Stress is brutal, and unfortunately, it’s a daily culprit in most of our lives. For many people, taming their stress levels involves taking prescription-strength drugs, which can sometimes bring about unwanted side effects like drowsiness, dizziness and headaches.
However, as Well + Good originally reported, a natural ingredient is now in the spotlight for its calm-inducing properties without the side effects, and people are saying it really works. Enter L-theanine, a non-dietary amino acid derived from green and black tea leaves. “It may help relieve stress by inducing a relaxing effect without drowsiness,” says Lisa De Fazio, MS, RD, registered dietitian. “It’s sold in the U.S. as a dietary supplement and has been granted GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status by the Food and Drug Administration.”
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Studies that have been done on L-theanine have been small, but researchers have seen evidence that it crosses the blood-brain barrier and gets into the brain fast. “Passing through the blood-brain barrier within 30 minutes, it is used for stress relief, the treatment of anxiety, improved concentration and focus, and minimal cognitive impairment,” says De Fazio. “Although nothing will be as strong as pharmaceutical meds like Xanax, many people don’t want the side effects of them, and this is a natural alternative that they say works for them instead to ease anxiety.”
L-theanine capsules can be found in the vitamin aisle—there are also products with it mixed into a formulation alongside other active ingredients like vitamin B12 (Nootrobox capsules and OLLY gummies are two popular options). And for those who prefer drinks, more and more brands (we like Neuro, Just Chill and Zenify) are including the ingredient in their blends, claiming that it helps reduce stress.
Check the label before you purchase to make sure the product actually contains enough of the ingredient to deliver the desired result. According to De Fazio, “Studies that reported an anti-anxiety effect used single doses of L-theanine in 200 to 250 mg, and few adverse reactions have been reported.”
You should also check with your doctor to make sure any medicines you take or medical issues you have don’t conflict with the ingredient. “L-theanine should be used with caution in patients on anti-hypertensive medicines because it decreases blood pressure,” says De Fazio.
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