What is L-Theanine and Why do Matcha Drinkers Swear By it?
You may not have heard of L-Theanine, but chances are you've consumed it. First off, the basics; L-Theanine is an amino acid from the same family as L-Glutamine and L-Glutamate. It is what's responsible for the "calming alertness" we matcha drinkers know very well. It's found in many plants and fungal species, and although you can get it in supplement form, the most common source for us is the tea we drink.
Have you ever wondered why drinking tea has been a past time that has carried down through thousands of years, across cultures and continents that had very little in common other than drinking hot water with leaves in it? Could the effects of L-Theanine have played a part in this? Let's look at some of the benefits of it that might have played a part in the amazing cultural longevity of tea drinking:
As an anxiolytic, L-Theanine works to encourage relaxation. And not only do you experience de-stressing from being in a more relaxed state, but a study in the Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior Journal in 2013 found that L-Theanine significantly reduced stress markers during stressful situations when compared to a placebo group. For those who want the nerdy stuff, it raises the levels of neurotransmitters associated with regulating mood like Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid, Serotonin and Dopamine.
2. Improves cognition
By encouraging the production of alpha brain wave activities, L-Theanine is like a workout for your brain. It keeps you alert with better concentration and focus, while remaining calm from the de-stressing effects. It can reduce the ability to produce brain-inhibiting hormones like corticosterone that are produced when we are experiencing stress. In short, L-Theanine helps keep you at your best mental state.
3. Long-lasting energy
L-Theanine has been found to have effects that complement caffeine. It does this by interrupting the stimulating effects of caffeine without completely blocking it. So that quick pick-me-up and inevitable crash you experience with coffee.... you don't get that with tea high in L-Theanine. Instead you get a long-last calming energy. Think of it as the perfect counter-balance where you get to experience all the best from caffeine while avoiding worst.
4. Sleep better
Wait, so it gives long lasting energy AND a better sleep? How is that possible? It's the calming alertness! That oxymoron that matcha drinkers all over the world swear by. Not only does L-Theanine help you relax and prepare for sleep, but studies have shown it may also improve the quality of that sleep. It's a home run.
So there you have it. Four great reasons why everyone should include L-Theanine in their daily diets. Have you had your tea today? Matcha has the highest levels of L-Theanine, along with kabusecha, black tea and gyokoro.