Green tea has been in the news again lately. A new study has found that green tea extract prevents the formation of amyloid plaque—believed to be one of the primary causes of Alzheimer’s disease—and breaks down existing clumps of the proteins in amyloid. Numerous studies have also found evidence that green tea extract can help fight everything from glaucoma to prostate cancer and leukemia.
But did you know that green tea contains an amino acid called L-theanine, which is fabulous for promoting relaxation? It seems contradictory since 8 ounces of green tea contains about 76 mg. of caffeine (a cup of coffee contains 104-192 mg of caffeine), but research with human volunteers has shown that L-theanine:
• Creates a sense of relaxation approximately 30-40 minutes after oral ingestion1
• Stimulates production of alpha brain waves, causing a state of deep relaxation and mental alertness, much like the state achieved during meditation2
• Plays a role in the formation of the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma amino butrylic acid (GABA)—which blocks release of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin3
Increases Mental Acuity
Theanine was given to male rats for four months in order to investigate its effect on memory and learning ability. Rats, by nature, tend to move toward darkness, rather than light. In this experiment, the rats that were given theanine learned to remain in a light room rather than a dark room—in order to avoid an electrical shock—longer than the group that didn’t receive theanine.1
L-Theanine has been shown to be effective for:
• Inducing relaxation throughout the body, without drowsiness1,2
• Combating stress1
• Controlling hypertension4,5
• Improving learning performance1
• Heightening mental acuity1
• Promoting concentration1
• Reducing caffeine effects6
• Supporting the immune system7
L-Theanine provides a number of powerful health benefits by:
• Acting as a neurotransmitter in the brain1
• Lowering blood pressure4,5
• Inducing the emission of alpha-brain waves, an indication of relaxation1,2
• Lessening the stimulant effect of caffeine in green tea on the human nervous system1
• Reducing serotonin levels8
Relaxation without sedation
L-theanine is an ideal nutritional aid for stress because—unlike anti-stress herbs like valerian and kava kava, which make you drowsy—it produces alpha-wave activity that leads to deep relaxation and mental alertness.1,2 This is especially important because in order to mitigate stressful situations, it’s important to remain calm and alert.
So if you are a caregiver treat yourself to several cups of green tea every day. If you don’t like the taste, you can find green teas that are flavored with fruit and herbal extracts, such as on this site, http://www.green-tea-health-news.com/flavored-green-tea.html
And if you don’t want to run back and forth to the bathroom all day, you can try a theanine dietary supplement. No contraindications have been established and information regarding the safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.
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- Juneja, L., Chu, D.-C, Okubo, T., et al. L-Theanine—a unique amino acid of green tea and its relaxation effect in humans. Trends Food Sci Tech 10:199-204, 1999.
- Ito, K., nagat, Y., Aoi, N. Juneja, L.R., Kim, K., Yamamoto, T., Siugimoto, S., Effects of L-theanine on the release of alpha-brain waves in human volutneers. Nippon Nogeikagaku kaishi 72:153, 1998.
- Kimura, R., Murata, T. The influence of alkylamides of glutamic acid and related compounds on the central nervous system: I. Central depressant effect of theanine. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo) 19:1257-1261, 1971.
- Yokogoshi, H., Kato, Y., Sagesaka, Y., Matsuura, T., Kakuda, T. and Takeuchi, N. Reduction Effect of Theanine on Blood Pressure and Brain 5-Hydroxyindoles in Spontaneously Hypertensive Rats’. Biosci. Biotecnol. Biochem. 59, 615-618, 1995.
- Yokogoshi, H. and Kobayashi, M. Hypotensive Effect of y-Glutamylmethylamide in Spontaneously Hypertensive Rats. Life Sci. 62, 1065-1068, 1998.
- Yamamoto, T. (ed) Chemistry and Applications of Green Tea. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 1997.
- Information sheet Edina, MN: Taiyo International,Inc., undated
- Yokogashi, H., Mochizuki, M. and Saitoh, K. Theanine-Induced Reduction of Brain Serotonin Concentration in Rats. Biosci. Biotechnol. Biochem. 62, 816-817, 1998.