L-Theanine: The Latest Reason to Go Green

These days when I am sitting at work, I feel very much like the calm at the center of the storm. I am not sitting in full lotus position on the floor. I am simply a lone green tea drinker surrounded by coffee guzzlers. 

Until recently, I was the poster child for my local coffee shop. I went there so often that the barista would start making my drink as soon as I walked in the door. But I began to notice a couple of things. I was spending almost as much money on coffee as I spent on food, and the coffee was triggering symptoms, such as abdominal pain, gas and bloating.

One afternoon standing in line for my latte, I noticed that the coffee shop also has hot tea. By the time I got to the front of the line, I had decided to try it. It was love at first sip, and I quickly began drinking green tea instead of coffee. Gradually, I began to notice that my stomach did not hurt anymore, and I felt calm and focused instead of wired and jittery.  

It turns out that green tea has been revered in China for thousands of years for its ability to stimulate mental clarity. All real teas (green, black, white and oolong) come from the same plant, Camilla sinensis. Green tea, however, is the least processed of these, which means that it retains more antioxidants. Over 700 distinct compounds have been identified in green tea, but the one that makes me feel good is L-Theanine.

L-Theanine, is an amino acid (a building block of protein).  Because it has the ability to cross the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB), L-Theanine can actually reach the brain and target four key neurotransmitters which regulate arousal, stress, pleasure and attention. As a result, L-Theanine has the ability to:

  1. Increase levels of GABA and dopamine, thereby improving recall, learning and focus.
  1. Address stress, which can help relieve normal digestive issues.
  1. Improve the quality of sleep naturally, without the risk of sedation.
  1. Promote relaxation by actually increasing alpha frequency brainwaves, which are associated with relaxation.

I was getting my L-Theanine by drinking several cups of green tea every day.  However, I recently found out that the recommended daily dosage of L-Theanine is 200-400mg. Since there are only 8mg of L-Theanine in a 6-ounce cup of green tea, I would need to drink 25 mugs of green tea every day. Consequently, I have started taking a supplement that contains 300mg of L-Theanine.

It has been a couple of months since I kicked my coffee habit. I have noticed quite a difference in my level of anxiety and my ability to focus and work without feeling either sleepy or jittery. I guess, when it comes to L-Theanine, the positive effects of green tea are literally all in my head.