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L-theanine benefits, dose & side effects revealed: Your ultimate guide to calm

Published Mar 7, 2024 | Updated Jun 11, 2024
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In today’s fast-paced world, staying relaxed, sleeping better and coping with stress efficiently are some of the most treasured abilities. As much as techniques for emotional regulation can help you with that, it’s also important to support your body with the right nutrients to help you keep calm. L-theanine, a compound found primarily in green tea, has emerged in recent years as a popular supplement due to its many potential health benefits. Anecdotal evidence from tens of thousands of reviews online praise theanine for its relaxation, alertness and sleep quality benefits- but what does the science say? This article explores the evidence behind l-theanine acting as your ultimate guide for l-theanine supplementation.

What is l-theanine? Nature's natural relaxant

L-theanine is a natural compound first found in the tea plant in 1949[1 Trusted Source 2020 - Plant Foods for Human Nutrition Systematic review and meta-analysis The Effects of Green Tea Amino Acid L-Theanine Consumption on the Ability to Manage Stress and Anxiety Levels: A Systematic Review ,[2 Trusted Source 2011 - Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture Evidence review L-Theanine: Properties, synthesis and isolation from tea . Constituting 1-2% of the dry weight of green tea, l-theanine is also found in small amounts in some food sources and in supplemental form[3 Trusted Source 2006 - American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy Evidence review Pharmacology and therapeutic uses of theanine . There are currently 3 popular formats of theanine: natural, synthetic like suntheanine, and fermented. Consuming enough l-theanine helps you relax while still keeping you alert by increasing your relaxation chemical GABA as well as brain waves linked to focus known as alpha waves[4 Trusted Source 2011 - Journal of Functional Foods Human clinical study Effects of l-theanine on attention and reaction time response ,[5 Trusted Source 2017 - Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology Human clinical study Caffeine and theanine exert opposite effects on attention under emotional arousal ,[6 Trusted Source 2022 - Cleveland Clinic Blog article Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) ,[7 Trusted Source 2019 - Psychology Today Blog article 3 Amazing Benefits of GABA ,[8 Trusted Source 2008 - Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition Human clinical study L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state .

What does taking l-theanine do?

Reviewing 58 studies spanning 25 years, brain feed found several suggest l-theanine has multiple potential health benefits. Relaxation, stress relief, focus and sleep quality are all benefits you may know - but what does the clinical evidence say?

L-theanine and anxiety

Does l-theanine reduce anxiety? In short, it depends on what type of anxiety you are experiencing. There are 2 types of anxiety - trait and state anxiety. Trait anxiety is one’s general level of anxiety and it’s linked to your personality type. State anxiety is triggered by an acute stressor, such as public speaking or your first day at a new job.
10 studies and literature reviews concluded that 200 or 400 mg of l-theanine significantly reduces anxiety[1 Trusted Source 2020 - Plant Foods for Human Nutrition Systematic review and meta-analysis The Effects of Green Tea Amino Acid L-Theanine Consumption on the Ability to Manage Stress and Anxiety Levels: A Systematic Review ,[4 Trusted Source 2011 - Journal of Functional Foods Human clinical study Effects of l-theanine on attention and reaction time response ,[8 Trusted Source 2008 - Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition Human clinical study L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state ,[9 Trusted Source 2019 - Nutrients Human clinical study Effects of L-Theanine Administration on Stress-Related Symptoms and Cognitive Functions in Healthy Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial ,[10 Trusted Source 2004 - Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental Human clinical study The acute effects of L-theanine in comparison with alprazolam on anticipatory anxiety in humans ,[11 Trusted Source 2013 - Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior Human clinical study Anti-stress effect of theanine on students during pharmacy practice: Positive correlation among salivary α-amylase activity, trait anxiety and subjective stress ,[12 Trusted Source 2022 - Food Science and Human Wellness Evidence review How does the tea L-theanine buffer stress and anxiety ,[13 Trusted Source 2016 - Nutrients Human clinical study Anti-Stress, Behavioural and Magnetoencephalography Effects of an l-Theanine-Based Nutrient Drink: A Randomised, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Trial ,[14 Trusted Source 2012 - Journal of Physiological Anthropology Human clinical study Effects of L-theanine or caffeine intake on changes in blood pressure under physical and psychological stresses ,[15 Trusted Source 2019 - Pharmacological Research Evidence review Psychotropic effects of L-theanine and its clinical properties: From the management of anxiety and stress to a potential use in schizophrenia . Multiple studies suggest that l-theanine is more effective in people who generally have high levels of anxiety and experience trait anxiety[1 Trusted Source 2020 - Plant Foods for Human Nutrition Systematic review and meta-analysis The Effects of Green Tea Amino Acid L-Theanine Consumption on the Ability to Manage Stress and Anxiety Levels: A Systematic Review ,[4 Trusted Source 2011 - Journal of Functional Foods Human clinical study Effects of l-theanine on attention and reaction time response ,[8 Trusted Source 2008 - Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition Human clinical study L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state ,[9 Trusted Source 2019 - Nutrients Human clinical study Effects of L-Theanine Administration on Stress-Related Symptoms and Cognitive Functions in Healthy Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial ,[12 Trusted Source 2022 - Food Science and Human Wellness Evidence review How does the tea L-theanine buffer stress and anxiety ,[14 Trusted Source 2012 - Journal of Physiological Anthropology Human clinical study Effects of L-theanine or caffeine intake on changes in blood pressure under physical and psychological stresses ,[15 Trusted Source 2019 - Pharmacological Research Evidence review Psychotropic effects of L-theanine and its clinical properties: From the management of anxiety and stress to a potential use in schizophrenia .
Whilst evidence is promising it is limited with more research needed. If you’re dealing with anxiety, talk to your GP or visit x for some NHS-recommended resources.

L-theanine for relaxation: Keep calm and carry on

L-theanine’s relaxation effects have been well studied. L-theanine increases the levels of the main relaxation chemical GABA promoting general feelings of calm and well-being[16 Trusted Source 2002 - The Neuroscientist Evidence review Book Review: GABA and Glutamate in the Human Brain . Subjective feelings of relaxation have been reported as quickly as 30-40 minutes after ingesting a 200 mg l-theanine supplement[8 Trusted Source 2008 - Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition Human clinical study L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state ,[17 Trusted Source 2023 - Molecules Evidence review L-Theanine and Immunity: A Review . Studies have also concluded that l-theanine assists in reducing stress in people exposed to stressful conditions[1 Trusted Source 2020 - Plant Foods for Human Nutrition Systematic review and meta-analysis The Effects of Green Tea Amino Acid L-Theanine Consumption on the Ability to Manage Stress and Anxiety Levels: A Systematic Review ,[6 Trusted Source 2022 - Cleveland Clinic Blog article Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) ,[7 Trusted Source 2019 - Psychology Today Blog article 3 Amazing Benefits of GABA ,[8 Trusted Source 2008 - Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition Human clinical study L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state ,[12 Trusted Source 2022 - Food Science and Human Wellness Evidence review How does the tea L-theanine buffer stress and anxiety ,[13 Trusted Source 2016 - Nutrients Human clinical study Anti-Stress, Behavioural and Magnetoencephalography Effects of an l-Theanine-Based Nutrient Drink: A Randomised, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Trial . Imagine you have a job interview. You feel excited, nervous and maybe a little scared. The study found that theanine helps you calm down while keeping you collected and alert by keeping the body’s stress indicators down.

L-theanine for sleep: Sweet dreams or a beautiful placebo?

A staple in Stanford University, professor Andrew Huberman's sleep cocktail, and a hot l-theanine Reddit topic it’s easy to see why l-theanine has become associated with restful slumber. Does l-theanine help you sleep? If you’re an overthinker, l-theanine for sleep might be the answer. Why? Well, sleep quality is a term based on multiple sleep components, one of them being sleep efficiency which refers to the percentage of total time in bed that is actually spent sleeping[16 Trusted Source 2002 - The Neuroscientist Evidence review Book Review: GABA and Glutamate in the Human Brain . Higher sleep efficiency indicates better sleep quality. While overthinking can keep you awake for longer, theanine can help you fall asleep sooner by slowing down your racing thoughts. It's important to note if it's your sleep hormone, melatonin you are looking to boost, then theanine misses the mark. In contrast to supplements like 5-htp and melatonin, theanine does not promote the onset of your sleep hormone melatonin which contributes to managing your sleep-wake cycle. Read more about the benefits of 5-htp for sleep if you’re interested in boosting your sleep hormone.

L-theanine for ADHD: The jury is out

Is l-theanine good for ADHD? Studies found some beneficial effects. A study on l-theanine & ADHD in boys aged 8 to 12 years old who were previously diagnosed with ADHD shows that l-theanine is effective in improving some aspects of sleep quality[18 Trusted Source 2011 - Alternative Medicine Review: A Journal of Clinical Therapeutic Human clinical study The effects of L-theanine (Suntheanine®) on objective sleep quality in boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial . In another study, l-theanine improved cognition in 5 boys aged 8 to 18 years old[19 Trusted Source 2020 - Scientific Reports Human clinical study Effects of l-theanine–caffeine combination on sustained attention and inhibitory control among children with ADHD: A proof-of-concept neuroimaging RCT . This promising evidence is limited at the same time as studies with bigger samples are needed.

L-theanine for caffeine jitters: The perfect blend

Your perfect brew, free from the jitters - that is the theory between l-theanine and caffeine. Taking l-theanine together with caffeine is said to alleviate caffeine jitters and is a growing phenomenon on social media. A UK study found that l-theanine helps lower the blood pressure that the caffeine has boosted[20 Trusted Source 2008 - Psychopharmacology Human clinical study Time for tea: Mood, blood pressure and cognitive performance effects of caffeine and theanine administered alone and together . The cure for caffeine jitters, however, is yet to be found. Read more about the l-theanine and caffeine blend to get to know more about the effects.

Now you know the benefits of l-theanine, Discover how much theanine you need to reap them. Spoiler - a cup of green tea will fall short.

L-theanine dose: How much should I take?

Whilst theanine is found in small amounts in green tea, to obtain a therapeutic dose you would need to consume up to 38 cups[21 Trusted Source 2016 - Pharmacognosy Magazine Study of chemical properties Theanine and Caffeine Content of Infusions Prepared from Commercial Tea Sample . An easy way to skip the side effects of excessive tea consumption and the boiling of the kettle is to opt for a supplemental form of l-theanine. How much to take? Studies show a dose of 200-400mg shows a beneficial effect[1 Trusted Source 2020 - Plant Foods for Human Nutrition Systematic review and meta-analysis The Effects of Green Tea Amino Acid L-Theanine Consumption on the Ability to Manage Stress and Anxiety Levels: A Systematic Review .
brain feed wanted to know exactly how much l-theanine helps you achieve the benefits. By analyzing 11 studies including 276 participants' brain feed are 95% confident that a beneficial dose for theanine is 230 mg and above.


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How long do the benefits last?

Studies found that people supplementing with l-theanine feel the benefits 30-40 minutes after ingesting an l-theanine supplement[8 Trusted Source 2008 - Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition Human clinical study L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state ,[17 Trusted Source 2023 - Molecules Evidence review L-Theanine and Immunity: A Review – but how long do they last? Like a cup of coffee, theanine has a “half-life” which is the time it takes for the theanine in your system to fall to half its original value. Say you drink a cup of coffee containing 100mg of caffeine, you start to feel the effects within 15 to 45 minutes. The effects typically peak about an hour after you drink the cup, however part of the caffeine stays in your system longer. At the 6-hour mark, you still have around 50mg of caffeine in your system. The same is true for theanine. Whilst a cup of coffee may still be in your system 6 hours later, theanine is reduced a lot faster meaning it reaches its half life within 1 hour. Early evidence suggests that the effects on brain activity can be observed even after that period – typically lasting an hour and a half[4 Trusted Source 2011 - Journal of Functional Foods Human clinical study Effects of l-theanine on attention and reaction time response . How much to take of this beneficial supplement considering its short half-life? As research showed benefits above 230 mg of theanine, you can take two capsules per day, one at a time with a couple of hours in between. The analysis was conducted on only a small sample of studies that included few participants. That can alter the analysis results a little bit and affect how well the results represent what effects l-theanine has for most people. To showcase theanine effects even better, further analysis should assign more importance to results from studies with a bigger sample size.

Is it safe to take l-theanine every day?

Yes - studies are yet to show l-theanine side effects. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set a safe upper limit for l-theanine at 1200 mg per day which is in line with studies that are yet to determine any toxicity levels of the nutrient or answer the question is l-theanine safe[22 Trusted Source 2006 - Food and Chemical Toxicology Animal study A 13-week dietary toxicity and toxicokinetic study with l-theanine in rats ,[23 Trusted Source 2008 - Food Chemistry Animal study Tumorigenicity study of l-theanine administrated orally to mice ,[24 Trusted Source 1999 - Trends in Food Science & Technology Evidence review L-theanine-a unique amino acid of green tea and its relaxation effect in humans ,[25 Trusted Source 2006 - Department of Health & Human Services Governmental authority Re:GRAS Notice No. GRN 000209 .

Who should not use l-theanine?

It’s generally recognized as safe (GRAS). This notice is given by the FDA when the current body of studies can show general safety for a supplement[25 Trusted Source 2006 - Department of Health & Human Services Governmental authority Re:GRAS Notice No. GRN 000209 . People who are taking medication for regulating high blood pressure should consult with their GP before they start supplementing with theanine.

The unique calming yet alert-boosting qualities of l-theanine make it an ideal supplement for today's fast-paced world. By naturally inducing a state of relaxed alertness, l-theanine can help you unwind naturally. Wondering where to buy l-theanine UK? Look no further.

Buy l-theanine UK, US, EU: A checklist for the best

When it comes to buying any supplement you should consider format, dosage and source. brain feed’s l-theanine is naturally extracted from green tea and provides 250mg l-theanine in a single capsule.


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L-theanine vs theanine

You might wonder what's the difference between l-theanine and theanine as both terms are used a lot in the supplement space. The l-form is technically a particular molecular form of theanine most closely linked to the benefits of relaxation. The term theanine usually refers to the commercially available l-theanine, meaning the names are used interchangeably.

L-theanine and lemon balm: A match made in heaven?

A quick Google search of l-theanine supplements and you will see it is often sold in combination with another ingredient called lemon balm. Lemon balm is a soothing herbal plant that has been used in traditional medicine for centuries[26 Trusted Source 2008 - Hamilton Academic Evidence review Lemon balm . Lemon balm's mechanism of action, ability to enter the brain or synergetic benefit is unknown. Opting for a pure, isolated theanine supplement is a safe and evidence-based way to supplement.

L-theanine vs GABA: Best relaxation tool revealed

If you are from the US you may be aware of the ability to buy GABA supplements. Wondering why you would buy l-theanine when you can buy the main guy? When it comes to the l-theanine vs GABA battle l-theanine comes out on top. Increasing your GABA levels by oral supplementation is in vain as oral GABA’s entry into the brain is limited[27 Trusted Source 2015 - Frontiers in Psychology Evidence review Neurotransmitters as food supplements: The effects of GABA on brain and behavior . L-theanine also wins the time battle, meaning it provides you with relaxation effects much quicker than GABA[8].


All in all, theanine is nature’s effective and safe relaxant that can help you take on the most stressful of tasks and calm you down during the day and before bedtime.

 

References

[1] Williams, J. L., Everett, J. M., D’Cunha, N. M., Sergi, D., Georgousopoulou, E. N., Keegan, R. J., McKune, A. J., Mellor, D. D., Anstice, N., & Naumovski, N. (2020). The Effects of Green Tea Amino Acid L-Theanine Consumption on the Ability to Manage Stress and Anxiety Levels: A Systematic Review. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, 75(1), 12–23. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11130-019-00771-5

[2] Vuong, Q. V., Bowyer, M. C., & Roach, P. D. (2011). L-Theanine: Properties, synthesis and isolation from tea. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 91(11), 1931–1939. https://doi.org/10.1002/jsfa.4373

[3] Eschenauer, G., & Sweet, B. V. (2006). Pharmacology and therapeutic uses of theanine. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, 63(1), 26–30. https://doi.org/10.2146/ajhp050148

[4] Higashiyama, A., Htay, H. H., Ozeki, M., Juneja, L. R., & Kapoor, M. P. (2011). Effects of l-theanine on attention and reaction time response. Journal of Functional Foods, 3(3), 171–178. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jff.2011.03.009

[5] Giles, G. E., Mahoney, C. R., Brunyé, T. T., Taylor, H. A., & Kanarek, R. B. (2017). Caffeine and theanine exert opposite effects on attention under emotional arousal. Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, 95(1), 93–100. https://doi.org/10.1139/cjpp-2016-0498

[6] Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) (2022). Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22857-gamma-aminobutyric-acid-gaba#:~:text=It%20slows%20down%20your%20brain,with%20anxiety%2C%20stress%20and%20fear

[7] Breus, M. J. (2019). 3 Amazing Benefits of GABA. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/sleep-newzzz/201901/3-amazing-benefits-gaba

[8] Nobre, A. C., Rao, A., & Owen, G. N. (2008). L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 17(S1), 167–168. https://doi.org/10.6133/apjcn.2008.17.s1.40

[9] Hidese, S., Ogawa, S., Ota, M., Ishida, I., Yasukawa, Z., Ozeki, M., & Kunugi, H. (2019). Effects of L-Theanine Administration on Stress-Related Symptoms and Cognitive Functions in Healthy Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients, 11(10), Article 10. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11102362

[10] Lu, K., Gray, M. A., Oliver, C., Liley, D. T., Harrison, B. J., Bartholomeusz, C. F., Phan, K. L., & Nathan, P. J. (2004). The acute effects of L-theanine in comparison with alprazolam on anticipatory anxiety in humans. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, 19(7), 457–465. https://doi.org/10.1002/hup.611

[11] Unno, K., Tanida, N., Ishii, N., Yamamoto, H., Iguchi, K., Hoshino, M., Takeda, A., Ozawa, H., Ohkubo, T., Juneja, L. R., & Yamada, H. (2013). Anti-stress effect of theanine on students during pharmacy practice: Positive correlation among salivary α-amylase activity, trait anxiety and subjective stress. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 111, 128–135. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pbb.2013.09.004

[12] Wang, L., Brennan, M., Li, S., Zhao, H., Lange, K. W., & Brennan, C. (2022). How does the tea L-theanine buffer stress and anxiety. Food Science and Human Wellness, 11(3), 467–475. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fshw.2021.12.004

[13] White, D., De Klerk, S., Woods, W., Gondalia, S., Noonan, C., & Scholey, A. (2016). Anti-Stress, Behavioural and Magnetoencephalography Effects of an l-Theanine-Based Nutrient Drink: A Randomised, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Trial. Nutrients, 8(1), 53. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8010053

[14] Yoto, A., Motoki, M., Murao, S., & Yokogoshi, H. (2012). Effects of L-theanine or caffeine intake on changes in blood pressure under physical and psychological stresses. Journal of Physiological Anthropology, 31(1), 28. https://doi.org/10.1186/1880-6805-31-28

[15] Lopes Sakamoto, F., Metzker Pereira Ribeiro, R., Amador Bueno, A., & Oliveira Santos, H. (2019). Psychotropic effects of L-theanine and its clinical properties: From the management of anxiety and stress to a potential use in schizophrenia. Pharmacological Research, 147, 104395. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phrs.2019.104395

[16] Petroff, O. A. C. (2002). Book Review: GABA and Glutamate in the Human Brain. The Neuroscientist, 8(6), 562–573.

[17] Chen, S., Kang, J., Zhu, H., Wang, K., Han, Z., Wang, L., Liu, J., Wu, Y., He, P., Tu, Y., & Li, B. (2023). L-Theanine and Immunity: A Review. Molecules, 28(9), 3846. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules28093846

[18] Lyon, M. R., Kapoor, M. P., & Juneja, L. R. (2011). The effects of L-theanine (Suntheanine®) on objective sleep quality in boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Alternative Medicine Review: A Journal of Clinical Therapeutic, 16(4), 348–354. https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/The-effects-of-L-theanine-(Suntheanine%C2%AE)-on-sleep-a-Lyon-Kapoor/0e1bc46777384311402e724aebfc151993e7e699

[19] Kahathuduwa, C. N., Wakefield, S., West, B. D., Blume, J., Dassanayake, T. L., Weerasinghe, V. S., & Mastergeorge, A. (2020). Effects of l-theanine–caffeine combination on sustained attention and inhibitory control among children with ADHD: A proof-of-concept neuroimaging RCT. Scientific Reports, 10, 13072. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-70037-7

[20] Rogers, P. J., Smith, J. E., Heatherley, S. V., & Pleydell-Pearce, C. W. (2008). Time for tea: Mood, blood pressure and cognitive performance effects of caffeine and theanine administered alone and together. Psychopharmacology, 195(4), 569–577. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-007-0938-1

[21] Boros, K., Jedlinszki, N., & Csupor, D. (2016). Theanine and Caffeine Content of Infusions Prepared from Commercial Tea Samples. Pharmacognosy Magazine, 12(45), 75–79. https://doi.org/10.4103/0973-1296.176061

[22] Borzelleca, J. F., Peters, D., & Hall, W. (2006). A 13-week dietary toxicity and toxicokinetic study with l-theanine in rats. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 44(7), 1158–1166. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fct.2006.03.014

[23] Fujii, S., & Inai, K. (2008). Tumorigenicity study of l-theanine administrated orally to mice. Food Chemistry, 110(3), 643–646. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2008.02.052

[24] Juneja, L. R., Chu, D.-C., Okubo, T., Nagato, Y., & Yokogoshi, H. (1999). L-theanine-a unique amino acid of green tea and its relaxation effect in humans. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 10(6), 199–204. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0924-2244(99)00044-8

[25] Tarantino, L. M., Food and Drug Administration (FDA), CFSAN/Office of Food Additive Safety (2006). Re: GRAS Notice No. GRN 000209. Department of Health & Human Services. https://www.suntheanine.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/ST-FDA-GRAS.pdf

[26] Bumb, M. (2008). Lemon balm. Hamilton Academics. https://academics.hamilton.edu/foodforthought/Our_Research_files/lemon_balm.pdf

[27] Boonstra, E., de Kleijn, R., Colzato, L. S., Alkemade, A., Forstmann, B. U., & Nieuwenhuis, S. (2015). Neurotransmitters as food supplements: The effects of GABA on brain and behavior. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1520. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01520

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