What is L-Theanine?
If you’re a tea drinker, you’re probably familiar with the soothing feeling that accompanies a good cup of tea - and now this calming, stress-reducing effect is backed by science! Research shows that tea made from the camellia sinensis plant contains l-theanine, a beneficial compound that helps to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation and wellbeing.
L-theanine is found primarily in tea, as well as in some types of mushrooms. While l-theanine is also available is supplement form, you can reap just as many benefits with an ordinary cup of tea!
How Does L-Theanine Work?
Studies show that l-theanine can help to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. L-theanine works by blocking excitatory neurotransmitters like glutamate, resulting in feelings of calm and relaxation. L-theanine also stimulates a related neurotransmitter called GABA, which produces its own calming, anxiety-reducing effects. Unlike compounds with similar properties, l-theanine doesn’t contribute to drowsiness or a lack of alertness. Instead, the l-theanine present in tea provides a soothing, calming effect without making you feel sleepy!
L-Theanine in Tea
Aside from its potent stress-reducing effects, l-theanine is also responsible for the umami taste in tea. Especially prominent in shade-grown green teas, as well as in teas harvested early in the spring such as First Flush Darjeeling and Himalayan Spring, this savory-sweet characteristic gives tea a rich depth of flavor in addition to its unique health benefits. While studies indicate that green tea and matcha may contain slightly more l-theanine, all types of tea made from the camellia sinensis plant contain some l-theanine, making whatever cup of tea you fancy a healthful choice!
In addition to loose leaf tea, l-theanine is also found in matcha, a powdered green from Japan. Since matcha is made from the whole leaves of tea plants ground into a fine, bright green powder, it contains more concentrated levels of everything that makes tea so healthful, including l-theanine. If you’re not in the mood for a traditional bowl of matcha, you can also add culinary grade matcha to smoothies, lattes, and more.
If you’re looking to cool off in the summer, summery iced teas contain just as many beneficial properties as hot-brewed tea! Tea can even be cold-brewed in an easy overnight method. No matter how you like to enjoy your tea, there will be a healthy dose of calming, soothing l-theanine in every cup.
Tea and Mindfulness
While scientific research has only recently caught up, tea has been used to reduce stress, promote wellbeing, and enhance cognitive function for hundreds of years. Tea is an important component of ceremonies, rituals, and religious practices all over the world, from the matcha-based Japanese tea ceremony to the Gongfu tea ceremony in China and everywhere in between. These unique traditions are often hundreds of years old, and have been perfected over the course of centuries. Tea ceremonies force participants to slow down and engage with the world in a mindful, meditative manner.
Tea preparation and consumption is also especially associated with meditation and mindfulness in Buddhist religious practice. Tea was first incorporated into religious rituals during the Tang dynasty, and became closely associated with temples and monasteries. The l-theanine and caffeine present in tea are thought to aid in mindfulness and meditation by helping to induce a calm, alert state that combines stimulation and relaxation.
Other Benefits of L-Theanine
In addition to its use as an aid for stress-relief and relaxation, l-theanine has been shown to have a variety of related benefits. While l-theanine doesn’t contribute to drowsiness or lack of focus, it can be used as an effective sleep aid to help promote deep, high quality rest. L-theanine also has other beneficial effects including boosting the immune system, reducing blood pressure, and even warding off certain types of cancer. When combined with caffeine in a cup of tea, l-theanine has been shown to promote focus and clarity, making it a great study aid. The combination of caffeine and l-theanine helps to promote cognitive function and increase alertness and attention.
No matter what kind of tea you enjoy, drinking tea can be especially beneficial for stress relief, and can be a welcome moment of calm in an otherwise hectic day. Both scientific research and personal experience suggest that a cup of tea can be a great way to unwind, relax, and destress. Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by life, take a moment to brew up a cup, and enjoy!