A mention of this non-essential amino acid in a recent blog by Jeff Duntemann sparked my interest: his blog linked to this article, which mainly discusses theanine in conjunction with caffeine. Another site - apparently written by a teenager who doesn't know the word "you" (too much Prince) makes all kinds of claims. After some research, it seems that theanine is quite well known in life-style circles but hasn't made the leap to front page news, despite the fact that it appears to have hard proof about its positive effects on the human body.
As far as I can establish, l-theanine (the d-enantiometer appears, like many organic compounds, to be less active), a natural compound isolated from green tea, appears to increase the occurrence of alpha waves in the brain, leading to relaxation, and helps with anxiety, blood pressure control, mood, and cognition (wikipedia). I certainly don't have a problem with cognition and I'm not normally anxious, but it seems that this supplement can make a difference to my life. Other abilities which have been attributed to theanine are a reduction in headaches and in perennial colds; basically it seems that it can generally improve one's well being and reduce all manner of irritants. As someone who suffers from these mild complaints, any improvement will be greatly appreciated.
One of the articles which I read mentions suppliers; one of these is Solgar, which to the best of my knowledge is an Israeli company (there are shelves devoted to Solgrar products in the food supplement section of the local pharmacy). I couldn't find theanine on those shelves, and discovered that Solgar don't market the supplement in Israel. No matter; I found a supplier in America who ships the Solgar product to Israel, and about ten days after ordering, a bottle of 60 capsules, each 200mg, arrived here. The cost was a mere $26 plus $4 shipping; a local company is selling imported capsules here at at least twice the price, but they have run out of stock.
As at the moment I'm interested in improving the quality of my sleep, I have been taking one capsule about an hour before going to bed. Here are my notes:
- Friday: first capsule. Very intense dreams during the night. I awoke with a slight headache.
- Saturday: woke at about midnight in an attempt to free myself from a 'dream loop', in which I dream about the same thing over and over again. Sleep through till the alarm at 5:30. Again, a slight headache.
- Sunday: nothing special about the dreams. I awoke feeling refreshed, no mild headache. It seems that the remark which I read about the body needing to adapt to the new stimulus is true: I am adapting and now the theanine is doing what it is supposed to do.
- Monday: no apparent effect
The scientist in me is pleased that there are three measures which I can use to establish whether theanine has a positive effect on me; two of these - blood pressure and weight - are fairly weak measures as they can be affected by many factors, but one - sleep apnea - is easily measured and should be a very good test of whether the quality of my sleep is improving. Sleep quality is considered to be very important with regard to general health, and all the good things which theanine is supposed to promote - lowered blood pressure, reduced weight, higher immunity to viral infections - all derive from improved sleep quality.