What is Theanine?
Theanine is a naturally occurring amino acid, most notably found in tea. A few hundred studies to date have explored the biological activity of theanine, suggesting potential roles in medicine. However, the amount of theanine found in the typical cup of tea (20-50 milligrams per cup) falls below the dose range found effective in research (50-200 milligrams). Furthermore, simply drinking large quantities of tea to reach the effective dose of theanine may incur other problems as you’ll also be consuming large quantities of caffeine. In recent years, pure theanine has become widely available as a health supplement.
What does it do?
Theanine significantly alters brain activity as demonstrated by anxiety scores, task performance, salivary stress markers, and electroencephalogram (EEG; measures electrical activity in the brain). From an electrophysiological perspective, EEG studies have shown it to induce alpha wave activity (which correlates to relaxed wakefulness or calm inner focus as might occur during quiet reflection or meditation). From a biochemical perspective, theanine is known to bind to the human brain glutamate receptor, which is involved in learning, memory, pain and anxiety. Current ‘glutamatergic’ medications include pregabalin and gabapentin, which are both used for pain and anxiety. There have been no studies to date that directly demonstrate the usefulness of theanine in pain treatment or prevention. However, stress remains the most consistent predictor of back pain and what we do know about theanine makes it an interesting remedial candidate.