Green Tea, anyone?

green tea

By Irfaana Mahomed

Modern medical research has clearly demonstrated the many health benefits of green tea, a drink made from the leaves of the tea plant (camellia sinensis). Tea is the most consumed beverage in the world after water and has been used by man for over 5000 years. Much of its benefits have been attributed to a number of potent antioxidants found in the tea leaves called polyphenols. These substances are also present in other plant foods like cocoa.

More recently however researchers have focused on another substance that is found only in tea leaves. It is a unique, amino acid called theanine that accounts for tea’s relaxing while energizing effect as well as many of its medicinal benefits. Theanine is the predominant amino acid in green tea leaves and gives tea its characteristic taste.


Though it contains small quantities of natural caffeine, green tea has a calming effect that can be explained by the action of theanine. It actually balances the stimulatory effects of caffeine on the nervous system.

Researches have demonstrated that theanine creates a sense of relaxation in approximately 30-40 minutes after ingestion by two actions. First, it stimulates the brains electrical activity to produce alpha brain waves. This creates a state of relaxation and mental alertness similar to that achieved through meditation. Second, theanine influences the brains chemistry to increase the level of 2 neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin. These important brain chemicals produce feelings of well-being and relaxation. People under stress may use theanine to alleviate its negative effects without becoming sedated, as theanine doesn’t make one drowsy.


Theanine enhances the ability to learn, remember and concentrate, a reason why historically monks and scholars have incorporated tea drinking as an aid to meditation and study. It seems to be even more effective when you are stressed and your mind is preoccupied by many thoughts by allowing you to focus on the task at hand. A 2007 study found that it even synergizes with caffeine to boost the activity of brain cells. Researchers found that as little as 100 milligrams of theanine enabled people to focus beta on complicated tasks, when consumed with 60 milligrams of caffeine a combination found in roughly 4 cups of green tea.


A 2002 study published by Sadzuka found that theanine may help improve the quality of life of cancer patients by improving the efficiency of cancer drugs and through its relaxing effects. Theanine increased the concentration of anti-cancer drugs in tumors while reducing the levels of anti-cancer drugs in the healthy tissues, where they are not needed. This served to improve the effectiveness of the treatment while decreasing its side effect. Theanine itself also inhibited the growth of cancer tumors Surveys in Japan, where green tea is very popular, showed green tea drinkers had a much lower incidence of liver, pancreatic, breast, prostrate, lung, oesophageal and stomach cancer.


Japanese researchers report that theanine reduces high blood pressure, but has no effect on normal blood pressure. Theanine was also found to reduce cholesterol levels in humans, and prevent good cholesterol from turning bad through oxidation.


Green tea helps with weight loss, and according to a 2004 Japanese study, theanine contributes to this effect. In this research on animals, theanine administration lowered body weight, body fat and blood fat. Green tea even in large amounts is associated with very few side effects. It’s all natural.

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