If you also want to boost metabolism and reduce cravings, try HUM’s Counter Cravings, which contains 200 milligrams of L-theanine to increase relaxation.
L-theanine is an amino acid with a solid reputation for helping people feel calm and relaxed. Unlike its prescription counterparts, theanine can provide stress relief without causing drowsiness. Numerous studies confirm L-theanine’s beneficial influence on mood and cognition. Thus, experts regard it as a safe and effective solution for stress. Since results require higher amounts of L-theanine than green tea or black tea can typically provide on their own, L-theanine supplements are a safe and effective way to go.