Matcha green tea possesses energizing properties and offers heaps of health benefits. It contains the amino acid, L-theanine, which gives matcha its sweet notes and has some potentially nice side benefits.
L-theanine fosters a state of calm in combination with the natural caffeine in matcha that offers a sustained period of powerful energy without the crash. This may be why samurai used to down matcha before going to battle, and monks drank it for concentration.
Aside from having L-theanine and caffeine, matcha is an antioxidant powerhouse.
- What are the benefits of L-theanine?
- How much L-theanine is in matcha vs. other drinks?
- Is it the caffeine or the L-theanine in matcha that helps me focus?
- How much matcha should I drink to get L-theanine’s benefits?
- Does L-theanine really help prevent Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc.?
- Are there any dangers related to L-theanine?
- Japanese matcha should always be the first choice
What are the benefits of L-theanine?
L-theanine triggers alpha-wave brain activity and stimulates dopamine (the “feel good” chemical) to simultaneously elevate focus and mood, while reducing stress. L-theanine in matcha fosters a state of calm and attentive wakefulness.
The benefits of L-theanine have been found to include:
- Boosts memory, focus, motivation, mental clarity, and cognitive abilities. L-theanine may influence the levels of several compounds in the brain, such as dopamine, which influences sleep, mood, and emotion, and cortisol, which helps the body to combat stress.
- Enhances brain function and increases alertness while reducing caffeine’s adverse effects. This means a cup of matcha increases alertness and may not give you the jitters you get from drinking coffee.
- Heightens other brain-calming chemicals like GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), dopamine (an inhibitory neurotransmitter associated with reward systems and motivation) and serotonin (an inhibitory neurotransmitter associated with mood and emotions that regulates the sleep cycle).
- Improves sleep quality by reducing anxiety and relieving stress. When the body is suffering from some stress, it produces the excitatory –fight-or-flight hormones that restore a sense of calm, boost relaxation, reduce stressful thoughts, and maximize learning capacity.
- Supports glycine levels to promote relaxation and reduce drowsiness. Glycine improves sleep quality, aids people with type-2 diabetes, and contributes to cellular growth and health.
- Supports healthy vascular function – L-theanine improves vascular function (circulatory system) and reduces the risk of heart disease. It promotes relaxation and alertness and fosters healthy cognitive performance. L-theanine supports healthy vascular function through this relaxing effect.
- Helps transmit nerve impulses in the brain – increases alpha brain wave activity, which happens when your brain is in an idling state like daydreaming or meditating. The boost in these waves enhances the ability to study, learn, focus, and handle other activities that need quiet contemplation.
- As L-theanine is an antioxidant, it lowers the presence of free radicals that wander around the body, resulting in inflammation, tissue breakdown (Rhabdomyolysis) or degeneration. Research shows that it strengthens the immune system by regulating the secretion of immune cytokines. L-theanine in tea incites innate immune response and immunologic memory in humans.
- L-theanine’s derivates are beneficial for treating cancer. The derivatives enhance the cancer-killing effect of chemotherapy and lessen the adverse effects of cancer drugs.
- The L-theanine in matcha tea offers umami. Research suggests that savory umami decreases appetite, which often helps with weight loss.
How much L-theanine is in matcha vs. other drinks?
While L-theanine can be found in all loose-leaf tea from the camellia sinensis plant, teas like matcha teas have particularly high levels of L-theanine. Matcha tea contains up to 5 times as much L-theanine as regular green tea.
Matcha contains more L-theanine because of the shade growing process in which the tea leaves grow. Other varieties of green teas are open-air grown, stimulating photosynthesis in their growth process.
Full-blown sunlight converts part of L-theanine into catechins (antioxidants for making teas more astringent and less sweet than shade-grown counterparts). Strong sunlight exposure decreases L-theanine, while shading enhances it.
Is it the caffeine or the L-theanine in matcha that helps me focus?
By itself, L-theanine is an effective nootropic (substances that can boost brain performance). However, when combined with caffeine, l-theanine can have a pronounced synergistic effect. In combination, these can heighten focus, attention, energy, and awareness.
L-theanine can decrease anxiety due to caffeine and increase positive feelings. The basic concept and science behind this stacking effect are that caffeine excites, while L-theanine calms and enhances attentiveness. When combined, these result in an increased calming and stimulating effect.
How much matcha should I drink to get L-theanine’s benefits?
Usually, 1 g of a good-quality matcha powder (avoid non-Japanese junk) contains ~20 mg of L-theanine. So a cup of matcha (~2 g) should up to about 40 mg of L-theanine.
You can stick to 2 cups of matcha per day to be on the safe. Health experts advise moderate consumption. These “cups” also vary a lot on how much matcha powder you add. A normal cup will have about 1 teaspoon (or about 2 dips of a chashaku [Japanese matcha scoop]).
Sticking with reputable Japanese matcha (or at the least USDA-approved American matcha) will ensure you get the full impact of the good chemicals and in abundant supply.
Avoid Chinese matcha, as it’s far less regulated and can taste weak or “off”. It’s also usually less regulated.
Does L-theanine really help prevent Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc.?
L-theanine has been found to help in providing neurological aid to reduce symptoms leading to Parkinson’s disease.
In theory, L-theanine protects the degradation of neuro cells with an increase in serotonin, dopamine, and other important neurotransmitters resulting in improvement of memory cells.
In addition to neuroprotection, L-theanine is also known to be an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties.
These could potentially help improve motor activities and simulate neurological cells.
Are there any dangers related to L-theanine?
Daily consumption of 900 mg of L-theanine for up to 2 months is considered safe. However, there’s no direct evidence of any side effects from long-term consumption. Many L-theanine supplements have been labelled and recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Some mild side effects include headaches and drowsiness.
So that means, if you’re really doubling down on the L-theanine, you’ll need some supplementation to go with your matcha. But it’s a lot tastier to enjoy quality matcha, and you get many other good benefits with it as well.
Also not that, prior to supplementing with L-theanine, medical advice is advised for:
- Lactating or pregnant women
- For people with low blood pressure – L-theanine may result in further reduction of blood pressure, so ask your doctor if you have any concerns
- Children – L-theanine is safe when consumed by mouth. 400 mg daily of l-theanine is safe and effective in enhancing sleep quality in boys diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But check with the doctor prior to giving it to the children.
- For people who are taking drugs for high or low blood pressure, stimulants to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), supplements that contain caffeine.
Japanese matcha should always be the first choice
Japanese matcha is high-grade with a strong aroma owing to its high amino acid content. It’s the healthiest and safest matcha available, thanks to strict agricultural guidelines.
Common sense often says organic is “better” because it has fewer “chemicals,” but in the case of matcha, there is little or no evidence that organic is safer. Also, because there are far fewer organics, while non-organic benefits from centuries of experience, you can get full, safe pleasure from pretty much any Japanese matcha. Just not there are different grades. Generally speaking – the cheaper it is, the less umami and glorious aroma you’ll get. Not to mention lower vitamin levels, as it hasn’t enjoyed the intense spring greening period of the best ceremonial matcha.
Samurai warriors drank matcha before they went to battle. A small, intense dose, downed in two loud slurps. Sort of a samurai espresso. L-theanine present in matcha tea offered energizing properties that keep the samurais’ wits sharp.