Can green tea help to relieve stress and anxiety? Find out why this may be the drink to sip if you need to relax.
There’s something calming about the ritual of brewing a pot of hot green tea and sipping it leisurely throughout the day. But did you know the soothing effect of drinking green tea may be more than just psychological? A component called theanine found in green tea may help to relieve mental stress and anxiety as effectively as some prescription anti-anxiety medications. Here’s why green tea for relaxation may be a safe and natural way to unwind.
What is Theanine?
Theanine is a natural substance derived from the amino acid glutamate. It’s found in tea leaves and is particularly high in concentration in higher quality Japanese green teas. Lower quantities are found in less expensive teas found on most supermarket shelves. Theanine is able to successfully cross the blood-brain barrier and enter the central nervous system where it lowers stress and anxiety as well as elevates mood. Despite the fact that theanine has calming properties similar to prescription anti-anxiety medications, it isn’t associated with the adverse side effects usually seen with anti-anxiety medications such as valium.
Green Tea for Relaxation: How Does Theanine Act on the Brain?
Theanine works primarily by increasing the activity of GABA, a neurotransmitter, a neurotransmitter which helps to inhibit the nervous system, inducing a more peaceful, relaxed state. It also affects other brain neurotransmitters associated with mood such as dopamine and, possibly, serotonin. The end result is a relaxed, calming effect in people who get high enough concentrations of it.
Green Tea for Relaxation: Why It May Not Work for Everyone
Although green tea sounds like the perfect beverage for people prone to stress and anxiety, the calming effect may not be seen in everyone who drinks green tea. Many of the teas sold in the United States have only low levels of theanine. The more expensive Japanese teas such as Gyokuro have the highest quantities of this brain calming compound. In addition, green tea contains caffeine which can offset some of the anti-anxiety effects. Whether or not a person feels relaxed after drinking green tea may depend on how much they drink, whether the green tea contains enough theanine to have an effect, and how sensitive they are to the effects of caffeine. It’s interesting to note that even though theanine relaxes the mind, it does so without reducing alertness – making it less sedating than most prescription anti-anxiety medications.
Should You Drink Green Tea for Relaxation?
Sipping green tea for relaxation is a more natural way to relieve stress than taking prescription anti-anxiety medications. To get the beneficial effects of theanine, always purchase a high quality Japanese green tea. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, discard the first steeping and drink the second one. This can eliminate up to eighty percent of the caffeine. Keep in mind that it may take several cups to experience the positive effects. If you’re sensitive to caffeine or have liver disease, talk to your doctor before drinking green tea or any other caffeinated beverage.