Tea: a natural remedy for anxiety?

In days gone by, old England drank tea as a cure-all – perhaps this was not such bad advice.

L-theanine is a potent amino acid that’s primarily found in teas made from the Camellia sinensis plant.  L-theanine acts as a relaxing agent (an anxiolytic) without sedative effects or any of the negative side effects of Benzodiazepines, a commonly prescribed but highly addictive anxiolytic medication.

L-theanine works somewhat similarly to benzodiazepines, by interacting with brain receptors and increasing dopamine, GABA, and glycine levels in various areas of the brain (1, 2).

This in turn calms the central nervous system, producing a sense of calm and also reducing the perception of stress.

L-theanine has also been shown to promote increased alpha-waves in the brain which signify an alert but relaxed brain.(3, 4)

An Australian study in 2004 used 16 volunteers and compared 200mg of theanine to 1mg of Xanax. Subjects were given either theanine, Xanax or a placebo during either a resting task (baseline) or a task that provoked anxiety. Theanine worked better than Xanax to induce relaxation during the resting task, however, neither L-theanine or alprazolam demonstrated any acute anxiolytic effects during the anxiety task. (5)

Supplements vs Tea

There are two main options to start increasing your intake of L-theanine; taking concentrated doses through supplementation or drinking  more brewed tea, which has far lower concentrations than supplements.

The recommended dose for L-Theanine is  100–200mg 1-3 times per day. This is the equivalent to about 8-10 cups of brewed black tea, or 20 cups of brewed green tea daily.

 

Supplements

L-theanine supplements are typically sold as 200mg doses.

Using 1 capsule daily as a maintenance,  or increased to 2-3 capsules daily during periods of increased  anxiety, would therefore be a reasonable approach.

 

Tea

Matcha green tea powder

  • an average cup will deliver about 29mg of L-theanine per 2g matcha.

Black tea

  • A typical 200ml cup of brewed black tea contained approximately 25mg of L-theanine.

Green tea

  • An average cup of brewed green tea contained approximately 8mg of L-theanine.

Brewing Tips. According to researchers from The University of Newcastle in Australia, to get the highest possible amount of L-theanine out of each cup follow these instructions :

  • Steep tea at 80 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes
  • Use water to tea ratio of 20 ml per 1 gram
  • Steep tea that is cut between 0.5 and 1 mm

 

Overall, try starting your day with a decent sized serving of organic stone-ground matcha, and ending your day with one or two capsules of L-theanine before bed. Sweet dreams.

 

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/17182482/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/21861094/
  3. https://koreamed.org/SearchBasic.php?RID=0124KJN/2003.36.9.918&DT=1
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/18296328/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/15378679/

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