Exploring The Impact Of L-Theanine On Anxiety And Wellness
L-theanine—sometimes referred to as simply “theanine”—is a naturally occurring amino acid found in certain foods. Research as well as a long history of use across cultures suggests that this substance can have calming effects, which may be beneficial for those experiencing anxiety. Read on to learn more about L-theanine and its potential positive effects.
What is L-theanine?
L-theanine is an amino acid that can be found in certain teas, such as green, black, and oolong, and in some types of mushrooms. Supplements for L-theanine are also available in the form of powders, capsules, and liquids. It’s been used by people of various cultures for centuries to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation, and recent research suggests that it can also improve attention, memory, and other aspects of cognitive and executive function.
Although researchers aren’t sure exactly how L-theanine works in the body, it’s widely believed that it increases serotonin and levels of GABA—a neurotransmitter that plays a role in nervous system regulation—in the brain. The combined effect is the relaxation of the nervous system and a reduction in stress hormones like cortisol. Studies suggest that consuming 200 mg of L-theanine daily can help reduce stress levels significantly within eight weeks or less with no known adverse side effects. Again, it’s important to speak to your doctor before beginning any new vitamin or supplement regimen.
The relationship between L-theanine and anxiety
Because L-theanine seems to help balance levels of various neurotransmitters related to stress, it can have positive effects on common symptoms of anxiety, such as:
- Excessive worry and rumination
- Muscle tension
Researchers have examined this relationship in an attempt to learn more about how natural substances like this may benefit those experiencing mental health disorders like anxiety. One placebo-controlled trial conducted in 2021 suggests that L-theanine can help reduce anxiety symptoms. It notes that the supplement “significantly increased frontal region alpha power compared to placebo in response to an acute stress challenge”, changes that are “indicative of relaxation in the brain and suggest a calming response.” The researchers also note that the supplement was found to be “safe and well-tolerated by participants.”
The relationship between L-theanine and ADHD
Because of its effects on neurotransmitter levels, L-theanine may also help reduce symptoms of other conditions as well—including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This disorder is estimated to affect 4.4% of adults and is characterized by difficulty focusing, impulsive behavior, and/or over-activity.
Research may support the potential link between L-theanine and reduced ADHD symptoms. A 2021 review of studies on the topic, for example, indicates that the combination of L-theanine and caffeine in particular may result in improvements in “short-term sustained attention and overall cognition”. Similarly, a 2019 study found that L-theanine, caffeine, and/or the two in combination “seem to improve sustained attention and overall cognitive performance” in children with ADHD by decreasing mind wandering. Note, however, that L-theanine may lessen the effectiveness of certain stimulant medications often prescribed for ADHD, so ask your doctor before taking it.
Other potential benefits of L-theanine
This substance may also have other positive health effects. Because it’s thought to increase dopamine levels in the brain, it can help support positive mood—which is why it’s being explored as potentially beneficial for those experiencing major depressive disorder. It may also help promote a state of relaxation in the brain that makes it easier for people to get quality sleep—which has links to a variety of physical and mental health benefits. Plus, sleep disturbances are frequently associated with both depression and anxiety, so L-theanine may help mitigate symptoms in this way as well.
Is L-theanine safe?
Again, it’s recommended that you consult with a licensed healthcare provider before taking any kind of supplement or significantly altering your diet. One reason is that some supplements can cause negative interactions with certain medications. A medical professional can also help you determine an appropriate dose if they decide that this supplement is safe for you to take. Consuming too much L-theanine can lead to headaches, nausea, and other side effects.
It’s also worth noting that while the safety and potential short-term benefits of L-theanine have been well-documented, there’s a lack of research on the potential long-term effects of consistently taking this supplement. It’s another reason why you should consult with your doctor before beginning any supplement use, especially if it’s over the long term.
Other treatments for anxiety
To reiterate, L-theanine is not considered to be a comprehensive treatment for clinical anxiety disorders or other mental health disorders. Like other lifestyle changes—such as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly—it simply has the potential to help reduce symptoms and/or enhance the effects of professional treatment.
Treatment for anxiety typically consists of some form of psychotherapy, sometimes in combination with medication. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in particular is one of the most common forms of talk therapy for people with anxiety disorders. The aim is to help an individual learn to recognize and shift distorted thought patterns that may be contributing to distress and other symptoms. A therapist can also help a person learn healthy coping mechanisms that can assist them in managing symptoms as they arise.
For some people with anxiety, the thought of meeting with a healthcare provider in person may seem intimidating and could even cause a spike in symptoms. Research suggests that online therapy can result in “sustained, clinically meaningful improvements” in anxiety symptoms just as in-person therapy can, so those who prefer this method may feel empowered to choose it. If you’re interested in trying online therapy, you might consider a platform like BetterHelp. You can get matched with a licensed therapist who you can meet with via phone, video call, and/or in-app messaging to address the challenges you may be facing—and all from the comfort of home or anywhere you have an internet connection. Whatever method you may choose, effective, compassionate support for anxiety symptoms is available.
What does taking L-theanine do?
Many who live with chronic physical and psychological stresses choose to take L-theanine, as data suggests that L-theanine enhances sleep quality, feelings of calmness, and one’s ability to stay grounded and mindful. Several studies also suggest that L-theanine supports general disease prevention and can healthfully and safely lower one’s blood pressure.
L-theanine is a compound that occurs naturally in green tea (alongside green tea catechins) and is partially responsible for its light, springy flavor. Due to its ability to positively impact cognitive function, many scientists are considering researching the compound as a possible functional food additive. Some also regard L-theanine as a natural brain-derived neurotrophic factor.
Is it OK to take L-theanine daily?
Additional research is needed to determine the full scope of benefits or considerations when it comes to taking L-theanine supplements daily. While the compound can be found naturally in green tea (alongside green tea catechins), too much of it can lead to headaches, poor sleep quality, and lethargy.
L-theanine supplements in small and regulated doses, however, can lead to lower blood pressure. Additionally, much like how caffeine improves cognitive performance; L-theanine can as well—possibly offsetting symptoms that can be associated with generalized anxiety disorder while boosting cognitive function.
What are the side effects of L-theanine?
L-theanine is known to many as one of the naturally occurring amino acids that can be found in green tea. However, there are potential side effects that could be associated with consumption of the compound.
Possible side effects of L-theanine primarily include lower blood pressure and increased cognitive function. If taken in excess, the person taking it may experience a headache or lethargy.
Beyond the role of L-theanine in supporting one’s blood pressure, L-theanine enhances recovery when it comes to symptoms associated with depression, brain injury or anxiety disorder. For example: In clinical studies, L-theanine enhances the recovery process in patients who have experienced ischemic delayed neuronal death. To many, this would be a diagnosis that would otherwise pose a lengthy healing process, and possibly mild cognitive impairment in some.
Is L-theanine good for ADHD?
L-theanine can be helpful for those who experience ADHD. Many sources report anecdotally that people who live with the condition find it easier to focus if they consume caffeine (i.e., via green tea or coffee).
Researchers have since reviewed evidence associated with caffeine stimulation evaluated against L-theanine-related stimulation in people who live with the condition. L-theanine was clinically suggested to increase the presence of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in the body, which plays an integral role in plasticity, learning, and memory.
This evidence suggests that L-theanine may benefit individuals who live with ADHD. They may also experience additional secondary benefits associated with green tea or L-theanine as a compound; such as lower blood pressure and a sense of calm.
Is L-theanine for energy or sleep?
L-theanine can be for both energy and sleep. Those who live with underlying mental health conditions may respond positively to the relaxed feelings that L-theanine enhances; possibly feeling as if they’ve been given an energy boost. It can also work to calm the body, lower one’s blood pressure, and prepare them for restful sleep.
What time of day is best to take L-theanine?
Currently, there is not a universally accepted “best time” to take L-theanine. Many take it as their schedule allows, whether that’s in the morning or before bed. Those taking it for its soothing, supportive properties may prefer to take it around bedtime to promote restful sleep and lower blood pressure.
It can be important to remember that L-theanine is one of the main amino acids naturally found in green tea. If you find yourself needing extra support, it can be helpful to know that you can likely find green tea around you, which may have lower concentrations of L-theanine.
While this isn’t the same as taking a supplement, it can be a way to reap some of the similar benefits.
How long does it take for L-theanine to start working?
Many people report that it takes about an hour for L-theanine to work. It can be important to remember that people’s bodies are different, however, so this may not be true for all people. If you have questions about absorption or the supplement itself, you may benefit from speaking to your healthcare practitioner.
Does L-theanine really help with anxiety?
L-theanine has been clinically suggested to reduce symptoms related to anxiety disorders of all types.
Can L-theanine cause weight gain?
Recent research suggests that L-theanine can have a suppressive effect on one’s body weight; instead helping them to maintain a healthy weight due to improved sleep and enhanced overall health.
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