Zen masters are known for their tranquility and seem to possess a unique blend of relaxation and alertness.
Their monastic lifestyle, combined with decades of daily meditation undoubtedly explain much of how they have attained their calm, well-balanced mindset.
But there is another overlooked factor: they consume large quantities of green tea, and one of the main ingredients in green tea is L-Theanine.
What is L-Theanine?
L-Theanine is an amino acid that is present in the tea plant and some mushrooms.
The “L” is a scientific notation of its structure.
Its makeup is related to L-Tryptophan, which is another amino acid that is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin.
Serotonin is a chemical manufactured by the body that controls mood balance and is sometimes referred to as the “feel good” hormone.
When the serotonin in your brain is at a perfect level, you are creative, relaxed, focused, and have excellent impulse control, which is typical of the ideal Zen state of mind.
On the other hand, if your levels of serotonin are low you may feel depressed, act impulsively, have a short attention span and have difficulty relaxing...the exact opposite of a Zen mindset.
Therefore, it is vital to maintaining a proper balance of serotonin, and L-Theanine works wonders in this regard. L-Theanine is responsible for the flavor of tea as well as the physical and mental effects that tea connoisseurs enjoy.
L-Theanine lowers stress levels and relaxes your brain by increasing alpha wave activity. These are the waves that happen when you're alert, awake and relaxed. They also help you concentrate and boost creativity.
The beautiful thing about L-Theanine is this: it allows you to be alert and focus while at the same time remaining calm without becoming sleepy or tired.
L-Theanine was isolated from green tea as a flavor component by Japanese scientists in 1949.
It can pass the blood-brain barrier and has been shown to have neuroprotective abilities.
Several Japanese studies have demonstrated that oral intake of L-Theanine can produce a feeling of relaxation and improved sleep quality, as well as reduced stress responses during stressful situations.
Another Japanese study confirmed that L-theanine resulted in significant increases in serotonin and dopamine concentrations in the brain, particularly in the striatum, hypothalamus, and hippocampus.
The result? All of the “feel good” benefits mentioned above.
L-Theanine also acts as a natural anxiety-fighting supplement.
The at times maddening pace of 21st-century life has many, if not most people constantly stressed out and with frayed nerves.
Medical professionals are quick to hand out anti-anxiety prescription drugs that may be effective, but may also come with serious side effects, not to mention the possibility of developing a dependence on them.
But instead of drugs, many folks find that tea is their favorite method of relaxing, due to tea's calming effect.
And, as mentioned earlier, the main ingredient in tea that produces that calming effect is L-Theanine.
L-Theanine and Caffeine Synergy
This is a fascinating relationship and explains why supplementation with L-Theanine is so essential.
Many people entering the wild world of nootropics don't stop to consider the fact that caffeine is considered by many to be a smart drug.
Coffee gets us going in the morning, but when consumed in large doses it has a price: jitters, increased anxiety, higher blood pressure, and adrenal difficulties.
But here's the good news: L-Theanine eases these adverse side effects of caffeine. The ideal ratio for caffeine and L-Theanine is two parts L-Theanine to 1 part caffeine.
This is extremely difficult, if not impossible for most of us to accomplish with green tea alone.
Therefore, a good plan is to drink both coffee and green tea...and add L-Theanine to the mix.
Combined, they will give you a good mood, increased awareness, and a larger attention span.
But That's Not All of the Benefits that L-Theanine Delivers
In the ever-increasing fast-paced society that is 21st century America, stress is a gigantic problem and takes a terrible toll in many ways.
According to The American Institute of Stress, there are numerous emotional and physical disorders that have been linked to stress: depression, anxiety, heart attacks, stroke, hypertension, immune system disturbances that increase susceptibility to infections, a host of viral-related disorders ranging from the common cold and herpes to AIDS and certain cancers, as well as autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis...what a parade of horrors!
Knowing this, it's easy to see that if the only benefit regular doses of L-Theanine did was reduce stress, it would be well worth your while to jump on it.
But it does more than reducing stress...far more. Here are some of the other health benefits of this fantastic amino acid:
- Combating insomnia. Inability to get a good night's sleep is all-too-common for millions of Americans, and the problem seems to be getting worse. Stress, inactivity, sickness, medications, terrible sleep environment...take your pick. They all cause problems when trying to get to sleep.
- The effects of lack of sleep are devastating: more accidents, less cognitive ability, more ill-tempered people, less release of Growth Hormone and, for men, a lower release of Testosterone.
- Supplementing with L-Theanine levels out the brain waves, resulting in a relaxed body and a calm mind, but no drowsiness. This is precisely the type of relaxation prescribed by sleep researchers. Also, L-Theanine not only helps you fall asleep; as a bonus, it can cause you to sleep better.
- Balancing brain chemistry. Memory can be decimated by some things: aging, stress, and depression are the three top culprits. Cortisol is known as “the stress hormone,” and when its levels are high, stress increases. But L-Theanine comes to the rescue and has been shown to lower cortisol levels, which helps memory as well as other health benefits.
- Stress and depression activate other stress hormones called glucocorticoids. They also disrupt serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and other important brain chemicals. L-Theanine suppresses glucocorticoids since it is one of the few supplements that can cross the blood-brain barrier.
- Helps the liver perform its essential functions. Research from Japan has shown that L-Theanine is useful in combating the harmful effects of excessive alcohol on the liver. Here's why: alcohol morphs into a toxic chemical called acetaldehyde, which is similar to formaldehyde and is far more toxic than the alcohol itself.
- L-Theanine speeds up the breakdown of acetaldehyde, which blocks toxic free radicals. Glutathione is called “The Master Anti-Oxidant” since it plays such an essential role in all aspects of good health. The liver deals with alcohol by calling on glutathione to suppress the damage alcohol causes. The problem? Too much alcohol too often causes the liver to weaken, with life-threatening consequences. L-Theanine helps fight this alcohol-induced loss of glutathione.
- Blow-torch fat. Everyone wants to rid themselves of ugly, disease-producing blubber. Research has proven that green tea extract causes thermogenesis, which is the process of heat production within the body. Thermogenesis has been shown to help burn fat, and research has demonstrated that the combination of caffeine and L-Theanine in green tea helps prevent weight gain and fat accumulation.
- Nerve protection. L-Theanine prevents damage to brain cells by blocking over-stimulation of the cells and also guards brain cells against damage when oxygen levels are low, which can prove life-saving in the event of a stroke. Additionally, it also makes new brain cells by stimulating the release of a protein required for nerve growth.
- Still another way that L-Theanine offers nerve and brain protection is its ability to protect the body from excess glutamate, which is a natural neurotransmitter that allows signaling between nerves. This chemical can be poisonous to nerve tissue if the levels are not regulated. L-Theanine has shown the ability to offer the nerves of the brain protection from the insidious condition of excess glutamate.
- A powerful antioxidant. L-Theanine works its magic in many ways. One of them is the protection it provides to the cardiovascular system by preventing oxidation of low-density lipoprotein, or LDL cholesterol often referred to as “the bad cholesterol.”
- Research published in the July 2012 issue of the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry states that L-Theanine protects the cardiovascular system by stimulating the production of nitric oxide, which causes blood vessel dilation in the lining of the arteries. This reduces blood pressure and lowers the risk of a heart attack.
- Lowering the startle response. Daily, we are subject to a continuing barrage of useless, trivial information: advertisements that insult our intelligence, chatter from others that we don't want or need to hear, phones, traffic sounds, etc. The list could go on and on. To prevent our brains from exploding (figuratively), we are equipped with something called sensorimotor gating, which scientists define as “neurological processes of filtering out redundant or unnecessary stimuli in the brain from all possible environmental stimuli.”
- To make this a bit more understandable, consider this: if we couldn't filter out anything, we would be helpless to do anything. Sensorimotor gating prevents the brain from becoming overloaded with irrelevant information, which allows us to focus on what we need to know, and on what we are doing. This ability of L-Theanine to lower the startle response helps to explain why it gives us more focus while staying calm. One definition of this process is that L-Theanine “can contribute to controlling the gates of awareness.”
What is the Correct Dose of L-Theanine?
The typical dose of L-Theanine is 100-200 mg once to twice a day.
The good news is that L-Theanine is well-tolerated by the vast majority of users and has no adverse effect on driving abilities or other day-to-day activities.
Still, as with all nootropics, the results can vary, so as always, start slow and gauge your reactions.
So there you have it.
Granted, supplementing with L-Theanine will not turn you into a zen master overnight.
But it will deliver the benefits mentioned. Consider adding this safe, inexpensive supplement to your nootropics cabinet.
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