Matcha is one of the most popular drinks around the world right now, but did you know that it has been a key beverage used by Japanese Zen monks for over 800 years? For a long time, monks have used matcha for anxiety relief and numerous other health benefits including to achieve high levels of concentration while staying in a relaxed state.
Matcha’s key anti-stress ingredient is L-theanine, an amino acid predominantly found in Camellia sinensis, the green tea plant used to produce matcha. As research shows, the amount of L-theanine in tea for stress depends on two things: the nitrogen supply absorbed from the roots of tea plants and the cultivation process they undergo to become matcha powder.
In order to preserve the unique flavor, bright green color, and the countless benefits of matcha, the green tea bushes are covered in the shade for several weeks before harvesting. This process not only maintains matcha’s high levels of L-theanine, but it also helps boost matcha’s anxiety relieving properties.
Even though matcha has a decent amount of caffeine, it will not give you the jitters. On the contrary, matcha reduces anxiety because of its high content of L-theanine. This amino acid lessens the stimulating effect of caffeine on the nervous system, producing an energized and focused state.
In order to understand why matcha works as a tea for stress and coffee does not, we need to take a closer look at how matcha’s antioxidants affect brain dynamics. Studies suggest that a high dose of this amino acid could influence the secretion and function of neurotransmitters in the central nervous system. They argue that L-theanine may increase dopamine release and promote the concentration of serotonin which lowers stress and anxiety.
Further research shows that L-theanine stimulates alpha-wave activity in the brain within 30 or 40 minutes of being ingested. This fosters a state of deep relaxation and mental alertness. Knowing that matcha has a high content of L-theanine also explains why matcha reduces anxiety and stress without making you feel drowsy or sleepy.
With all this in mind, it is not hard to believe that L-theanine products and tea for stress are becoming more popular. While in the US market L-theanine is almost exclusively available only in green tea or in its capsule form, in Japan there are more than 50 products with considerable amounts of this magic amino acid including beverages, candies, jellies, and even ice cream! L-theanine is also mixed with chocolates, snacks, or puddings that are sold to induce alert relaxation.