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Stressed? Take a chill pill this Christmas

2 min read

Virtually everyone has stress, especially at this time of year - the question is how well do you handle your stress, how does it affect your life, and what can you do about it?

The consequences of chronic stress include increases in illness, including headaches, heart disease, immune deficiencies and digestive problems. In the main, this appears to be due to an increased production of stress hormones and decreased immune function.

Diet, exercise, stress-management techniques such as yoga, and even psychological counselling can all help in the battle against stress but in addition to this an effective way to help ourselves is to take nature's own chill pill L-theanine.

What is L-theanine?

L-theanine is a neurologically active amino acid found in tea in fact - tea has the reputation of having less caffeine than coffee but it is the L-theanine in the tea that lessens the stimulant effect of caffeine on the human nervous system.

How does it work?

L-theanine reduces physiological responses to stress by raising levels of GABA, the calming neurotransmitter as well as increasing both serotonin and dopamine production.

Evidence from human electroencephalograph (EEG) studies show that it also significantly increases brain activity in the alpha frequency band which indicates that it relaxes the mind without inducing drowsiness.

The research so far

The journal Human Psychopharmacology Clinical and Experimental published a double-blind placebo-controlled study in which sixteen healthy volunteers received 200 mg L-theanine, or a placebo. The results showed that L-theanine induced feelings of tranquility in the volunteers.

The journal Biological Psychology published a double-blind, placebo-controlled study in which twelve participants underwent four separate trials: one in which they took L-theanine at the start of an experimental, stress-inducing procedure, one in which they took L-theanine midway, and two control trials in which they either took a placebo or nothing. The results showed that L-theanine intake resulted in a reduction in some physiological indicators of stress within 15 minutes, compared to the placebo or control condition.

Similarly, a placebo-controlled study conducted with pharmacy students found that L-theanine (200 mg, twice a day, after breakfast and lunch) was effective at suppressing the initial stress response of students.

The Journal of Physiological Anthropology published a placebo-controlled study in which 14 participants took either L-theanine + placebo, caffeine + placebo, or placebo only (L-theanine 200 mg, caffeine 100 mg) while performing mental tasks and physiological activities under conditions of physical or psychological stress. The results showed that L-theanine significantly reduced anxiety and reduced the blood-pressure increase in high-stress-response adults. Caffeine tended to have a similar but smaller inhibition of the blood-pressure increases caused by the mental tasks.

Where do I get L-theanine? 

So if you're suddenly feel more than a little strung out on the run up to the big day remember to take 5 with a cuppa or take a supplement!

A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.