Theanine, an amino acid, has a reputation for counteracting the
anxious jitters associated with caffeine without interfering with its
ability to fight fatigue or sharpen mental focus. In fact, that's why
drinking tea has always been a mellower experience than drinking
coffee. You might get a comparable dose of caffeine from drinking
either one, but with the theanine present in the tea, you're much less
likely to notice a caffeine buzz.
"Theanine is used in Japan to modulate mood and induce relaxation,"
says Nadine Taylor, MS, RD, a registered dietitian and author of Green
Tea: The Natural Secret for a Healthier Life (Kensington). She says
that it induces the release of a brain neurotransmitter called GABA
(Gamma-aminobutyric acid) that tends to calm down the brain.
"Depression, anxiety and irritability all come from high levels of
tension and low levels of energy," Taylor contiues. "So if you can
increase the energy and lower the tension, you're going to get a great
result on mood." The theanine in green tea seems to do exactly that.
Theanine also triggers the release of dopamine in the brain, one of
the main brain chemicals associated with well-being. The release of
dopamine probably contributes to the sense of well-being associated
with tea drinking. "Theanine definitely creates dopamine release,"
said Taylor, "and that would improve mood." Besides the many studies
that show green tea to be incredibly beneficial for our health, many
studies have also supported green tea's value in mood modulating,
including one in Japan in which women taking 200 mg of theanine had
reduced symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.
How can you use green tea, too? "Theanine works best at doses of 50 mg
to 200 mg, and the effects are felt within 30 minutes, the amount of theanine
in one cup of green tea is 50 mg. While you can take green tea capsules,
it is best to drink your theanine in tea for the fastest and best effect.
Drink it on an empty stomach or with an accompanying fruit snack."