Getting a good night’s sleep is challenging for many individuals. There are substances in nature that can help with rest and relaxation, without the harsh side effects that may be experienced with pharmaceutical drugs.
As scientific evaluations continue on assessing the therapeutic effects of natural remedies, there is more information available about specific natural compounds that can be useful for overall health, as well as helping with sleep. One of these compounds is called L-theanine.
Natural Sleep Compound: L-theanine
L-theanine is an amino acid that is found in tea leaves. Tea leaves are from a specific plant known as Camellia Sinensis. The leaves of this plant are picked and then processed in different ways to create both Green tea and Black tea. L-theanine can also be extracted from some species of medicinal mushrooms.
How L-theanine Works
Scientists have been investigating the mechanism of action of how L-theanine might be helpful to support relaxation. This substance has the ability to increase GABA (Gaba Amino Benzoic Acid), which is an important natural chemical that helps the body attain a state of relaxation. GABA helps to inhibit neurotransmitters, thus allowing activities in the brain to slow down and relax.
GABA is normally synthesized within the brain, if there are enough precursors available, such as Vitamin B. GABA has been studied for its anti-anxiety, anticonvulsant, and relaxationeffects. Several herbs are associated with a natural increase in GABA, including Kava, Valerian, Skullcap, and L-theanine. While some of these substances are also sedating, and may cause drowsiness, L-theanine has the advantage of acting as a calming agent, while also supporting mental clarity.
Testing Its Effects
Experiments have been performed analyzing the action of L-theanine on the brain. EEG readings of brain waves have shown that brain waves get less jagged, and show a smoother pattern after using L-theanine, but are not completely flattened , as would occur in a drowsy state. This leads to a relaxed, but not a drowsy state.
In human studies, Japanese researchers offered 200 mg of L-theanine daily to a group of volunteers. The participants reported that they experienced a deep quality sleep, and woke up feeling rested and refreshed.
If people use L-theanine along with caffeine, it tends to soften the jitters caused by caffeine but does not interfere with caffeine’s ability to increase brain activity.
L-theanine may be linked to the positive relaxing effects that many people experience after participating in a ‘tea ceremony’. L-theanine has actually been patented as a mood modulator, to help restore a ‘happy mood’. (US Patent Application 20040171624; Japanese Patent Application 2001-253740). Although the exact mechanism of action of this effect has not been discovered, it is believed to be linked to L-theanine’s ability to assist the body’s production of serotonin and other mood-related neurotransmitters.
L-theanine has also been studied for its helpful support to the liver, in terms of its ability to detoxify substances such as alcohol and other potential toxins. It is believed that this supportive effect is due to L-theanine interfering with the loss of glutathione, which is a compound that is needed by the liver to perform its detoxification functions.
The amount of theanine that is often recommended as a supplement is 200 mg per day. There are no reports of serious adverse effects or herb-drug interactions, although it is always possible that there can be individual sensitivities.
If you are seeking a relaxing, non-drowsy state of mind, L-theanine may be just your cup of tea!