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Is L-theanine An Effective Anxiety Treatment?

Alexandra Richards, DClinPsy
Is L-theanine An Effective Anxiety Treatment?

L-theanine may sound like an unknown substance, but there’s a good chance you have encountered it before: for example, in the cup of green tea you drank this morning. Questions have been raised about whether L-theanine, a type of amino acid, can have beneficial effects for those suffering from anxiety.

In this article, we'll explore some of the potential benefits and drawbacks of taking L-theanine for your anxiety.

How Does L-Theanine Work?

Because they have access to the central nervous system, psychoactive substances such as L-theanine are believed to have the ability to affect mental abilities and states including your perception of the outer world, the speed at which you think, and the mood you are in.

It is thought to have a stronger effect when combined with caffeine (the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive substance), which is also naturally found in green tea.

Possible Benefits of L-Theanine for Anxiety

Most of L-theanine’s effects have to do with promoting relaxation and positively affecting mood, though not all these effects have been shown to be consistent, and some have the potential to cause drug-seeking behavior when used excessively. L-theanine use triggers the following potentially positive responses in the brain for users with anxiety issues:

If you are a person who experiences anxiety that interferes with your functionality on a regular basis, the above effects may help to put you in a better frame of mind. However, it is good to remember that similar effects can be achieved through other means, as L-theanine use does entail some potential drawbacks. Both the drawbacks of L-theanine and alternative methods of achieving the above effects are outlined below.

Possible Drawbacks of L-Theanine for Anxiety

If you choose to use L-theanine as a treatment for anxiety, you should make sure that you are informed of its potential drawbacks, which depend largely on how the supplement is used. Knowing how to limit any adverse side effects and understanding why they may help to prevent any unnecessary stress when using this supplement.

Does L-Theanine Work?

As is usually the case with nutritional supplements and their effect on anxiety, there is very little evidence that L-Theanine is an effective treatment. Serious side-effects have not been documented, but there are also almost no studies that confirm that this supplement can affect your overall mood. When using these types of supplements, it's a good idea to talk to a doctor first and make sure that you never depend on it alone. Always make sure that you combine any supplement or medicine with lifestyle changes and techniques that do not require any supplementation, both to decrease the need for the supplement and to make sure that even if the supplement doesn't work, you're still reducing your anxiety.

Alternative Methods for Achieving L-Theanine Benefits

L-theanine benefits such as increasing serotonin levels and resulting in alpha-wave production in the brain can also be achieved through positive lifestyle choices that are free to make and can have additional anti-stress benefits. To find out what you can do to produce some of the benefits of L-theanine without using L-theanine itself, see the list below.

Decreasing anxiety by taking L-theanine as a supplement, either in the form of capsules or a mug of decaffeinated green tea, appears to be a low-risk way to address your anxiety issues. On the other hand, many of the positive effects of L-theanine plus additional benefits can be achieved through engaging in the lifestyle choices listed above.

Combining L-Theanine with Lifestyle Changes

Exercising while using L-theanine supplemented by caffeine should be avoided, especially if you are experiencing any heart or blood pressure problems. If you are using L-theanine in a caffeinated form but also exercise regularly, it is advisable to wait at least four hours after ingesting a caffeinated substance before exercising.

L-theanine supplemented by small doses of caffeine, such as the levels that can be found in “decaf” green tea, may be beneficial in combination with meditation. Meditation is an practice associated with slowing your heart rate rather than speeding it up, which means that low levels of caffeine don’t interact negatively with it. Also, the ability of L-theanine combined with caffeine to increase focus and improve memory may help to develop your mind’s ability to enter a meditative, relaxed state more easily.

No matter what you decide, however, never take L-theanine or any supplement alone. Studies have shown time and time again that there are non-pharmacological means to managing anxiety, and while theanine may be natural, it is still considered to be a medicine.

Article Resources
  1. Juneja, Lekh Raj, et al. L-theanine—a unique amino acid of green tea and its relaxation effect in humans. Trends in Food Science & Technology 10.6 (1999): 199-204.
  2. Kimura, Kenta, et al. L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses. Biological psychology 74.1 (2007): 39-45. 
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