Alright y’all, truthbomb time: I have anxiety.

If you’ve followed my blog for awhile now, that is no surprise to you since I have talked about my journey with mental health issues multiple times. It’s a constant struggle that I am in no way embarrassed of, though finding ways to manage it sometimes feels like a full-time job. So when my doctor introduced me to L-Theanine, a natural supplement with the badass ability to curb panic and anxiety, I knew I had to share it with you all.

What is L-Theanine?

L-Theanine is a non-dietary amino acid known for it’s ability to enhance relaxation without a sedative, zombie-like effect. It is naturally occurring exclusively in Camellia sinensis – commonly known as green tea – which is why lots of people prefer getting their caffeine from green tea rather than coffee. L-Theanine closely mimics glutamate, an amino acid we produce internally that transmits nerve impulses in the brain. It has been shown, both clinically and anecdotally, to help with anxiety and relaxation, prevention of dementia (including Alzheimers), alcohol hangover recovery, high blood pressure, and quality of sleep.

How does L-Theanine work?

To keep this short, here’s a quick blow-by-blow:

  • L-Theanine works so incredibly well because of it’s similarity to glutamate, which allows it to cross the blood-brain barrier for ultimate efficacy.
  • It stimulates the production of GABA, which your brain uses to prevent neurons from firing too often. Drugs like Xanax also increase production of GABA.
  • L-Theanine also increases Alpha Waves, which help with meditation and relaxation.
  • Beta waves – known to cause nervousness, scatter-brainedness (is that a word? oh well!), and hyperactivity – are reduced when taking L-Theanine.
  • All these things combined = increased sensory connections and focus, decreased anxiety and hyperactivity

How To Use L-Theanine

L-Theanine comes in a powder, chewable tablet, and pill form. The best form is a patented version called Suntheanine, sold by multiple brands. It is fast acting – you may feel effects as quickly as 30 minutes – and lasts up to 12 hours, on an individual basis. It’s half-life is 3 hours, so it will last awhile. (For me personally, I feel the effects within 20 minutes and continue to reap the benefits upwards of 8 hours.) Generally, L-Theanine is taken 1-3 times each day in doses of 50mg-200mg, sometimes 4+ times per day for someone suffering from extreme anxiety or panic disorder. The appropriate dosage of varies by goal, so I’ve listed out dosages and the predictable body response below:

  • 50-100mg – subtle changes resulting in a mild sense of calmness and relaxation; personally, this dose doesn’t take away my anxiety so much as take away some of my anxiety “tics” and neuroticism — I’m a fan
  • 100-250mg – noticeable decrease in anxiety and negative thoughts, increased cognitive abilities; 100mg is my favorite dose, very effective for sufficient anxiety reduction similar to a very small dose of a benzodiazepine like Xanax
  • 250-400mg – feelings of euphoria similar to a mild dose of a benzo, start to feel a little sedated; I dose 250mg very rarely — this is enough to mimic a sleeping pill for me, so I only use it if I’m mid panic attack or need to simulate the effects of a sleeping pill
  • 500mg+ – a true replication of a regular dose of a benzo, noticeable feeling of sedation closely mimicking a z-drug (Ambien, Lunesta, etc.), not recommended to operate a vehicle under this dosage; never personally tried this dosage and I don’t intend to

These are all just estimates that will vary person to person, so I encourage you to start slow (I started with a pill of 100mg cut in half, so 50mg) and work from there. As I type that sentence out, I feel the need to remind people that I am not a doctor and if you have any concerns or questions whatsoever, please seek out a professional’s help!

Another great use of L-Theanine is to take it in conjunction with coffee/caffeine. I myself avoid caffeine as it sends my anxiety into overdrive, but on the rare occasion that I want a cup of coffee, I always take a 100mg dose of L-Theanine about 30 minutes beforehand. The result is incredible: focused productivity and energy from the stimulant without any of the hyperactivity, jitters, or anxiety that caffeine usually brings on for me. If you’re looking for clean energy, this combo is going to blow your mind. This is not new: people with caffeine sensitives routinely handle the caffeine from green tea better than coffee or an energy drink because of the naturally occurring l-theanine in the tea. If you’re interested in trying this out, I recommend starting with a 1:1 ratio just to see how your body reacts to the combination. Based on whether you want more of an upper buzz or more of a downer hum, you can adjust. The most common ratios for this combo (in l-theanine:caffeine) are: 3:2 and 2:1.

Safety Concerns

L-Theanine is clinically proven to be effective with minimal side effects, however, every person is different so I recommend checking with a doctor or health professional if you have any concerns or questions. If you experience any unwanted side effects, visit your doctor. Though L-Theanine can be used to treat high blood pressure, if you have any blood pressure issues, consult a professional before consuming. Otherwise, standard dosages (below 250mg) should not cause any issues. Occasionally I’ll hear of someone who gets an upset stomach, but that’s exceedingly rare.

Anecdotally…

This has been a miracle pill for me. Years ago in the thick of my mental health crisis, I took Xanax or Klonopin for panic attacks. Despite being ridiculously miserable day-in and day-out, I avoided taking them regularly because 1) they made me feel so out of it, 2) they’re highly addictive, 3) even a week of constant use can initiate withdrawals when you taper off. L-Theanine has been a God-send for me since it is natural, non-prescriptive, non-habit forming, and produces a much cleaner relaxation effect that doesn’t inhibit my productivity. I take a small dose most mornings, sometimes with tea or coffee, and another small dose most nights before heading to bed. The difference it makes is astounding and I wish I had known about this years ago.

Have you tried L-Theanine? What were your results? I’d love to hear!

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