Tea – the ultimate chill out beverage
After water, tea is the most consumed beverage in the world. Science is revealing what many of us have known experientially – tea can help the body rejuvenate, relax, and focus the mind1.
Theanine, a non-protein amino acid in tea (Camellia sinensis) is the primary substance responsible for these effects. It is found in all tea but is highest in green tea (Matcha, Gyokuro and Sencha) and is responsible for the sweet, umami taste of tea 2.
What does theanine do?
It helps the formation of our calming and relaxing neurotransmitter – GABA by preventing an excitatory neurotransmitter, glutamate from being active in the brain 3. Theanine is not sedating. It stimulates the production of alpha brain waves, which are associated with deep relaxation and mental alertness. These types of brain waves are similar to those produced by experienced meditators 1.
The effects are felt within 30-40 minutes and last up to 5hrs 4.
You may have noticed that tea does not have the same ability to keep you awake as coffee, this is because the theanine in tea balances out the caffeine making it less stimulating and more energising.
- Support healthy blood pressure
- Improves learning and memory
- Heights mental focus and concentration
- Decreases the effects of caffeine
- Supports the immune system
- Reduces the impacts of stress
- Reduces anxiety
How does it help with sleep?
If theanine is not sedating how does it benefit sleep? It’s ability to promote relaxation and reduce nervous system over-excitation is thought to be its mechanism for helping sleep 2. Theanine can be useful if the reason you’re not sleeping is due to an overactive, stimulated mind. It’s relaxation properties helps stress coping mechanisms reset while you are asleep.
A study of 98 children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) found it significantly improved their sleep quality and efficiency without any daytime drowsiness 5.
How to use it
A cup of green tea has about 40mg of theanine, but there is also caffeine so while you can drink tea during the day to get your dose of theanine for sleep, it’s probably best to not consume it in the late afternoon or evening.
Theanine is also available as a supplement. This is useful if you are using it at night as you’ll get the benefits of the theanine minus the stimulating effects of caffeine. Lower doses improve concentration and increase performance under stress, and higher doses promote deep relaxation.
So if you need to support your evening relaxation to encourage deeper and more refreshing sleep theanine may be just what you need.
Norelle Hentschel is a degree qualified Naturopath and operates a clinic in Crows Nest, North Sydney. She enjoys helping people feel better and can assist with a broad range of health conditions or general health maintenance.
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- Mason R. 200 mg of Zen – L-Theanine boosts alpha waves and pomotes alert relaxation. Altern Complement Ther. 2001;April:91-95.
- Unno K, Tanida N, Ishii N, et al. Anti-stress effect of theanine on students during pharmacy practice : Positive correlation among salivary α -amylase … Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2013;111(September):128-135. doi:10.1016/j.pbb.2013.09.004.
- Lardner AL. Neurobiological effects of the green tea constituent theanine and its potential role in the treatment of psychiatric and … Neurobiological effects of the green tea constituent theanine and its potential role in the treatment of psychiatric and neurodege. Nutr Neurosci. 2015;(October):163-167. doi:10.1179/1476830513Y.0000000079.
- Kimura K, Ozeki M, Juneja LR, Ohira H. l-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses. Biol Psychol. 2007;74(1):39-45. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2006.06.006.
- Kapoor M, Lyon M, Juneja L. The effects of L-theanine on objective sleep quallity in boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Altern Med Rev. 2011;16(4):348-354.