When it comes to easing anxiety, reducing stress and aiding sleep, L-theanine is the latest ingredient to be hailed as a fuss-free stress solution. But don’t be put off by its scientific name. This naturally occurring amino acid is found in a number of different types of plants and fungal species. Never heard of L-theanine before? If you’re a tea drinker you may have been getting your daily fix without even realising it.
The boost you need
Feel like life is better with a cup of tea? You are not alone. Many people say tea makes them feel cosy, happy and relaxed – as well as energised. ‘Science says it’s due to the L-theanine,’ says nutritionist Dr Naomi Newman-Beinart. ‘It increases levels of the three “happy” chemicals in the brain – serotonin, dopamine and GABA. They regulate your mood, sleep, energy and focus, and promote a sense of relaxation.’
Your daily dose of calm
Swapping your usual brew and going green could be an effortless way to boost your levels of L-theanine. ‘Different teas contain L-theanine, but green tea has the highest amounts,’ says nutrition expert Mina Khan. ‘However, you’d need at least 10 cups for any benefits.’ A 2016 study by the University of Szeged in Hungary looked into the amount of L-theanine in each tea type. They found the following:
- GREEN: 6.56 mg/g
- WHITE: 6.26 mg/g
- OOLONG: 6.09 mg/g
- BLACK: 5.13 mg/g
Backed by science
While it’s early days, research into the benefits of L-theanine look positive. ‘Studies have shown that the compound can work within 30 minutes,’ says Mina. ‘Plus, it could potentially benefit symptoms of ADHD and other mental health issues.’
Get your L-theanine fix
Drinking 10 cups of green tea sounds a little ambitious. So how do we take advantage of this natural solution? ‘Capsules will hold higher concentrations of L-theanine than tea, so start with a lower dose and slowly increase it,’ says Dr Newman-Beinhart. You could try:
- The day helper: Solgar L-theanine 150mg, R389 from Faithful to Nature. Take one capsule twice daily, between meals.
- The night aid: SOLAL Sleep Naturally Sachets, R319 from Takealot. This combines three natural ingredients (glycine, theanine and magnesium) to promote deeper sleep, faster.
- The stress aid: Piping Rock Soothing Stress Away + Gaba & L-Theanine Gummies (Natural Lemon & Strawberry), R150 from Piping Rock. A delicious way to help ease the effects of stress – the fast acing gummies contain a blend of amino acids, Gaba, lemon balm and L-theanine.
- The tea: Khoisan Organic Matcha Tea, R149 from Faithful to Nature. ‘Matcha is the best way to get the most out of L-theanine,’ says Dr Newman-Beinart. ‘Rather than soaking tea leaves and then removing them, its’ made by grinding them into a powder.’ You don’t have to drink matcha as a tea either. You could swap the two green tea bags in our Green Tea Smoothie Recipe for matcha instead.