Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health disorders in Australia with 1 in 7 people experiencing it in a 12-month period.
There are many possible causes of anxiety including, genetics, personality traits (perfectionists, inhibited, timidity, low self-esteem, etc.), having experienced a stressful event, health problems, and other mental health disorders, i.e., depression.
Nevertheless, there are several natural compounds that are beneficial in quickly and effectively reducing anxiety symptoms. One of the most widely researched is an amino acid from green tea, theanine (also known as l-theanine, which is a particular isomer of theanine).
Theanine is readily absorbed into the body and easily crosses the blood-brain barrier allowing it to exert its powerful effects on brain cells. Theanine is able to promote relaxation by promoting the release of calming neurotransmitters, like GABA, and inhibiting the release of excitatory neurotransmitters, like glutamate. It also boosts cognitive function by increasing serotonin production, and supports brain health by acting as a powerful antioxidant and neuroprotectant.
Theanine is more powerful than drugs
Researchers conducted a head-to-head comparison between theanine and a prescription anti-anxiety (anxiolytic) drug, Xanax®. They found that theanine was more effective in inducing relaxing effects compared to Xanax®. More importantly, anti-anxiety drugs, collectively known as benzodiazepines, tend to be addictive and may cause significant memory impairment. Theanine, on the other hand, does not have these undesirable side effects.
Theanine reduces the ‘stress response’
A group of Japanese researchers studied the effects of theanine on students performing stressful mental tasks. They found that theanine reduced their heart rate and reduced the response of their sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the ‘stress’ response (associated with anxiety symptoms) in humans.
Theanine increases relaxed, focused attention
Another study conducted by the US Air Force found that theanine increased the production of alpha waves in the brain. Alpha waves are responsible for inducing a focused, relaxed, and alert mental state.
Additional benefits of theanine
Theanine offers a range of additional benefits beyond its anti-anxiety effects. It promotes the activity of an enzyme responsible for breaking down the harmful beta-amyloid protein in the brain, which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Theanine also has the effect of lowering elevated blood pressure in people who suffer from hypertension; it improves the quality of sleep when taken at night time; and improves liver function by boosting glutathione (powerful antioxidant) production in the hepatocytes (liver cells).
Theanine also offers benefits in boosting the immune system to prevent colds and flus and reduce cancer risk.
Safety of theanine
Even though there have been some concerns over the safety of some forms of green tea, theanine has been proven to be safe even when taken in large dosages.
If you or a friend or family member suffers from the debilitating effects of anxiety, then you may want to consider taking a high-quality theanine supplement.