L-Theanine and Anxiety: How L-Theanine Can Help With Stress-Related Ailments

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues in the United States, affecting roughly 1 out of 5 people ages 18 and older. What’s worse is that only 1 in 3 of these people seek treatment.

Anxiety comes in many different shapes and sizes, including Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Panic Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Social Anxiety Disorder. There are also more “minor” situations that can cause anxiety within a person, including situations regarding finances, family/friends, work, personal reasons, and more.

Medicine, whether natural or pharmaceutical, doesn’t always need to be what you lean on for relief. Lifestyle interventions, like therapy, meditation, exercise and more can be helpful in overcoming whatever is causing you anxiety. In other scenarios, like those who are celiac or deal with gut issues, the foods you eat can actually be a root cause of your anxiety too.

As plant medicine people, one of our favorite natural, clinically-proven tools to cope with anxiety is L-Theanine, an amino acid that’s primarily derived from green tea. Read on to learn how this natural compound can help you boost brainpower and potentially help you cope with anxiety. 

What is L-Theanine?

L-Theanine is an amino acid found in green tea, black tea, and some types of mushrooms. It is considered a “nonessential nutrient” because it’s not found in your body naturally, unlike vitamins, minerals, protein, fats, water, and carbohydrates. 

L-Theanine has been shown to boost your “happy hormones,” known as “neurotransmitters,” like dopamine, serotonin, and GABA. This not only helps with anxiety, but also sleep, stress, and mood.

It does this by boosting what’s known as “alpha brain waves” which often occur during that calm, focused, and alert feeling you get after meditation or exercise. Research suggests that these alpha brain waves play a role in reducing symptoms of depression, enhancing focus, and even improving creativity. 

How does Anxiety Work?

Two parts of your brain play a part in causing you anxiety: the amygdala and the hippocampus.

The amygdala is like your car’s headlights and the hippocampus is like the driver of the car. The amygdala notices threats and alerts other parts of the brain to take action. 

The hippocampus is then responsible for analyzing the threats and taking action accordingly. When it receives an alert of a potential threat, it releases “stress hormones” like cortisol and norepinephrine in your body, which causes your heart rate to increase and triggers the “fight-or-flight” response.

The issue is that oftentimes, what your amygdala perceives as a “threat” really aren’t threatening.

For example, you’re not going to die from public speaking, or putting yourself in an uncomfortable social setting, so this response from your brain is unwarranted. 

How does L-Theanine Impact Anxiety?

Experts consider L-theanine one of the most effective natural tools to help combat anxiety - especially anxiety stemming from caffeine.

As we mentioned earlier, when the hippocampus receives stress signals, it causes your body to react accordingly. But what about faulty signals? The signals that are triggering often in those sensitive to caffeine or prone to fits of anxiety over smaller occurrences.

When some folks consume caffeine, the rise in heart rate and blood pressure associated with caffeine can trigger anxiety, just because those are anxiety symptoms.

The body and mind can be fooled into thinking it's time to send out anxiety signals based on what you take in! But l-theanine helps counteract the side effects from caffeine or other things that may cause a spike in your heart rate and blood pressure. L-theanine is a vasodilator - meaning it keeps your blood vessels open and prevents the rapid spikes that are so commonly associated with anxiety. If your body doesn't feel like an anxiety reaction is happening, your brain is more likely to follow suit and not trigger the rest of your anxiety response.

It can help prevent your brain from giving an anxious response to whatever stressful situations trigger it for you, like public speaking, social situations, and more. 

Additionally, l-theanine works to increase your body’s production of alpha brain waves and GABA. An increase in GABA - a neurotransmitter we often call the brakes of the brain - then increases your body’s production of dopamine and serotonin, which results in your feeling calm and relaxed.

How much L-Theanine Should I Take for Anxiety?

Many people notice a calming effect within 5 to 40 minutes of ingesting 50 to 200mg of L-Theanine which typically lasts up to 10 hours. Mild to moderate feelings of anxiety often improve with 200mg once or twice daily. More severe cases of anxiety may require doses up to 800mg daily, taken in increments of 100 to 200mg at a time.

Unlike Xanax and other benzodiazepines, L-Theanine does not cause drowsiness, reduced reaction time, or impaired concentration, there is no risk of developing tolerance or dependence, and there have been no reports of adverse side effects or drug interactions.

Bottom Line

L-Theanine is one of the fastest-acting and clinically-effective natural tools to help manage anxiety by regulating different functions of your brain. If you are someone who suffers from anxiety, talk to your doctor to see if taking L-Theanine is right for you.