The other day my niece gave me some lavender chamomile tea to try. Now, I will say right here I am not a big tea drinker. Coffee is my brew. And caffeinated tea of any kind, at any time of the day, gets me wired. Go figure, I come from a bunch of British teetotalers and I can’t hang.
Getting back to the tea. I brewed up the lavender chamomile that evening and it was good. Which made me re-think my relationship with tea. It was very soothing, and I thought I need to revisit and reevaluate tea right now.
So, being the research nerd I am, I went to it. What is in tea that causes this effect? There is a compound in tea, L-theanine, that promotes relaxing and quality sleep.
L-theanine is an amino acid that is found in tea leaves, and its health benefits were identified by scientists back in 1949. Feeling centered, focused and getting a good nights sleep are just some of the many benefits of this compound.
It is also found in some mushrooms, and you can now get L-theanine supplements to help you relax. Scientists also found that that it is also presents as umami, or savory taste, in the green tea, which has been shown to help decrease the risk of obesity. Umami seems to provide satiety and fullness for a longer period of time. Perhaps that is why folks attempting to lose weight increase their intake of green tea or take green tea capsules?
How does the compound work?
Boosts GABA levels, as well as other neurochemicals such as dopamine and serotonin, in the brain, all of which regulate our emotions, and increases our calm.
Lowers levels of “excitatory “ brain chemicals, which lowers our anxiety levels, thereby decreasing damage to our brain cells from stress.
Enhances alpha waves, and promotes “wakeful relaxation”. When you meditate, are in creative flow or just daydreaming, this is the experience you feel. Alpha waves are also present when you are in REM sleep.
Taking an L-theanine supplement or having some green tea before bed can enhance your ability to fall asleep faster and sleep deeper, by inducing calm, not sedation. Research has found L-theanine supplementation helps children with ADHD sleep better.
L-theanine is an anxiolytic, meaning it reduces anxiety naturally. Valerian root is also an anxiolytic, however it has sedative properties too. L-theanine reduces the anxiety, while maintaining alertness.
L-theanine has been shown to enhance attention and focus by lowering stress hormones such as cortisol and corticosterone, which can interfere with memory and learning.
Pairing the L-theanine with coffee has been shown to increase attention span and accuracy, particularly when moving from one task to another.
Bonus! All of this anxiety reduction and good sleeping patterns help us maintain healthy weight.
For sleep, stress and other uses: 100 mg to 400 mg
In combination with caffeine: 12-100 mg L-theanine, 30-100 mg caffeine
If you were going to add L-theanine to your regimen, please be advised that the following should check with their doctor before adding this (or any) supplement:
Pregnant or breastfeeding women
Anyone with low blood pressure or taking a supplement that lowers blood pressure
Anyone who is on a stimulant
Anyone who is taking medication for high blood pressure
If you have any concerns, check with your physician. I will just stick with a nice cup of tea, myself.