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L-theanine is herbal compound that occurs naturally in tea leaves. It has been shown to be an amazingly effective, fast acting anti-anxiety agent. Research on human volunteers has reveals that L-theanine works in several different ways to produce a sense of relaxation within approximately 20 to 40 minutes after ingestion. Theanine’s anti-anxiety effects also help many people with insomnia get to sleep faster.
One of theanine’s mechanisms involves its ability to increase the calming alpha brain waves in humans while decreasing the brain's active beta waves.(1) This helps create a state of deep relaxation and mental alertness similar to what is achieved through meditation and some forms of yoga.
Another reason theanine is an effective anti-anxiety agent is due to the fact that it easily gets crosses the blood-brain barrier where it gets converted into GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) which is the primary calming neurotransmitter in humans.
A third way theanine produces calming effects is that it blocks the binding of the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamic acid to the glutamate receptors in the brain.
One study, published in the journal Human Psychopharmacology, compared theanine with Xanax (alprazolam). In a double-blind trial, volunteers were given either 200 mg of theanine, 1 mg of alprazolam or a placebo on separate occasions. Thus, all participants were tested with each of the three treatments. Following each dose, the researchers recorded measurements of anxiety both before and after an experimentally-created anxiety-producing activity.
The results were remarkable. Theanine (but not Xanax/alprazolam or the placebo) produced relaxing effects at the initial measurement of whether a person felt tranquil vs troubled. This documents that theanine is fast-acting. This is even more impressive because theanine was being compared to a relatively high dose (1 mg) of alprazolam. Lower doses (0.25 to 0.5 mg) of alprazolam are generally used at bedtime as a sleep aid.
Theanine's superior performance compared to the strong potentially addictive benzodiazepine alprazolam is exciting news for people who are seeking a safer more effective therapy from anxiety.
So, in summary, we have a natural herbal compound that gets absorbed, easily enters the brain and gets converted into GABA, it increases alpha and decreasing beta brain waves, and it also lowers the activity of excitatory glutamate receptors. Each of these functions contributes to theanine's calming anti-anxiety effects. Whereas other relaxing products like kava kava, valerian and St. John's Wort can cause drowsiness, theanine does not cause drowsiness, sedation of impair an individual's motor skills.
Anxiety cause sleep problems for many people. Although theanine does not cause drowsiness, its anti-anxiety effects help many people with anxiety get to sleep easier and have better quality sleep.
And there are more benefits. Placebo-controlled studies report that people taking theanine have lower heart rates and lower levels of several stress hormones. Interestingly, brain wave studies report that theanine produces a significantly greater effect in anxious subjects compared to calm subjects.
Theanine occurs in two mirror-image molecules, called L-theanine and R-theanine (labled for “left” and “right”). Since only the L-form is active, only L-theanine is used in commercial products. Hence, L-theanine is often just called theanine. A summary of the research studies conducted on theanine is available at the Suntheanine WEB site.
While L-theanine occurs naturally in tea leaves, a single cup of tea is estimated to contain only about 20 mg of L-theanine, whereas the effective dosage for most studies is 200 mg. Thus, L-theanine supplements must be take in order to achieve its therapeutic effects.
Dose: As a sleep aid, take 100 mg 30 minutes before, or at bedtime. People with persistent anxiety can take 100 mg 2 or 3 times daily.