L-theanine is a safe, effective amino acid nootropic that offer a range of benefits. Naturally found in tea, it improves cognitive function, reduces stress and anxiety, improves sleep quality, and increases GABA levels in our brain.
What is L-Theanine?
L-theanine is a relaxing, non-sedating amino acid that is synergistic with stimulants to ‘take the edge off.’ Especially with coffee, it synergizes so well resulting in clean energy, furthermore preventing the nasty caffeine crash that many people experience after caffeine intake.
It is also useful on its own, promoting relaxation and minimizing stress without causing drowsiness.
A combination of L-theanine with caffeine at a 2:1 ratio is increasing in popularity as a remarkably synergetic combination that boosts cognition and attention.
It is an amino acid that naturally exists in green tea leaves as its main active ingredient, and that is the only source that provides it. It is famous for its fantastic nootropic features such as improving memory, expanding learning capacity, as well as providing a calming, zen-like effect.
“For the most part, it’s a relaxing but not sedating amino acid that is synergistic with stimulants such as caffeine as it can ‘take the edge off’. It is effective by itself in the standard supplemental dosages as well, and although it can be attained via a diet high in green tea ingestion that is the only dietary source of L-Theanine.” – Examine.com
It has also been in the list of 6 best natural nootropics as second to caffeine.
- Reduces Anxiety and Stress
- Enhances Cognitive Function, Improves Memory, Attention
- Enhances Sleep Quality
- Promotes Longevity and
- Increases Lifespan
- Reduces Symptoms of Depression
- Promotes Relaxation without causing Drowsiness
- Significantly Reduces Symptoms of Schizophrenia
- Enhances Blood Flow and Stimulates Nitric Oxide Production
- Reduces Negative Effects of Caffeine
- Improves Cognitive Boosting Effects
Reduces Anxiety and Stress
One of the primary benefits of L-theanine is that it can help to reduce stress. L-theanine is an amino acid that is found naturally in tea leaves. Studies have shown that L-theanine can help to promote relaxation and reduce stress by increasing levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain.
A review by researchers of a small set of trials concluded that there are benefits of L-theanine in reducing acute stress and anxiety in people with stressful conditions. [R]
Oral intake in rats at feasible dosages reduces circulating biomarkers of stress with or without an actual stressor being present. Therefore, it reduces the adverse effects of stress such as memory impairment. Reductions of perceived stress reported in human subjects given oral theanine at the standard dosages. [R] [R] [R]
Enhances Cognitive Function, Improves Memory, Attention
L-theanine has also been shown to enhance cognitive function. One study found that L-theanine improved attention span and reaction time in a group of young adults. Another study found that L-theanine improved memory and task performance in a group of older adults.
In a 16-week long study on individuals with mild cognitive impairment, supplementing with it shows an improved delayed recognition as well as immediate recall comparing to those receiving a placebo during a mental exercise. Furthermore, attention span and alertness levels increased during the memory test. [R]
Improves Sleep Quality
Another benefit of L-theanine is that it can improve sleep quality. Numerous studies have shown that L-theanine can help to improve sleep quality by reducing the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and increasing the duration of deep sleep.
In a study measuring sleep time with individuals supplementing with L-theanine, sleep time increases by 11 and up to 21%, therefore making it a valuable compound for achieving better nighttime sleep. [R]
Promotes Longevity and Increases Lifespan
In a study using the model organism C. elegans, it shows to promote longevity and promote healthy and increased lifespan. Due to those findings, the study suggests that the compound might have similar effects on mammals and humans. [R]
Reduces Symptoms of Depression
L-Theanine intake for a period of eight weeks during an open-label study helped easing depressive symptoms, anxiety, sleep disturbance, as well as cognitive impairments in subject suffering major depressive disorder. [R]
Promotes Relaxation without causing Drowsiness
Theanine is proving to be a great agent in promoting relaxation without the accompanying effect of drowsiness. The company developing ‘suntheanine’ supplement, won the 1998’s Food Ingredient Research Award for the outstanding research and findings. [R]
Significantly Reduces Symptoms of Schizophrenia
In persons diagnosed schizophrenia receiving 400mg in addition to antipsychotic medication for eight weeks were able to reduce anxiety as well as psychopathology symptoms significantly. [R]
Enhances Blood Flow and Stimulates Nitric Oxide Production
Theanine appears to promote nitric oxide formation at relatively low concentrations and is likely practically relevant following oral ingestion. [R]
Reduces Negative Effects of Caffeine
Theanine and caffeine are typically found together in tea. A combination of caffeine and theanine together significantly improves alertness, reduce fatigue, and improves task-switching accuracy.
High dose caffeine (250 mg, equivalent to 2.5 cups of coffee) has some negative effects, such as jitters and increased blood pressure. Theanine was able to mitigate the increase in blood pressure.
“L-Theanine decreases the negative and jittery effects of caffeine in rats. However, human studies found that it helps reduce caffeine jitters, although the changes were not significant. It changes the pharmacological profile of caffeine in humans, as the combination of caffeine and L-Theanine have somewhat different cognitive enhancement effects.” – Selfhacked
Large studies in humans have not been undertaken; however, several smaller-scale studies (fewer than 100 participants) have shown increased alpha wave generation and lowered anxiety, along with benefits to sleep quality in people with ADHD. [R]
Mechanism of Action
How L-Theanine Works
It has a comparable chemical composition to glutamate, an amino acid that assists in the transmission of nerve impulses in the brain.
Thereby, providing a host of benefits for the mind. It has a remarkable ability of crossing the blood-brain barrier, which means that it reaches the brain directly. Furthermore, it has positive effects on stress levels proving to increase both dopamine and serotonin levels in brain; which are two of the brain’s feel-good chemicals.
Green tea is known to be effective at helping people relax due to the positive impact on those neurotransmitters.
Theanine is an antagonist of the NMDA receptors (albeit with fairly weak efficacy) and can inhibit synaptic release of glutamate via blocking the transporter competitively.
It may also reduce glutamate levels, but this is also a fairly weak mechanism requiring a high concentration of theanine – Examine
The effective l-theanine dose is 200mg. For optimal nootropic results, take l-theanine with caffeine (coffee or supplement, whatever suits you) at a 2:1 ratio. As a stack, it would be:
- L-Theanine 200mg
- Caffeine 100mg
For those interested, you can actually purchase a supplement pre-made that has 200 mg Theanine & 100 mg Caffeine pressed into one capsule. I’ve personally used and still use Nootropic Depot’s.
Note: if you have anxiety or hypertension, you may want to skip caffeine entirely as it aggravates the symptoms.
Experimenting is the best way to find out how you react to it.
L-Theanine Side Effects
L-theanine is very safe as very high doses have failed to cause toxicity. However, that doesn’t mean you should go for such high dosage. [R]
L-theanine is exceptionally reliable. Furthermore, it is classified Generally Recognized as Safe by the
Fraud and Deception FDA in the US.
L-Theanine is a natural safe amino acid offering many benefits. It’s a popular choice for individuals wanting a simple and effective way to boost their mental performance. Alone, with caffeine, or even with an advanced nootropic stack; L-theanine is worth trying.
Frequenty Asked Questions
What is L-Theanine and how does it work?
L-theanine is one of the main psychoactive constituents of green tea (camellia sinensis) generally used as a dietary supplement to promote relaxation, lift mood, and reduce anxiety without sedation.
Beyond that, it’s been shown to generate creativity and higher learning via the ability to ignore distracting information during complex tasks.
Now the science: L-theanine induces a calm state of mind by promoting alpha waves in the brain, and has been shown to increase dopamine, GABA, and glycine levels in various areas of the brain, as well as modulate BDNF (Brain derived neurotrophic factor) and NGF (Nerve Growth Factor) levels.
In fact, in one recent animal study l-theanine consumption was associated with about a 25% increase in BDNF and about a 100% increase in NGF in the hippocampus.
L-Theanine has structural similarities to glutamine and both neurotransmitters that are produced from it (GABA and glutamate) help balance and maintain stress levels while maintaining a state of wakeful relaxation.
Lately, L-theanine has been growing in popularity due to its synergistic effects with caffeine to help boost focus. Systematic reviews show that L-theanine significantly mitigates the anxiety inducing side-effects of caffeine to create a balanced focus.
Should I take L-Theanine every time I drink coffee? Are there any adverse effects from long-term L-Theanine usage?
Yes, and no. Let me explain. L-Theanine is a phenomenal compound when mixed with coffee, due to the stacking of effect, as well as the reduction in some of the negative effects of caffeine itself.
For example, in my biohacking course The Alchemist’s Guide To Biohacking, I talk about how I stack coffee blended with grass-fed butter, coconut oil, MCT, L-Theanine, macadamia or almond butter, and sometimes raw honey almost every single morning.
It’s a part of my daily routine, and probably my most favourite (and definitely tastiest) part of it, if I have to choose one.
However, like all compounds I take on a regular basis, I try to observe a 6/1 or 6/2 cycle with them, meaning six weeks on, then one or two weeks off, depending on the compound. This is to reduce dependency, as well as ensure my body isn’t getting used to the effects, resulting in me possibly having to take more.
I’m currently in an off phase now with pine pollen, one of my go-to herbal supplements to boost my testosterone levels.
With L-Theanine, I tend to take a week off at the same time I give myself a week off from coffee/caffeine, as it helps to do both at the same time for me.
Has anyone used L-Theanine as a meditation aid?
When you take L-theanine your thinking will seemingly slow down considerably, but you are not fully conscious when L-Theanine is in your bloodstream.
It shuts off certain areas of the brain and limits the bandwidth of brain waves to predominantly alpha waves (1).
Full meditative consciousness requires great brain wave bandwidth from delta – to high gamma waves and full activity of the neurotransmitter systems. It is best to meditate completely sober, then your brain will adapt properly to fully receive consciousness. Theanine is beneficial though, after it has metabolized by the body.
It acts like an adaptogen and increases strength of brain. Your alertness increases 24 h after consumption and meditation is easier for 48 h.
This is because brain have adapted to the presence of L-theanine, and once it has been metabolized, the brain neurons will fire with greater intensity, until brain is again adapted to absence of L-Theanine. L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state.