The term Zen is the Japanese variation of the Sanskrit word dhyāna (“meditation”). Zen is used to describe self-discipline and meditation practice, which is why it’s often associated with monks. Today, the general sentiment of “Zen” corresponds to the gentle tranquillity and peacefulness that follows practices like meditation and yoga.
So, when you hear “find your Zen”, it often has to do with the return to mindfulness and connecting with the present. When we are in over our heads with the daily stresses of life, it can be easy to reach for the closest caffeinated source; for most people, this is coffee. Though caffeine can temporarily raise our alertness, there’s also a downfall. Excess caffeine from coffee can put us in a “hyperactive” state where it becomes more difficult to concentrate. Then, followed by the infamous caffeine crash where we develop the urge to reach for sugar or another coffee.
This is why matcha is such a unique and powerful food. A lifesaver for some! You can comfortably drink 2-3 cups of matcha before you exceed the caffeine content of one cup of coffee. And importantly, matcha is rich in an amino acid by the name of L-theanine. L-theanine is responsible for helping us feel calm and alert. It is not a free-roaming agent in the plant kingdom and is unique to green and black tea. In this article, we will discuss the origins and benefits of L-theanine, nature’s calming compound.
What is L-theanine?
L-theanine is a non-protein amino acid found primarily in green and black tea, and some mushrooms. The main benefits of L-theanine are improving mental function and alleviating stress or anxiety. Some of these effects may have to do with L-theanine’s impact on the brain chemicals GABA, dopamine, and serotonin.
How much L-theanine is in Matcha?
Matcha is nature’s largest source of L-theanine. Though the levels of L-theanine are highly variable across different brands and harvest seasons; one gram of matcha contains anywhere from 6mg to 20mg of L-theanine. Ceremonial grade matcha is known to contain the highest levels of L-theanine due to the nature of how it’s grown and shaded. Within the Domatcha collection, Master’s Choice has the highest L-theanine content, hence contributing to a deep umami flavor.
Can L-theanine Improve Sleep Quality?
L-theanine may affect sleep by influencing several neurotransmitters and promoting relaxing brain activity. L-theanine can elevate levels of GABA, serotonin and dopamine. These neurotransmitters are responsible for regulating emotions, mood, concentration, alertness, and sleep. Increasing the levels of these neurotransmitters can promote relaxation before bedtime. Several studies have indicated improved sleep satisfaction and alleviation of insomnia symptoms after the administration of L-theanine.
How does L-theanine Work?
L-theanine can bypass the blood-brain barrier, which can then quickly affect neurotransmitters within the central nervous system. L-theanine stimulates the release of alpha brain waves, which is associated with “wakeful relaxation.” Alpha waves are present during REM sleep, flow work states, and meditation.
L-theanine’s Role in Weight Maintenance
L-theanine is the main contributor to the umami, savory taste of matcha. Studies have shown that food with umami flavor can contribute to increased satiety, thus preventing an individual from overeating. Plus, L-theanine’s positive impact on sleep health, can regulate blood sugar levels, and help support weight loss efforts.
Can L-theanine reduce anxiety and stress?
L-theanine is an adaptogen and can promote relaxation without a sedative effect. Studies like this one, have shown that L-theanine can lower heart rate and blood pressure, and improve attention span and reaction time amongst participants prone to anxiety. The unique combination of L-theanine and caffeine in matcha plays a crucial role in concentration. Unlike coffee, which often contributes to jitters and heightened nervousness; L-theanine works to complement the caffeine content in matcha, to help one achieve a state of relaxed focus.
L-theanine is a unique and powerful amino acid that has many researched benefits. Its role in stress reduction, sleep health, and cognitive function enhancement are the most discussed benefits. L-theanine is preserved through the tea leaf shading process of making matcha powder. It contributes to the savoury umami flavour that is found in green tea. The easiest way to get L-theanine through diet is by drinking matcha or other teas. You may experience the calming effects of L-theanine almost immediately.