What is Theanine?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 06 September 2019
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Theanine is an amino acid that is found in green tea. In recent years, this naturally occurring amino acid has been credited with a wide range of health benefits. Considered to be an antagonist to caffeine and other elements that can excite the brain and central nervous system, theanine is understood to have a calming effect that helps to lend balance and focus to the mind.

Often referred to as l-theanine, the substance has the ability to be absorbed into the bloodstream and filter into the brain. Once in the brain, theanine helps to provide the impetus for the production of GABA, which induces a sense of calm and well being. This makes theanine very helpful when anxiety and excess stress are present. By provoking the brain to manufacture more GABA, the excitory action of the neurotransmitters within the system are calmed or switched off. GABA functions as the balancing agent with the neurons that invoke the fight or flight mechanism of the brain, helping to bring relaxation when there are too many “firings” of the excitory impulses.


Because of these relaxation properties, theanine has in recent years become a popular alternative treatment for anxiety and panic disorders. The idea is that because anxiety and prolonged stress tend to lessen the manufacture of GABA in the brain, the natural check and balance system between glutamines and glutamates is undermined. Theanine urges the brain to manufacture GABA and correct this imbalance. This action is different from most anti-anxiety medications, which tend to function by urging the brain to make more efficient use of whatever GABA is present without actually helping the brain to produce more.

Theanine is what gives green tea a calming effect and enhances the mood of the individual. While green tea has a substantial amount of caffeine, the theanine content is usually sufficient to overcome the caffeine and also extend a calming effect as well. Many persons who are stressed or have trouble relaxing after a hard day find that green tea makes a big difference in mood. In general, people find that theanine is helpful in promoting a sense of calm, but not does dull the senses or cause the mind to become unfocused. However, some people do find that excessive amounts of theanine can lead to lethargy or an inability to concentrate.

Among alternative health practitioners, theanine that is in a powder form and sold in capsules may be used to help with anxiety, panic disorders, cardiovascular issues, high blood pressure, and general management of stress. Dosages are generally recommended between 50 and 200 mg. Many practitioners recommend beginning with a smaller dose and refraining from operating heavy machinery or driving until the effect of the dosage is apparent.


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