Obtained primarily from green tea, the nootropic L-Theanine is a water soluble amino acid that has been used as a dietary supplement for decades now. Its history relates back to 1949 when it was discovered as a constituent of the green tea and isolated from the leaves of Gyokuro (a type of a shaded Japanese green tea) in the year that followed. Since then, L-theanine has been approved for supplementary use in most countries. In the United States, an edible mushroom known as Boletus badius was also found to contain the chemical. It, however, has less than the content in green tea.

Perhaps the traditional Chinese and the Japanese who even went to an extent of celebrating green tea had a hint of its medicinal importance. Research and new discoveries have had lots of propositions proclaiming the authenticity of the L-theanine. Apart from being used for medicinal purposes, in 1964, Japanese government legalized the use of the chemical in virtually most foods and drinks but in safe quantities. This was more than the addition of flavor and taste. L-theanine has also been used to treat anxiety, depression and providing general relaxation hence relieving stress. It has been administered to make cancer drugs more effective and in fighting a disease known as Alzheimer’s. There are also studies that relate it to focus and the general concentration.

How L-Theanine works

The body has a naturally occurring amino acid called glutamate. This chemical helps in transmitting nerve impulses in the brain. The L-theanine has a very similar structure to this amino acid. Some of the impacts of L-theanine have been observed to be similar to the effects of glutamate. Extensive research has also realized that L-theanine appears to block glutamate. It, therefore, results in an inhibitory effect. Since it is a psychoactive substance, L-theanine has access to the part of the brain that controls mental abilities such as perception, the speed of thinking and the mood that one is in. The inhibition to the brain’s over-activity will thus bring about a relaxation effect on the brain and consequently the general body. It is also thought to be more effective when combined with caffeine, a substance found in green tea too.

Fighting anxiety with L-Theanine

Several, though insufficient studies have been done to prove whether the L-theanine truly regulate anxiety. Most of these studies have recorded inconsistencies as different researchers come up with varying opinions. In spite of these disparities, there are numerous cases that L-theanine has proved effective. Earlier research showed that using L-theanine would magically provide the tranquility that a stressed or depressed person needs. To some extent, this is true. Researchers that support this have had convincing evidence to justify it.

In the journal of physiological anthropology, a Japanese study was done using the college students. The research found out that students who took the L-theanine supplements experienced less anxiety and minimum blood pressure increase when subjected to either physical or psychological stress compared to those who used a placebo. Another preliminary Israeli study recorded in the Journal of clinical psychiatry found out that individuals who took L-theanine reduced the symptoms of anxiety and improved antipsychotic treatment for schizophrenia patients between the age of 15 to 55 years.

Apart from the inhibitory properties of L-theanine, it also stimulates the production of an inhibitory neurotransmitter known as GABA which bring about relaxing effects. Some other anti-anxiety drugs which are known to mimic how the GABA works, are normally accompanied by undesirable side effects. Some of which may include drowsiness and general inactivity. L-theanine has little or no such effects.

L-theanine for focus

L-theanine has gained popularity over the recent years in the psychiatric world. As an alternative to the use of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), L-theanine has proved quite effective for regaining lost focus. Unlike the other drugs that could possess unbearable side effects, L-theanine has minimum effects regarding its functionality. Testimonies of individuals who have kept themselves focused with the help of this supplement are rampant. Suggestions concerning how to take the supplement to achieve great have been made. One study realized that mixing the supplement with coffee escalates concentration and high-speed thinking by far. The two are believed to work harmoniously to bring about a good mental order and processing.

A study done at the university of Shizuoka in Japan in 1999 realized that apart from curbing anxiety, L-theanine has a significant positive impact on the mental clarity, learning, and concentration of individuals. In a recent study done in 2011, where students were given 200mg of L-theanine, the researcher observed that the students’ heart rate reduced to a manageable rate and the general concentration improved.

The problem of lost focus or concentration is often common among children and adolescents. Some people opt to give their kids the ADD medications which obviously have several undesirable outcomes. People have, however, realized the necessity of an alternative with lesser effects. This is why the use of L-theanine to regain focus among the children instead of the ADD have been suggested.

Good sleep with L-theanine

Though this may look contradictory with the fact that L-theanine does not cause drowsiness and instead improve mental alertness, it has been found to balance the wake-sleep cycle. Well, it is about the sleep quality. The dietary supplement brings about relaxation which is paramount to good sleep. A research was done in 2004 where 32 men were either given 200mg of the supplement or a placebo every day before bedtime for six days. Their sleep patterns were then recorded in wrist devices. Though the men who took the supplement didn’t sleep longer or shorter, they had a better sleep than the placebo. They had quality sleep, quick recovery from exhaustion and got refreshed well.

Other benefits include:

Boost immune system

A pilot study and a small clinical trial done in vitro studies suggested that the L-theanine enhances the gamma-delta T lymphocyte function which does a key role in reducing cold and influenza symptoms as well as heightening cancer prevention.

Reduction of the PMS symptoms

In 2008, a study realized that the dietary supplement could reduce the effects of the premenstrual syndrome. It proved more effective in suppressing the symptoms of anger, irritability, crying and mood swings.

Side effects

Presently, there are no known side effects. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted it GRAS (generally recognized as safe) and therefore allowed to be used in the U.S.

Dosage and availability

200mg have been recommended my most of the studies. This is the dose that general suits most purposes. The good side of it is that it can be taken anytime whether with food or without food. The supplement can be obtained from any local drug store within the countries that legalize its use, for example, Japan, the United States, China, among other countries.