Surprisingly, despite its caffeine content, green tea may be good for relaxation and stress relief. Here’s why.
When it comes to stress relief, you might not think a drink containing caffeine could be of benefit. Surprisingly, there’s one caffeine containing drink that may be effective for relaxation and stress reduction. The drink – green tea. Although green tea is thought to have a variety of health properties, it’s potential to promote relaxation has been less appreciated. Why should this healthy beverage be helpful for relaxation and stress reduction?
Green tea is rich in an amino acid known as gamma-ethylamino-L-glutamic acid, commonly known as L-theanine. One of the unique properties of L-theanine is its ability to induce relaxation and stress relief. Because it has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, it readily gains access to the central nervous system. Once there, it has the ability to alter the levels of key neurotransmitters associated with mood such as serotonin, GABA, and dopamine. L-theanine also been shown to directly promote production of alpha waves, the “gentle” brain waves associated with relaxation and stress reduction. For example, when you enter a meditative or state of extreme relaxation, your brain produces mainly alpha waves. L-theanine has also been shown to cause lowering of the blood pressure.
What about the activating effects of the caffeine in green tea? It appears that the soothing effects of L-theanine offset many of the activating properties of the caffeine in the tea, making green tea helpful for stress relief despite the presence of variable amounts of caffeine. Of course, the effects seen will vary with the type of green tea drank as well as the characteristics of the individual drinking the tea. Some green teas are much higher in caffeine than others, while some people are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine and may experience less stress relief from drinking it. Overall, it appears that, despite the presence of caffeine, most people feel more relaxed after a few cups of green tea.
Although it may seem smart to use decaffeinated green tea if you’re using green tea for stress relief, this isn’t necessarily the healthiest option. Although decaffeination doesn’t remove the theanine, it does remove many of the healthy catechins that make green tea so beneficial. If you want to decaffeinate green tea, do it naturally at home. To do this, pour hot water over the green tea leaves and allow it to remain for thirty seconds. Discard the water and use fresh, hot water to steep the leaves as usual. You’ll have removed eighty percent of the caffeine.
Green tea for relaxation and stress reduction can be a healthy alternative to prescription drugs for stress relief. Of course you’ll want to talk to your doctor before substituting green tea for any medications you’re currently taking. The next time you’re feeling a bit frazzled why not treat yourself to a soothing cup of hot green tea?