L-Theanine: the Next Supplement Superstar
by Dr. Michael Murray, ND
Everyday stress is a normal part of modern living. Job pressures; family responsibilities; financial pressures; traffic, and time management are just a few of the constant stressors most of us are faced with on a daily basis. Sometimes the stress of modern life can be overwhelming as a result as a result nearly 20% of adults in the U.S. use a drug like Xanax, Valium, Restoril, Lunesta, or Ambien to help them calm down or get to sleep.
The problem is that all of these drugs are associated with significant risks including the fact that they are highly addictive and are very poor candidates for long-term use. Common side effects include dizziness, drowsiness, and impaired coordination, it is important not to drive or engage in any potentially dangerous activities while on these drugs. Alcohol should never be consumed with these drugs as it could be fatal. Prescriptions for these sorts of drugs are at an all time high and actually increased by 35% last year.
L-theanine: A gentle, natural alternative
L-theanine, a unique amino acid found almost exclusively in tea plants (Camellia sinensis), is emerging as the premier natural product to relieve stress and anxiety. Although L-theanine is the primary amino acid component of green tea comprising between 1 to 2% of the dry weight of tea leaves, it has been available in the U.S. in a purified form for several years now. This purified form is known as Suntheanine.
The effects of L-theanine are truly amazing. Clinical studies have demonstrated that L-theanine reduces stress, improves the quality of sleep, diminishes the symptoms of the premenstrual syndrome, heightens mental acuity and reduces negative side effects of caffeine. These clinical effects are directly related to L-theanine’s ability to stimulate the production of alpha brain waves (a state often achieved by meditation and characterized by being relaxed with greater mental focus and mental alertness) as well as reduce beta-waves (associated with nervousness, scattered thoughts, and hyperactivity).
L-theanine has been approved for use in Japan as an aid to conquer stress and promote relaxation. It is a very is a popular ingredient in function foods and beverages as well as dietary supplements designed to produce mental and physical relaxation, without inducing drowsiness. L-theanine is fast-acting. Generally, the effects are felt within the first 30 minutes, and have been shown to last up to 8 to 12 hours. Based on the results of clinical studies, it has been established that L-theanine is effective in the range of 50 – 200 mg. If a person has higher levels of stress it is often recommended that they take at least 100 to 200 mg one to three times daily. Although L-theanine is completely safe and without any known adverse drug interaction, as a general guideline it is recommended to take no more than 600 mg within a 6 hour period and no more than 1,200 mg within a 24 hour period.
At typical dosages, e.g., 100-200 mg L-theanine does not act as a sedative, but it does significantly improve sleep quality. It is also an excellent synergist to melatonin and 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) in promoting sleep. On its own, L-theanine at a dosage of 200 mg was shown in a double-blind trial to produce statistically significant improvements in sleep efficiency, an index of actual sleep time enjoyed between the time of falling asleep and nighttime awakenings.
Why L-theanine poised to be the next supplement superstar
There are several reasons why L-theanine is going to emerge as a major natural product. The first is that it definitely fills a need as a safe alternative to prescription drugs that are highly addictive and have a long list of side effects. The scientific merit of the product has been sufficiently established in helping to relieve mild anxiety and improve sleep quality. Next, it is a product that is truly experiential. In other words, it is a product that you can feel.
Interestingly, however, is that in the studies looking at L-theanine’s ability to produce an increase in alpha-waves, the relaxing effect was really only noticeable in people who were experiencing a bit of nervousness. People who were already feeling relaxed and alert did not experience any change when they took L-theanine. So, the people who are really go to feel the full effects of L-theanine are those that truly need it.
Another reason why I am predicting here that L-theanine is going to be a major natural product in the marketplace is that I am anticipating the results from clinical studies in progress are going to produce extremely positive results. For example, Michael Lyon, M.D., Director of the Canadian Center for Functional Medicine, in conjunction with the University of British Columbia is conducting a double-blind, placebo controlled study in boys diagnosed with attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity.
If the results of Dr. Lyon’s study are as impressive as case histories and preliminary studies, L-theanine should emerge as a safe, natural alternative to the drug Ritalin. If that happens, I think it is very safe to say that sales of L-theanine will sky rocket.
From Jonathan Wright MD:
Q: The pain in my lower back is getting out of hand. I’m hesitant to go to my regular doctor about it, though. All they seem to do is prescribe pills that knock you out, or try to get you on the operating table. And I’ve never witnessed anyone who’s had back surgery come out feeling all that much better. Do you have any suggestions?
JVW: There are many natural options you can try to relieve your pain before submitting to narcotics or surgery.
First, you might want to try willow bark, the natural anti-inflammatory that actually served as the basis for aspirin. Many researchers have maintained that willow bark has even more to offer than our synthetic pharmaceuticals when it comes to relieving back pain.
Another possibility to explore is vitamin D deficiency. In fact, the Mayo Clinic did a study several years ago in an inner city clinic that discovered 93 percent of the 150 people with complaints of chronic, non-specific low back pain had vitamin D deficiency. And these weren’t just older folks…they ranged in age from 10 to 65 years old.
Also, just a few weeks ago, more news emerged regarding the benefits of acupuncture for treating low back pain. Acupuncture involves inserting very thin, flexible needles just under the skin along specific points on the body that relate to organs, areas of the body, or body systems. The needles work to correct the flow of energy (or chi) through the body, alleviating any imbalances or blockages that might be causing pain.
As you may recall I have sent out two emails about the importance of Vitamin D and how quite a few people are deficient in it. You should be probably taking 1000-2000 IUs of Vitamin D daily. You can get Vitamin D almost anywhere.