If you’ve never heard of theanine, it’s the best thing since sliced bread. You’ve tried it before if you’ve drank a cup of tea and noticed the stimulating properties of tea didn’t quite have the harsh buzz that coffee does.
Theanine has been touted as a simple, more natural anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) substance that doesn’t screw up your mind (Prozac) and make you numb to life. Frost has mentioned here that theanine is “a safe, cheap and legal pill[ that can] remove approach anxiety as an obstacle [from] your life.”
It’s true. Subjectively speaking, I’ve noticed that theanine can do and has done the following for me:
- Increase my tolerance to acutely stressful situations like job interviews, various social situations and more
- Lower chronic stress (although if you are suffering from chronic stress you should solve the problem ASAP)
- Create a sense of centered calmness
- Promotes a sense of heightened well-being
- Balances out that jittery effect you get from having too much caffeine (or other stimulants?)
- Improves your focus in combination with caffeine
What exactly is theanine and how does it work?
Theanine is a non-essential amino acid found naturally in black tea, green tea and white tea of all varieties. It’s thought that its actions on the GABA receptors hint at its mechanism of action. If the brain is a circuit for an audio signal, GABA is sort of the “gain knob” and theanine helps turn down the signal so it doesn’t overwhelm your circuits. Phenibut works in a similar manner but is much more powerful.
As for theanine’s scientifically-validated effects:
The combined effects of L-theanine and caffeine on cognitive performance and mood.
Caffeine improved subjective alertness at 60 min and accuracy on the attention-switching task at 90 min. The L-theanine and caffeine combination improved both speed and accuracy of performance of the attention-switching task at 60 min, and reduced susceptibility to distracting information in the memory task at both 60 min and 90 min.1
L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses.
The results showed that L-Theanine intake resulted in a reduction in the heart rate (HR) and salivary immunoglobulin A (s-IgA) responses to an acute stress task relative to the placebo control condition. Moreover, analyses of heart rate variability indicated that the reductions in HR and s-IgA were likely attributable to an attenuation of sympathetic nervous activation. Thus, it was suggested that the oral intake of L-Theanine could cause anti-stress effects via the inhibition of cortical neuron excitation.2
L-Theanine – Thorne Research (PDF)
Studies show L-theanine induces alpha-brain wave activity, which correlates with a perceived state of relaxation. A small Japanese study of university students showed oral L-theanine administration of 200 mg led to increased alpha-brain waves and a subjective sense of relaxation. Theanine administration caused a dose-dependent relaxed, yet alert, state of mind without sedation, beginning approximately 40 minutes after oral dosing3
tl;dr – Theanine makes your brain smarter and helps you feel less stressed.
I have safely taken theanine in combination with other substances, including piracetam, and have found it to nicely complement its effects. It also works well to cancel out the anxiety-inducing effects of substances like caffeine or cannabis.
As for the form of theanine I’d take, I’ve always used Suntheanine where it was available. Apparently (according to the manufacturers of Suntheanine) the isomer R-theanine is not psychoactive like L-theanine, and Suntheanine is purified to be 100% L-theanine.
I haven’t compared a non-Suntheanine brand with Suntheanine so I couldn’t tell you if I’ve noticed any difference. Brands like Jarrow and Now Foods sometimes include Suntheanine in their blends so you shouldn’t have an issue finding it in stores.
Where can I get theanine?
It’s found mainly in tea, that is, actual camellia sinensis, not any herbal tea. The only exception may be guayusa.
At Powder City, you can pick up bulk l-theanine powder for cheap, starting at 10 grams for $1.85. Take it with coffee or just about any morning pick-me-up of your choice.
Personally, I take 100-200 mg each day that I feel like I will need it, usually to prepare for school and all of the other bullshit that the world will give me, usually in combination with coffee, tea or even an energy drink. However, to be cheap I usually just take it with bulk caffeine powder.
The Japanese study mentioned above says it takes 40 minutes for full effects of theanine to kick in, so take that into account.
If you’re looking for an anxiety-reducer that doesn’t make you sleepy or you want to take the panic-inducing edge off your morning coffee buzz, get some theanine.
Get theanine in bulk and save some money too.