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Drinking Relieves Stress

The results are in, the clinical trials have spoken. Drinking
relieves stress--drinking green tea, that is. There's something
in green tea that helps us relax. And it may start turning up in
other foods soon.

The legendary benefits of green tea--weight loss, cancer
prevention, immune system boosting, and more--have put green
tea on everyone's top ten superfoods list. Now the teacup's
relaxation effect has been proven in the lab.

An amino acid called theanine (or L-theanine) is responsible
for green tea's magic. First discovered in 1949, theanine is
found almost exclusively in tea leaves. (It's also found in one
type of mushroom--but who wants to relax with a plate of

Clinical trials testing the relaxation effect of theanine
produced remarkable results. Japanese researchers found that
human volunteers became more relaxed about 30-40 minutes after
taking up to 200mg of theanine. That's six cups of tea to you
and me.

Once the theanine is flowing, a couple of things happen. Your
brain waves start to shift into the alpha range. That's a good
thing. Alpha brain waves occur when you are relaxed and
peaceful, but still awake--like after a massage or a hot bath,
or during meditation.

At the same time, theanine increases the GABA levels in your
brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter that is linked to dopamine
and serotonin levels. This complicated-sounding chemical
cocktail results in a relaxation effect. And what's more,
theanine also lowers your blood pressure. Well, OK, the blood
pressure part is only proven in rats. But testing continues.

So if you're stressed and anxious, relax with a few cups of
green tea. You should begin to feel relaxed and alert in about
half an hour. Theanine won't make you drowsy, but if it happens
to be bedtime, studies have also shown you'll sleep better and
awake more refreshed. By the way, if you're already relaxed
when you start, it doesn't matter how much theanine you get—you
won't get any more relaxed.

If you would rather get your theanine in a pill, you're in
luck. Supplements containing theanine are readily available.
One of the Japanese firms heavily involved in theanine research
went beyond simple green tea extracts and developed Suntheanine,
which is a synthesized, ultra-pure theanine. A company
spokesperson stated there is “a tremendous opportunity for
designing foods and medical foods targeting relaxation and the
reduction of stress.”

I'm not sure what they have in mind, but the possibilities are
wide open. More than 50 food items containing Suntheanine,
including ice cream, candy, and beverages, are currently sold
in Korea, Japan, and Europe. In America, it's only available in
supplements right now. But I'm looking forward to seeing it in
something that goes with my cup of tea. Relaxation muffin,
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