History of one of Asia’s oldest longevity and vitality secrets
One of the oldest medicines known to man were herbal teas. Medicinal teas have a long and storied history that goes at least as far back as 5,000 years ago in China. One of the most popular drinks worldwide is tea and camellia sinensis (Chinese tea), or Cha Huan, as it’s called in Chinese, literally “tea flower” is the source of green, black and white teas.
Green tea, a popular favorite in Asia has long been used for it’s ability to induce a calm focus that meshes well with the edge of the caffeine in the leaves. One of the secrets of green tea’s cognitive sharpening potency is in the presence of l-theanine, an enzyme which causes a mild anxiolytic sedation while provideing a contradictory increased focus that can be very synergetic in combination with caffeine. This combination can take down the jagged edge and add a sense of calm focus to the increased energy and drive of the caffeine. The only other known source of the amino acid l-theanine are found in the mushroom Basidiomycete fungus and Guayusa a plant related to the holly family.
Mood lifting and neuroprotective benefit of l-theanine
In addition to the sense of serene attentiveness l-theanine can provide, the supplement has also been shown to improve quality of sleep without a concurrent increase in quantity of sleep. With increase in sleep quality researchers found the participants had increased recovery from periods of exertion. Due to l-theanine’s action upon enzymes that affect serotonergic activity it may also be useful as a mood enhancer.
According to a Chinese study, theanine present in the body during a stroke leads to significant reduction to size of the damaged area as well as reducing chance of stroke by about 40%. In addition to it’s benefit on the heart and brain, theanine is also a liver tonic and can even function as an antidote to alcohol by significantly lowering blood alcohol content before or after administration of alcohol. Theanine has no known interactions or counter-indications. It’s highly bio-available due to it’s being able to easily cross the blood-brain barrier.
Theanine’s neuroprotective benefit is in part due to it’s ability to balance out hormones called glucocortisoids which can be activated by stress brought about by adrenergic fight or flight response or environmental stress and depression. Cortisol, a hormonal by-product of fight or flight response is a brain and body killer and can result in memory problems and sleep deficit if left unchecked.
L-theanine’s nootropic and mood-enhancing benefit
L-theanine could owe some of it’s response to activity as an antagonist to excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate. Theanine’s glutamergic action may affect mood, memory and learning, which all use similar pathways and involve similar biochemical reactions.
Some studies suggest that glutamate receptor antagonists could alleviate some effects resulting from high glucocorticoid levels as well as offering neuroprotective benefit for those suffering from certain chronic neurodegenerative diseases.
L-theanine and caffeine, with or without a cholinergic such as one of the racetams and a simple choline source like choline bitartrate or a more potent acetylcholine precursor like citicoline or Alpha GPC are a great starter stack for those wishing to dip their toe into the nootropic pool.