L-Theanine is one of the most ubiquitous nootropics that few people are aware they ingest. As a main psychoactive constituent of tea leaves, this amino acid has been improving brain health for thousands of years across the globe. Despite deriving this from natural means, how useful is L-theanine really?
According to studies in the past few decades, this specific nonessential amino acid is one of the most useful tools for people using smart drugs. The primary effect and benefit of L-theanine is helping improve upon the positive aspects of caffeine while mitigating the negative aspects (such as anxiety, increased blood pressure, and diminished sleep quality) .
Beyond these benefits L-theanine alone can be a powerful nootropic often heralded as a relaxation enhancing tool similar to meditation. The compound improves alpha brain waves, which is a pattern in the brain correlated with the highest activity and mental capacity .
For beginners to nootropics, L-theanine may be one of the safest nootropic options that you can find. In the United States it has “Generally Regarded As Safe” (GRAS) status and dozens of studies prove efficacy and safety even at high doses .
Also Known As
Theanine, 5-N-Ethyl-Glutamine, Suntheanine (Brand name)
History of Theanine
The actual molecule of theanine (γ-glutamylethylamide) was discovered only in 1949 and separated from leaves in order to supplement. However, theanine has been used for far longer than that. The records suggest people in China have been using tea leaves for thousands of years.
As legend goes, a Chinese emperor was boiling water when tea leaves fell into his water and he drank the concoction. Whatever the true origins of tea consumption, the effects they had on sensitive ancestors of ours made them staple crops and highly popularized.
Today, tea is still highly consumed around the world and specifically for the medicinal benefits. The relaxing and calming nature of tea comes primarily from the theanine content in the leaves and brew. The only drawback of L-theanine from tea is the quantity and dosage is very low. This is one of the main reasons for the growth in L-theanine supplements.
Benefits of L-Theanine
There are a whole host of benefits of L-theanine that users experience simply drinking tea or taking a higher dose of the extracted and supplemented form. For one, L-theanine is an anxiety reducer, which can consistently support people suffering from mental tension . One study showed that, while not as powerful as prescription drugs like Xanax, L-theanine was able to promote relaxation and calmness . It's involved in the formation of the inhibitory neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger, called GABA.
Dopamine and Serotonin are other neurotransmitters influenced by GABA and are known to help produce a relaxation effect. <strong>L-Theanine is thought to reduce anxiety without causing drowsiness as well as strengthening the cardiovascular and immune systems</strong>. If you swear by green tea over coffee as your pick-me-up, L-Theanine could be the reason why, as It is thought to take the edge off the stimulating effects of caffeine.
Another benefit of L-theanine is a notable increase in feelings of relaxation and calmness without the feeling of sedation (which can make one lethargic) . There is one study that focuses on how theanine improves relaxation via alpha waves in the frontal and occipital lobes within 30 minutes of consuming the supplement.
Of course, a downstream effect of improving feelings of anxiety and relaxation is improved sleep quality. Even though the sleep duration and latency are not affected by theanine, one study on children showed sleep quality was far higher when taking this supplement .
One of the unique L-theanine benefits is how it can improve attention and focus despite the relaxation response. If this seems contradictory, argue the point with science which has repeatedly showed theanine’s ability to enhance attention independent  and in a combination of caffeine . This improvement in focus is often why people turn to nootropics and makes it simple for a new person to get started with a simple and natural nootropic like L-theanine.
A combination of L-Theanine with Caffeine (200mg each) is noted to be synergistic in promoting cognition and attention.
Finally, as if theanine wasn’t already useful enough, the supplement can also increase a chemical called brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) by up to 25% and NGF by 100% in regions where memories are formed (the hippocampus) .
L-Theanine for Anxiety
If you struggle with anxiety, L-theanine is a good remedy because it helps to induce relaxing alpha brain waves.
More specifically, L-theanine can be used to treat anxiety that is related to caffeine usage and negates the side effect.
L-Theanine for Anxiety: Does it Work?
There are many studies revolving around L-theanine for anxiety, but the primary evidence revolves around how it can remove anxiety from caffeine consumption. Many studies of caffeine and L-theanine show that it can negate side effects of caffeine such as heart rate, blood pressure, and jittery, anxious energy .
The most profound studies on the subject are meta-analysis that cover many of the studies done over time. Information about L-theanine and caffeine via meta analysis shows that the amino acid theanine has repeated effects against the anxiety from caffeine.
By anecdotal accounts on Reddit, Longecity and other communities, the combination of L-theanine and caffeine works as well as the research indicates.
By itself, L-theanine for anxiety is commonly consumed via tea (the natural source of theanine). Many people drink a cup of tea in the evening in order to unwind and relax, which is the purpose of most tea drinks and L-theanine is the main reason it works.
Treating Anxiety with L-Theanine
While there are many treatments of anxiety, using L-theanine can be an effective means especially if you are new to nootropics and smart drugs. Many of the prescription drugs that are used to treat anxiety are far too strong and can be detrimental in the long-term.
L-theanine is a natural source of anxiety-relief and relaxation. You’ll find that it is one of the better sources of anxiety relief for both your money and your health.
According to the FDA theanine is “generally regarded as safe” (GRAS), which is a rare distinction. You can also find a safe L-theanine product by visiting our recommended vendor. For this product, we go with Pure Nootropics although it is also possible to purchase from Nootropics Depot.
- References (Click to Expand)
L-Theanine for Sleep
How can you use L-theanine for sleep?
Take a small dose of 1-200 mg shortly before bed.
Sleep Latency and Quality
Even though L-theanine is often used in conjunction with caffeine in order to increase focus and alertness, it is possible to use only L-theanine for the purpose of improving your sleep quality. Because L theanine can reduce feelings of anxiety and induce relaxation, one of the side effects is enhanced sleep quality.
The sleep duration and latency are not affected by theanine, but one study on children showed that sleep quality was far higher when consuming with L-theanine. Thus, it might not make it easier to go to sleep, but L theanine might make the sleep you get much better quality .
Other research on L-theanine for sleep revolves around ADHD and children. There are many kids diagnosed with ADHD every day and using theanine to improve sleep can be an effective way of managing some of the symptoms. The L-theanine did not help the children to sleep any longer, but again helped improve the quality of sleep .
While l-theanine might not necessarily be an Adderall alternative, it can be part of a wider scheme to avoid taking amphetamine-based prescription drugs.
Consuming L-theanine and Other Sleep Aids
There are a host of sleep aids in addition to l-theanine that might resonate more with your personal biochemistry. You should try to use L theanine for better sleep, but don’t forget many of the other options that you can try as well. These include things like kava tea, lemon balm extract, and even Ayurvedic herbs like ashwagandha.
The main benefit of using L-theanine for sleep is that it is able to help induce alpha brain wave state. This is the same brain wave state that is said to come with meditative practice, but you can also utilize this relaxing state for sleep.
- References (Click to Expand)
L-Theanine for Children
Childhood is a crucial period in every person’s life. It’s during childhood that people develop many fundamental skills they will use over a lifetime. If there are means to help children gain the necessary knowledge and expertise to succeed in life, most parents would want to know.
One supplement that is showing promise and gaining in popularity is L-Theanine. Many believe it to be a preferred option over the traditional, pharmaceutical means of addressing behavioral problems common in children.
How Can Children Benefit from L-Theanine?
The potential benefits to children are simple in concept, yet profound in their implications.
Some possible benefits are:
- Improve Cognitive Function
- Alleviate ADHD Symptoms
- Reduce Anxiety
- Strengthen the Immune System
- Improve Sleep
As previously mentioned, L-Theanine is involved in the production of GABA, which in turn influences the production of dopamine and serotonin. The relaxing effects of those neurotransmitters are known, but it should also be mentioned that increased dopamine levels result in improved memory and ability to learn.
The positive effect it’s said to have on ADHD, may be a result of its ability to reduce stress and anxiety, allowing the child to think more clearly. Adults have a hard enough time thinking critically during periods of high stress, and they have the benefit of a fully developed brain. Unfortunately, children are at the mercy of processes which they have little understanding or control.
L-Theanine is remarkable in that it facilitates the production of alpha brain waves, creating a state of deep relaxation and mental alertness similar to what can be achieved through meditation.
Meditation is a discipline that is developed over time. Even those individuals that are practiced can at times find it difficult to reach states of deep relaxation. For parents or anyone with experience with meditation, the value of a compound that can elicit that state is evident.
Is L-Theanine Safe for Kids?
The first question parents are likely to ask is, is it safe?
Parents should carefully consider the means of administering the amino acid. It’s important that safety is a priority when considering the health needs of children.
Fortunately, L-Theanine is considered safe as there are no known dangers or side effects. The FDA has given it GRAS status (generally recognized as safe). However, something to be aware of is green tea is the only practical source of naturally occurring L-Theanine, and most green tea contains caffeine. For obvious reasons, parents might be hesitant to give their children caffeine. Luckily, caffeine free green tea does exist, and that may be a better option for those parents looking to avoid the side effects of a stimulant. Additionally, Theanine can be taken as a supplement, which is usually derived from green tea leaves.
The cost of supplements can be expensive, and that may be a factor in deciding what a family can provide for the child.
Talk to Your Doctor
The personal testimonies praising the effects of L-Theanine are abundant, but more clinical studies are needed for the evidence to be conclusive.
A healthy diet and regular exercise are the best places to start. Without a healthy baseline, it is hard to determine the effect of any supplement.
It’s understandable why parents would want first to look at naturally occurring remedies for their children. The pace at which society moves seems to encourage people to seek out quick fixes in the form of powerful prescription drugs. No doubt those drugs are necessary to treat certain issues, but pharmaceutical drugs can have major side effects that cause additional problems.
Traditional pharmaceuticals used to treat behavioral problems in children, psychostimulants like Ritalin, have powerful stimulating effects that can be detrimental to adequate sleep and affect a child's appetite, leading to weight loss. In the long run, such side effects may exacerbate learning and behavior problems.
It's hard to ignore the proponents of L-Theanine and the claims that it can promote calming, alertness, and stress reduction in conjunction with improved memory and ability to learn. However, people should always speak with their physicians before taking any supplements. Researching online should provide some information and context before a visit.
Can it work for ADHD?
Given that there are so many children in the United States (and other western countries) who are being given medications for attention deficit disorder (ADD / ADHD), it is worthwhile to look at alternatives. Most of the prescription drugs are made with amphetamine salts that have long-term effects on children that are not beneficial.
Children who often suffer from ADHD often have poor sleep quality and theanine is a great remedy. One study showed children using theanine did not sleep any longer, but had far better quality , which significantly alters their ability to focus during waking hours.
While more evidence is needed on the subject (especially supplementation during the day), it is clear that L-theanine can be a great supplement for ADHD and an Adderall alternative for your children.
Side Effects of L-Theanine
From a safety perspective, there are few drugs you need to worry about less than L-theanine. There are relatively few side effects of L-theanine and only anecdotally do we see headaches by dosing this nootropic. In many of the studies on extreme doses, there is no adverse or toxic effects. In fact, one study showed no adverse effects at 6500 mg / kg of bodyweight, which is 4225 grams of L-theanine in a single day .
Unlike some of the other more potent drugs, you don’t really need to concern yourself much with L-theanine side effects. In general, they are mild and do not effect many people.
The L-theanine dosage will depend on your own personal biochemistry, but most sources suggest a range of 200 mg per day at one time. This dosage is usually paired with caffeine so your 200 mg dosage might be best in the morning.
There is a lot of evidence to suggest a ratio of 2:1 L-theanine to caffeine is perfect for the cognitive enhancing and synergistic properties of both substances. Usually, there is around 100 mg of caffeine in a cup of coffee so pairing with a theanine supplement can probably do the trick.
How and Where to Buy L-Theanine
Theanine is generally regarded as safe (GRAS), which means it has a regulated status in the United States that makes it almost ubiquitous. You can find it in your local grocery store, supplement shop, or there are plenty of retailers online.
One of the main advantages if you buy L-theanine online is that you will have access to price check all of the different options available to you. Even though this might not be something that seems like a good use of your time, researching your L-theanine purchase might teach you a thing or two that you didn’t know.
Vendors like Pure Nootropics are not only offering safe L-theanine for sale, but they also have sublingual solutions to help with administration. Some people like this administration method because the psychoactive ingredients are not metabolized by the intestinal tract so it can enter the bloodstream faster and more effectively.
Selected Community Experiences
“The bottle says to take it on an empty stomach, so I ate breakfast around 7:30, went to work, had a cup of coffee + shot of espresso around 9, then at 10 I took 150mg of l-theanine. Next thing I know it's 5:30 and I got a ton of work done. It seemed unreal, the day felt like an accordion smushed together.” - ep0
“been taking it for over a week now, and it's awesome. I'm a coffee snob, but I was getting too jittery and stressed. With L-Theanine, I feel so much more relaxed, I don't carry as much stress in my shoulders/neck, and my coffee just makes me awake and focused now without feeling strung out.” - dgutty
Author's Thoughts on L-Theanine
I don’t actually “feel” much of L-theanine when I take it by itself, but perhaps that is the point. Unlike stimulants, it helps to calm the nervous system and I suppose it has helped even if I did not notice it.
The best experiences I’ve had with L-theanine include caffeine as well, which is definitely noticeable. I actually rarely have caffeine without the pairing of L-theanine because it is so effective at preventing the anxiety and jittery nature of the stimulant beast.
I’d suggest L-theanine is probably one of the best bets for someone who is on the fence about starting nootropics. You’ll find this to be a simple way of getting started and effective as most people use caffeine in some form or another.
Mansal Denton, Nootropedia Contributor
- References (Click to Expand)
- Other Scientific Resources (Click to Expand)