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L-Theanine, also simply known as Theanine, was discovered as an element of green tea back in 1949. Water and steam extraction techiques soon followed and in 1964, Japan approved its unlimited use in all foods with the exception of infant foods. Currently, it is sold in the United States as a dietary supplement, and has been given a designation of GRAS (that is, Generally Recognized as Safe) ingredient by the Food and Drug Administration.
Mechanism of Action
Scientific study of L-Theanine has determined that it contains psychoactive properties, meaning that it can cross the blood-brain barrier in order to affect brain function via the central nervous system.
These studies lead to the speculation that L-Theanine has the capability to mimic the functionality of glutamate, a naturally occurring bodily amino acid that assists in the transmission of nerve impulses in the brain. Additionally, L-Theanine has demonstrated a capacity to increase dopamine levels in the brain, and contains a low affinity for NMDA, AMPA, and kainite receptors.
Potential Benefits of L-Theanine
The research on the mechanical operations of L-Theanine has led scientists to determine that it contains a host of potential benefits related to brain functionality. Some of these potential benefits include:
- The ability to reduce mental stress
- The ability to reduce physical stress
- Improvement of cognition and cognitive performance
- Improvement of mood
These benefits tie into L-Theanine’s demonstrated psychoactive properties, as it has been shown through scientific study that it can act on the central nervous system to alter mental cognition, mood, and behavior. For example, high doses of L-Theanine – that is doses that are higher than the typical dose that is found in a 20 mg cup of black tea – have demonstrated a facility to relax the mind without promoting drowsiness as a side effect.
Another study concluded that a 50 mg dose of L-Theanine caused a greater increase in alpha activity; a type of brain-related activity that plays a vital role in attention. Other studies have also yielded enhancements relating to cognition and mood when L-Theanine was combined with caffeine.
Medical Interest in L-Theanine
Because of L-Theanine’s ability to improve brain-related function and activity, there has been a keen medical interest that has developed around its potential usage in relation to the treatment of brain-related ailments and maladies. L-Theanine’s facility to improve brain functionality has led to the theory that it could be a vital component in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
Other studies relating to its positive ability to lower anxiety has led to the notion that it could be an aid in combating schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. Other studies have led to the notion that L-Theanine could be useful in the prevention of ischemic neuronal damage that may occur due to stroke.
Additionally, scientific study on animal test subjects in relation to L-Theanine has led to the determination that it could be used to aid in other aspects not necessarily related to brain functionality. These include the lowering of lipids within the bloodstream and fighting obesity.
Safety, Dosage, Tolerance, and Potential Side Effects of L-Theanine
L-Theanine has been determined to be safe for human usage in the United States by the FDA – a ruling that is not too surprising, since it is something that occurs in both green tea and black tea. In terms of therapeutic dosage, it has yet to be determined what the optimal dosage should be.
That said, it should be noted that the studies regarding the positive effects of L-Theanine were typically based on dosages that are far greater than what is found in the average cup of tea. It also should be stated that there is still questions that relate to L-Theanine and the frequency of usage – specifically, whether or not it can be ingested safely on a daily basis.
In terms of tolerance, research has yet to determine whether or not a significant level in relation to L-Theanine can be built up over time.
These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Because L-Theanine is something that occurs as a natural element to green tea, the potential that relates to its usage as a therapeutic element and as a means to assist in brain functionality is quite high. While some of its benefits have been noted through scientific study, it would seem that science has only begun to unravel the many ways that L-Theanine can aid people.