Could it have been this special amino acid which set in motion the past millennia of green tea connoisseurship in Japan, and now the rest of the world?
History of L-theanine
The Zen Buddhists who developed matcha while pursuing heightened meditative states naturally began associating special effects with savory flavor. Nearly 1,000 years ago, they began to selectively root-out the most exquisite tea plants while developing careful cultivation practices (such as intense shade).
As clinical evidence today supports, our historical (and modern day) Zen practitioners were onto something. And today, rather than the one-sided, and short-lived burst of energy (and crash!) from coffee or other energy drinks, matcha green tea represents real balance between energy, nutrition, and mental clarity.
L-theanine dietary source | L-theanine foods
Instead, matcha grows in commonality for its superior energy, robust nutrient profile, and potent concentration of brain-boosting amino acids. It’s no longer a stereotype of softer caffeine temperament, it’s for everyone.
- Matcha is a whole-leaf powder of green tea, and can be considered part of a whole-food diet, due to ingesting the actual tea leaves, powdered.
Numerous research publications recognize the L-theanine contained in matcha as a promoter of calm, relaxation, and alpha-brain waves. In fact, according to a 2018 study evaluating dozens of matcha tea samples outside of Japan.
They found that the amino acid content of real matcha green tea is what separates it from ‘imitation matcha’ .
- I.e. green tea powder which has not been specially cultivated to increase amino-acid content, often bitter and not from Japan.
What is L-theanine? Best Natural Source of L-theanine
L-theanine is most concentrated amino-acid naturally found in matcha green tea – this neuroactive molecule reaches deep into our health in ways other energy drinks simply cannot.
We’ll learn that it’s not only the brain boost either, this special molecule provides a host of protections – even helping to balance immunity during a critical time.
Matcha L-theanine Tea | Best L-theanine for Health Benefits
In the past couple years, alternative energy drinks have started adding a dose of L-theanine to try to mimic the natural effects of matcha green tea; there must be some good reasons why, right?
Absolutely! But, simply adding an extract of L-theanine fails to accomplish the complete, naturally-rounded L-theanine benefits produced by authentic Japanese matcha tea.
Not to mention, how this neuroactive amino-acid harmonizes with other natural compounds in matcha tea, including polyphenols, caffeine, and catechins.
- Premium Japanese matcha powder can be thought of as a partner in health, nature’s most concentrated source of both L-theanine, and some of the most potent antioxidants in the world.
Common Reasons to Supplement with L-theanine | How Theanine works
In light of the incredible benefits of L-theanine, it’s important to note that it’s not technically considered an essential amino-acid. Not required, but the mountain of research for brain health, immunity, overall mental health and longevity are astounding.
L-theanine for Anxiety | L-theanine and Caffeine
Among other studies, matcha’s L-theanine is suggested to improve sleep, focus, learning, and symptoms of anxiety. L-theanine synergizes with the natural caffeine content in matcha, but how exactly does that work on a neurochemical level?
L-theanine for maximum Brain Boost
As a ‘non-essential amino acid’ L-theanine is an analogue, or close structure, to its protein-building counterparts L-glutamate and L-glutamine, both of which are critical to normal protein synthesis and balanced neurotransmitters.
In the body it is absorbed by the small intestine and can be converted by the liver into active L-glutamate; however some L-theanine that is consumed isn’t first broken down, instead it can cross the blood brain barrier (BBB) to modulate many of the same glutamate receptor sites.
L-theanine for ADHD/ADD
Importantly, L-theanine is very similar to glutamate, the most abundant excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain and central nervous system. Excitatory neurotransmitters require a careful balance in the brain in order to avoid excitotoxicity (overactivity) and hypofunction (under-activity).
- See Ceremonial Grade matcha for the most L-theanine
Multiple studies have assessed L-theanine’s promising neuromodulating effects, one in particular being by reducing glutamatergic excitotoxicity by acting as a glutamate reuptake inhibitor.
L-theanine for Brain Health Benefits
The latest science also recommends L-theanine as a powerful modulator on NMDA receptors, acting as an agonist (to increase activity). These receptors are involved in memory, learning, proper muscle impulses, and can signal the production of other neurotransmitters.
L-theanine may help them work correctly, to help avoid distractions and counter impulses. Overall, this amino acid helps to bear the brunt in the host of important functions of the chemically similar, and physiologically critical glutamate.
Reasons to supplement with matcha L-theanine for Mental health
Matcha’s L-theanine has also been implicated in important biomarkers for brain health, neuronal growth, and in developing a more homeostatic condition between other important neurotransmitters than glutamate, e.g. dopamine and serotonin.
L-theanine for Neurological Health
Multiple peer reviewed studies demonstrate that L-theanine triggers an increased production of dopamine and serotonin in key regions in the brain by encouraging production of transmitter precursors such as tryptophan.
L-theanine for GABA
L-theanine has also been found to bind to the glutamatergic AMPA receptor, encouraging the release of GABA which plays an overwhelmingly important role in the brain; it functions as a chief inhibitory signal for relaxation, muscle tone, and focus, while also protecting from a broad range of excitotoxicity.
L-theanine for BDNF
Beyond protection, L-theanine increases plasma levels of BDNF (read more about Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor). For one, BDNF is associated with glutamate activity and strongly defines brain health, especially in terms of neuroplasticity and impulse control.
L-theanine for NGF (Nerve Growth Factor)
Also, and as suggested through many shared glutamatergic mechanisms, controlled studies have determined that NGF is upregulated by L-theanine, primary roles including the maintenance, growth, and healing of neurons.
Reports point to appropriate levels of NGF, as aided by L-theanine, in the prevention and reduced symptomology of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. It’s like the perfect nutrition for your brain.
L-theanine Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Best Natural L-theanine?
The incredible benefits of L-theanine are found in matcha tea, something that coffee cannot claim to contain.
What does L-theanine taste like?
It’s the compound directly responsible for the savory/umami flavor of matcha, and the reason why a calm, serene focus washes over those who drink matcha, due to its neuroactive qualities.
What Tea Contains the most L-theanine?
Also good to know: not all tea possesses the same levels of L-theanine. Black teas typically contain the least, in place of higher caffeine content.
On the other hand, green teas, but especially matcha due to precise growing conditions, are known to contain upwards of five times the normal levels of L-theanine.
How L-theanine works in the Brain?
Theanine, also known as L-theanine, is one of the most important molecules for those interested in brain health, nootropic fuel, and overall longevity. L-theanine works in the brain because of the chemical similarity to glutamate, able to cross the blood-brain-barrier.
Can L-theanine Boost Immunity?
It’s reported that L-theanine may help in maintain a balanced immune response. Specifically, L-theanine may help equalize key immune cells (Th1, Th2) in order to fight infection, without causing tissue damage .
This is also suggested as one reason that L-theanine may offer protections to the liver, potentially helping to fight inflammation and low antioxidant levels .
- Read more about how matcha helps liver health.
How to Get Started with L-theanine
Historically, the Japanese have demonstrated a level of longevity not seen elsewhere in the world. Minimal disease and age-related cognitive impairments, it’s considerable that these qualities may be attributed to the regular (daily) consumption of matcha tea – even throughout the day.
The cutting-edge of science coincides this level of consumption with the threshold to achieve therapeutic benefits; not only from L-theanine, but also antioxidant catechins like EGCG.
Overall, matcha green tea is notable as an enjoyable, energizing elixir with a lot more to offer than most mainstream energy drinks (e.g. coffee). It’s also far more ancient and deeply rooted in human civilization.
It’s recommended to fully incorporate matcha in your day for up to 2 or 3 months to benefit from the full range of metabolic and cognitive benefits, not to mention overall sense of wellbeing.
At least, the L-theanine in matcha will keep you feeling cool, level-headed, and able to stay productive and healthy.
-Team Matcha Kari
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See Full List of Matcha Health Benefits
When do you know if you’ve had too much matcha?
Matcha with the most L-theanine
 Unno, K., Furushima, D., Hamamoto, S., Iguchi, K., Yamada, H., Morita, A., ... & Nakamura, Y. (2018). Stress-reducing function of matcha green tea in animal experiments and clinical trials. Nutrients, 10(10), 1468.
 Gupta, A. (2020). Is Immuno-modulation the Key to COVID-19 Pandemic?. Indian Journal of Orthopaedics, 1-4.
 Li, C., Tong, H., Yan, Q., Tang, S., Han, X., Xiao, W., & Tan, Z. (2016). L-Theanine improves immunity by altering TH2/TH1 cytokine balance, brain neurotransmitters, and expression of phospholipase C in rat hearts. Medical science monitor: international medical journal of experimental and clinical research, 22, 662.