Meet L-theanine – The Potent Cognitive Enhancer

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May 8, 2019

Meet L-theanine – The Potent Cognitive Enhancer

Introducing our latest blog with Vivid’s in-house nutritional therapist, Milda.

**Note for readers – we love science. We aim to support all statements about brain health with credible, original scientific papers, not third-hand knowledge or hear-say. You’ll be able to find references to all studies at the end of each blog. If you want any further information please do not hesitate to email us!

If you haven’t yet heard of L-theanine, chances are very soon you will join the committed ‘fan club’ of this incredible powerhouse.

L-theanine is an amino acid found in green tea leaves and especially abundant in matcha green tea. Different to regular green teas, matcha tea is not steeped in bags or a steeper, hence when drinking matcha tea you are drinking the whole leaf of the plant (1). This method of preparation ensures that you get a good boost of nutrients, polyphenols and antioxidants, including L-theanine.

Although L-theanine supplements are widely available on the market, daily matcha green tea may just be the most effective and potent natural source of this amino acid. As an added bonus, it also includes up to three times of naturally occurring antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) (2).

Japanese Zen Buddhist monk Eisai Myoan called matcha ‘the elixir of immortals’ (3), due to its incredible benefits on mental health, cognitive function and mood boosting effects. However, modern science has plenty of proof that L-theanine can help keep our brains health and happy both short and long term.

Short- term benefits of L-theanine

Matcha tea is often called ‘meditation in a cup’ as L-theanine activates alpha waves, in turn improving relaxation levels in as little as 30 min within consumption (4). This is the exact reason why Zen Buddhist monks used matcha tea as part of their practice for centuries to timely stimulate alpha waves (3). Seems like they knew the trick well before matcha was labelled a ‘superfood’.

Not only alpha waves help create more Zen in the modern life, improve relaxation and sense of calm and peace, but it also stimulates creativity (5). Fuelling with matcha instead of coffee or energy drinks may help you move through creative projects with flow and ease, instead of creating nervous jitters.

When experiencing subjective stress, such as looming deadlines or stressful workday, L-theanine may just be your friend: science confirms it helps manage acute ‘fight or flight’ response and supports immunity in testing times (6,7,8).

Moreover, L-theanine is truly great news for ladies, who experience symptoms related to PMS, as it helps boost moods and manage strong emotions (9), creating extra resilience and peace of mind even during the most challenging times.

Why consume L-theanine long-term

Apart from its short-term benefits, L-theanine is a trusted companion to use for long-term cognitive enhancement. As well as managing short-term ‘fight and flight’ response, L-theanine has the capacity to promote relaxation long-term, as well as improve sleep and cognitive resilience (10).

Research shows that L-theanine has neuroprotective effect (11, 12), which means that it may help prevent cognitive decline and even support the growth of new nerves and nerve cells (13). You guessed it, L-theanine is the one to go for if you care about healthy ageing of the brain.

And it doesn’t stop there! If you’re looking for long-term mood boost, L-theanine has shown to increase levels of serotonin, dopamine and GABA (14, 15)- neurotransmitters, responsible for happiness, motivation and positivity. Who wouldn’t want more of that?

You may have unconsciously had some L-theanine while sipping green tea before, but why not swap your usual morning coffee for steaming matcha for just a week and reap the instant benefits. We have a feeling those Zen monks knew a thing or two about enhancing the power of the mind. Sip in: a tasty morning latte instead of a coffee or make a luxurious afternoon tonic.G

  3. Hara. Y., Yang, C.S., Isemura, M., Tomita, I. (2017) Health Benefits of Green Tea: An Evidence-based Approach. CABI: Oxfordshire
  6. Unno K, et al. Anti-stress effect of theanine on students during pharmacy practice: Positive correlation among salivary α-amylase activity, trait anxiety and subjective stress. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2013;111:128-35.
  7. Kimura K, Ozeki M, Juneja LR, Ohira H. L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses. Biol Psychol. 2007;74(1):39-45.
  8. Yoto A, Motoki M, Murao S, Yokogoshi H. Effects of L-theanine or caffeine intake on changes in blood pressure under physical and psychological stresses. J Physiol Anthropol. 2012;31:28.
  9. Timmcke JQ, et al. Efficacy and Short-Term Safety of L-Theanine in Randomized, Double-Blind, Parallel-Group Study. The FASEB Journal. 2008 Apr 1;22 (Supplement).
  12. Kakuda T. Neuroprotective effects of theanine and its preventive effects on cognitive dysfunction. Pharmacol Res. 2011 Aug;64(2):162-8.