Laurence Lee

August 7, 2022 in Supplements

Nootropics are brain-boosting agents found in natural substances or created in labs. Although natural and synthetic nootropics are effective, most individuals lean towards natural aids because they seamlessly work with body processes to help improve cognition. L-theanine is often a featured ingredient in brain-boosting supplements. Although most manufacturers mention L-theanine as an ingredient, not much emphasis is put on the agent's ability to boost cognitive function by itself. 

Let's take a better look at L-theanine as a nootropic:

What is L-Theanine?

L-theanine is quite an intriguing compound. It has a profound effect on users but does not naturally occur in the body. In fact, this non-protein, water-soluble amino acid is most often found in green tea and certain mushroom species.

The acid is widely known for its ability to positively influence brain processes. It decreases the excessive production of "excitatory" brain chemicals that primarily contributes to stress and anxiety.

Although excitatory brain chemicals are necessary, high levels can cause unnecessary stress and anxiety, negatively affecting the body and mind. L-theanine encourages a sense of calm, allowing the body and mind to respond accordingly to situations.

The acid also supports wakeful relaxation without sedation (drowsiness). L-Theanine's influence on specific brain chemicals also reduces health risks such as stress-related blood pressure and heart issues.

How Does L-theanine Work?

The mechanisms behind the synergistic effect of L-theanine are not fully understood due to its widespread effects and benefits. Since L-theanine is an amino acid, it is easily absorbed into the system. Once consumed, the agent crosses the blood-brain barrier and affects brain activity by increasing alpha waves. It also influences serotonin and dopamine function and production.

This is the primary reason behind the L-Theanine's anxiolytic and calming effects. Studies show that L-theanine affects neurotransmitter signaling in the brain, improving cognition and attention spans. This unique amino acid also binds to glutamate receptors, producing neuroprotective effects which reduce the possibility of external and internal brain damage.

What Does L-theanine Help With?

L-theanine has an innate ability to induce a state of relaxation in users without causing drowsiness or disorientation. Although this benefit is much sought after by most individuals and is highly publicized when advertising L-Theanine-based supplements, it's not the only advantage that comes with L-theanine use.

After reviewing several studies, I found that L-theanine significantly impacts cognitive processes, especially when taken with caffeine.

The combination causes increased alertness/focus and helps improve mental clarity and energy. 

Other benefits of L-theanine use include:

Promotes sleep

L-theanine aids relaxation, which contributes to a more restful night's sleep. This benefit results from the specific effect this amino acid has on brain chemicals in charge of sleep. Better quality sleep helps users form and maintain pathways in the brain that support learning and the creation of new memories. It also supports better concentration and communication.

Weight loss

L-theanine reduces appetites, which decreases calorie consumption, contributing to fat loss. This decreases strain on blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more efficiently to the brain. Better blood flow to the brain promotes better memory, concentration, problem-solving, and overall brain function.

Boosting the immune system

Studies suggest that L-theanine boosts immune system function. The agent also has anti-inflammatory effects that can help fight illness. An improved immune system leads to decreased illness which positively affects brain function.

Regulation of blood pressure

L-theanine helps reduce stress and increase relaxation, lowering heart rates and blood pressure. Blood pressure regulation prevents cognitive decline, early brain aging, and memory issues. It also streamlines blood flow to the brain, which improves overall brain function.

How Often Should You Consume L-theanine?

Dosage and frequency are among the most important factors when taking amino acids such as  L-theanine. The right dosage and frequency schedule will ensure that users get the beneficial amounts of L-theanine in their system. It also guarantees that users extract maximum brain-boosting effects from consumption. 

Below we look at the ideal dosing and frequency regimen for L-theanine use:

  • Dose: 50-100 mg once or twice daily. The frequency of this dose can be increased to 3 or 4 times per day if necessary. Alternatively, users can opt to take 200-400 mg once a day.

Although these doses are regarded the ideal, users are still encouraged to seek a consultation with a registered healthcare provider to ensure that they do not have any pre-existing conditions or allergies that can work against a successful outcome from L-theanine use.

L-theanine Side Effects

L-theanine has a remarkably low toxicity rate, which means its side effects are virtually non-existent. Animal studies show that this amino acid remains stable even with doses as high as 4000 mg, taken daily for 13 weeks, producing no adverse effects. Besides the overwhelming positives in animal studies, I found that L-theanine is equally well-tolerated in humans, with no reports of adverse effects or toxicity. However, I did find that some users experience mild side effects when taking supplements that contain L-theanine, among other ingredients. 

These side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Upset stomach
  • Irritability

Although these side effects are present, they cannot be directly linked to L-theanine itself, which brings me to the conclusion that the agent is 100% safe.

What Does The Research Say?

The research supporting the abilities of this amino acid is quite positive. L-theanine can produce potent effects if used consistently in medium to high doses.

After reviewing several of these studies myself, I found that the basis of its positive effect on the brain lies in its natural ability to affect the expression of genes in the brain to balance behavioral responses.

Its effect on behavioral responses lowers stress and anxiety levels. Stress and anxiety negatively affect mental clarity, so lowering these levels allows users to think more clearly and efficiently. I found that L-theanine's effects stretch far beyond its anti-anxiety properties.

It also improves the functionality of specific parts of the brain, like the hippocampus. This improves memory and learning, further solidifying its stance as a nootropic. L-theanine also has glutamate-blocking capabilities, contributing largely to the acid's neuroprotective abilities.

About the author 

Laurence Lee

Lee is a neuroscientist who has dedicated his career to understanding the inner workings of the brain. He has seen firsthand the power of these supplements in improving cognitive function and believes that more people should be aware of their benefits. In his articles, Lee shares his extensive knowledge on the subject and provides unbiased reviews of different products.

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