Product Reviews
L-Theanine Supplements Review
 

Initial Posting: 8/8/15  Last Update: 2/6/19L-Theanine Supplements reviewed by ConsumerLab.com

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Summary:
  • Often just called theanine, L-theanine, is a water-soluble amino acid found in black and green tea. (See What It Is).
  • Some small clinical studies (funded by manufacturers of L-theanine) have found L-theanine may reduce stress, anxiety and blood pressure in stressful situations, but not all studies have found a benefit (See What It Does).
  • L-theanine is typically taken at a dose of 200 mg to 400 mg per day (See Dosage).
  • At these doses, it appears to be generally safe, but there are possible interactions with blood pressure medications and benzodiazepines (see Concerns and Cautions).
  • ConsumerLab.com did not find problems with the quality of selected L-theanine products sold in the U.S., but did find large differences in the cost to obtain L-theanine. The least expensive, Approved product cost 22 cents to obtain 200 mg of L-theanine while the cost was often 60 cents for other products (See What CL Found).

What It Is:
L-theanine is a water-soluble amino acid found primarily in black and green tea, and certain mushrooms. The L-theanine in supplements, however, is generally synthetic, produced from food grade L-glutamine and ethylamine, but may also be an enzymatically-processed extract of tea leaves. It is thought to have both antioxidant and relaxant effects, possibly through influence on excitatory chemicals in the body, such as noradrenaline, and chemical messengers in the brain, such as GABA and serotonin.

What It Does:
There is mixed evidence as to whether L-theanine may reduces stress and anxiety. For example, a placebo-controlled study showed that taking 50 mg of L-theanine increased alpha brain waves, which are associated with a relaxed but alert state of mind (Nobre, Asia Pac Clin Nutr 2008). The effect was measured 45 minutes after L-theanine was taken and continued to increase over the 1½ hours that brain waves were measured. One small placebo-controlled clinical trial found that 200 mg L-theanine (Suntheanine) dissolved in water and taken after beginning a stressful cognitive task significantly reduced self-reported anxiety and physiological measures of stress, such as increased heart rate (Kimura, Biol Psychol 2007).

However, another study using the same dose and brand of L-theanine found that it did not reduce anxiety when taken by young adults prior to a stressful task — although neither did 1 mg of alprazolam (Xanax). Interestingly, during a non-stressful task, treatment with the alprazolam was found to significantly increase self-reported anxiety while L-theanine significantly decreased self-reported anxiety (Lu, Hum Psychopharmacol Clin Exp 2004). A small study among men and women in Australia with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) (many of whom also had social phobia, panic disorder or agoraphobia), found that daily supplementation with L-theanine for two months (450 mg daily for one month, increased to 900 mg for the second month for those who did not respond) did not decrease anxiety, or improve cognition or insomnia severity compared to placebo, although those taking L-theanine reported improved "sleep satisfaction." (Sarris, J Psychiatr Res 2019).

At higher doses, L-theanine may be helpful for people with schizophrenia. In an independent study of people diagnosed with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder taking antipsychotic medication, 400 mg of L-theanine taken daily for 8 weeks significantly reduced measures of anxiety and other symptoms, compared to placebo (Ritsner, J Clin Psychiatry 2011). L-theanine has been suggested as a treatment in ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), although the evidence of benefit is very limited. In a 10-week study of 93 boys (average age 9) diagnosed with ADHD, some of whom were also taking stimulant medication such as methylphenidate (Ritalin), 200 mg of L-theanine in the morning and again in the afternoon (total daily intake of 400 mg) was found to significantly improve sleep quality compared to placebo, although it did not reduce the amount of time it took to fall asleep. This study did not measure effects on daytime hyperactivity, attention, or cognitive function (Lyon, Altern Med Rev 2011).

All of the studies (other than the study by Ritsner) used a branded version of L-theanine called Suntheanine from Taiyo International, Japan, which also typically funded the studies.

L-Theanine may lessen blood pressure increases associated with caffeine use. One study found that healthy adults who consumed a drink containing 200 mg of L-theanine (provided by Unilever plc, UK) in addition to taking a capsule containing 250 mg of caffeine had less of an increase in blood pressure than those who consumed only caffeine. It did not, however, reduce other effects of the caffeine, such as alertness or jitteriness (Rogers, Psychopharmacology 2008).

L-theanine has been proposed to improve cognitive function, although evidence for this use is limited. (See Encyclopedia article on L-theanine for more about this).

Although some laboratory and animal studies suggest L-theanine may have anti-tumor properties, there is a lack of human studies for this use. Similarly, while animal studies suggest L-theanine may enhance the effects and/or reduce the side-effects of certain chemotherapy drugs, such as doxorubicin and adriamycin, human studies have not been conducted (Sugiyama, Cancer Lett 1998, Sugiyama, Cancer Lett 2004;).

Quality Concerns and What CL Tested for:
Neither the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nor any other federal or state agency routinely tests supplements for quality prior to sale. In order to help consumers identify products of better quality, ConsumerLab.com purchased and tested L-theanine supplements to determine whether they
contained the labeled amounts of L-theanine. In addition, tablets were tested for their ability to properly break apart (disintegrate) in solution. Products were also tested for potential contamination with lead, cadmium, and arsenic. (See How Products Were Evaluated for information on testing methods and passing score.)

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