Joseph F. McCaffrey MD, FACS


Theanine - An Amno Acid to Help You Handle Stress and Sleep Better

Theanine is a rarely talked about amino acid that offers unique benefits. It is very safe to supplement with.

If anxiety and stress trouble you, or if you occasionally need some help sleeping, you’ll want to know about theanine.

Remember that supplements are only one of the things important to living life well. Emotional balance, positive psychology, exercise and a healthy diet are key. Supplements alone don’t eliminate the need to grow in these areas.

Still, supplements have their role and theanine is a good one to be aware of.

What It Is And What It Does

Theanine is an amino acid related to glutamine. It crosses the blood-brain barrier, and so it can have a central nervous system effect.

Taken as a supplement, theanine produces a calming effect. It occurs naturally in tea (both green and black). This may be part of why most people perceive tea to be a soothing beverage despite its caffeine content.

Most studies involving theanine originate in Japan. In sum, they suggest that theanine helps induce alpha waves (the brain state associated with relaxed alertness) and affects levels of dopamine and serotonin. The end result in stressed or anxious people is a feeling of calm.

Theanine is not a sedative. It will not make a relaxed person sleepy, but it can allow a tense person to relax enough to sleep.


Studies show theanine is remarkably safe. It is approved in Japan as a food additive (except in infant formula). Since it hasn’t been specifically studied, prudence suggests that pregnant or nursing women avoid theanine.

How To Use It

The usual dose is 50 – 200 mg. Taken for anxiety, it can be taken every 8 hours or so. As a sleep aid, take it about ½ hour before bed.

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