Many of us have been sheltering in place now for over a month!  The disruptions to daily life have impacted each one of us in very different ways.  Some of us are worried about our health, while others are concerned about their finances, their livelihoods and their futures.  Hopefully, you have found ways to cope and de-stress, but if you need a little extra support, schedule a Tea Time!

Just drinking a hot cup of tea can be comforting and soothing to the body, helping anyone feel more at ease.  However, tea also contains a unique amino acid called L-theanine.  L-theanine is found in the leaves of tea and has been shown to promote relaxation without causing drowsiness.  

How L-theanine works:

1.  L-theanine increases levels of the neurotransmitters GABA, serotonin and dopamine in the brain.  These neurotransmitters help regulate emotions, mood, motivation, and relaxation.  By boosting these calming neurotransmitters, L-theanine can help lessen stress and promote a sense of calm and well-being.

2.  L-theanine also helps to relieve anxiety by blocking the action of the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate. 

3.  L-theanine significantly increases activity in alpha brain waves.  Alpha brain waves are produced when you are not really focused on anything important and are feeling calm and relaxed.  It is the state of mind when you are meditating.  These brain waves are associated with a state of “wakeful relaxation.” 

In addition to promoting relaxation, L-theanine can also lower heart rate and blood pressure, which are often associated with anxiety and stress.  Other beneficial effects on the body also include anti-inflammatory actions, antioxidant properties, and support of optimal liver function.  Some research suggests that L-theanine may improve the function of the immune system, including decreasing the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections (1).  Due to its relaxation properties, L-theanine is often used to unwind in the evening and promote sleep.  Any therapy that de-stresses the body and fosters sleep will also decrease the risk of developing stress-related illnesses.

Tea is one of the only natural sources of L-theanine.  It has generally been recognized that green tea has the highest concentration of L-theanine. However, a 2011 study looked at the L-theanine in teas, and found black teas to contain the most (2).  This study also found that adding small amounts of milk or sugar didn’t effect the L-theanine content and that in general, the longer you brewed your tea, the more L-theanine it contained.  If you don’t want the stimulating effects of tea, decaffeinated black tea still contains L-theanine, however less than caffeinated tea.  Herbal teas do not contain L-theanine because they are not made from the Camilla sinensis leaf. 

You can also get L-theanine as a supplement.  L-theanine supplements are generally considered very safe, but you should always consult your health care provider before starting any new supplement. 

If you are struggling with fear, anxiety or stress during these uncertain days, schedule a Tea Time.  Taking a break with a soothing cup of tea in hand will help to calm your nerves and lift your mood. 

Susan Brady
is a Physical Therapist,
Nutrition Consultant and
Doctor of Integrative Medicine.
She has been treating women with osteoporosis for over 30 years and is dedicated to helping people achieve
lasting good health and vitality.


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