L-Theanine and Depression

Depression is a health problem of epidemic proportions. According to PBS, major depression affects around 15 million American adults each year. While psychotherapy and medication can help, certain medications can cause serious or unpleasant side effects. In an attempt to find natural alternative to medications, some researchers are busy trying to prove the benefits of certain herbal supplements, such as L-theanine, for depression.

About L-theanine

L-theanine is an amino acid compound found in tea leaves, however, it has also been isolated from a species of edible mushroom known as Boletus badius, according to Drugs.com. Although clinical research is still limited, some believe that using l-theanine, either through drinking tea or in supplemental form, can help you relax without the drowsiness and other negative side effects of other sedative-type herbs and drugs. L-theanine is extracted from tea leaves to make over-the-counter supplements, sold in either capsule or tablet form. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, L-theanine has been studied for its potential calming effects on the nervous system.

Depression and Conventional Treatments

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Depression isn't the same as feeling sad or down in the dumps. It is a real medical disorder that affects your entire life, manifesting in serious symptoms such a chronic sadness, fatigue, irritability, tension, muscle aches and pains, sleep problems, appetite changes and a lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed. In serious cases, depression can lead to suicide. Although depression is one of the most common mental health problems in the world, almost 80 percent of depressed people do not receive treatment. The causes of depression aren't exactly known, however, some researchers believe an imbalance in the brain neurotransmitter serotonin may be to blame. In an effort to resolve this imbalance, doctors typically prescribe antidepressant medications, often in combination with psychotherapy or other psychosocial interventions. Certain dietary supplements, however, may also provide a number of benefits for people suffering from depression. In particular, a few clinical studies have shown the benefits of the dietary supplement L-theanine for depression.

Clinical Evidence

Many depressed people have difficulty relaxing and letting go of stress. A review, published in the July 2004 issue of the journal, "Complementary and Alternative Therapies," showed that L-theanine induced alpha brain waves and a sense of relaxation in study participants. Furthermore, a study published on March 22, 2011 in the online version of the journal, "Free Radical Research" showed that L-theanine had a beneficial effect on behavioral depression in laboratory mice. A cross-sectional study, published in the November 2009 issue of the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition," showed that people who regularly drink at least five cups or more of green tea daily suffer from a decreased amount of psychological distress. Another study, published in the March 21, 2011 online edition of the journal, "Phytotherapy Research," showed that L-theanine had an antidepressant effect on laboratory mice exposed to a forced swim test. While these results are promising, more research is needed to fully confirm the benefits of L-theanine for depression.


Long- and Short-Term Effects of Depression

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Although drinking green tea or using an L-theanine supplement may help depression, you should not use any dietary supplement without consulting your doctor. If you think you are depressed, do not attempt to self-diagnose your condition. Consult your doctor or a qualified mental health practitioner to discuss treatment option. Depression can become worse if not properly treated. Do not use dietary supplements in place of your doctor's advice. Do not stop taking any prescribed antidepressants or other medications unless directed to do so by your doctor.