Benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax, Klonopin, Librium, Halcion and others) are anti-anxiety drugs that work by affecting the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a naturally occurring neurotransmitter in your system that produces relaxation effects. These drugs are meant to be used for short periods (2-3 weeks), but many people end up taking them for much longer periods, resulting in tolerance (meaning you need a higher and higher dose to get the same effect), followed by addiction, and, when discontinuing use, withdrawal effects that can be severe. Benzodiazepines also deplete many important nutrients in the body: Vitamins D and K, folic acid, calcium, and melatonin (the naturally produced hormone in the body that regulates sleep).
So, many in the Complementary/Alternative Medicine field have looked for alternatives to benzodiazepines, to minimize both side effects and potential long-term harm. One of the most interesting alternatives is Theanine, an amino acid found in green tea. Theanine acts as a relaxing agent by increasing levels of certain neurotransmitters, including serotonin, dopamine, and GABA. One small study showed that theanine decreases stress responses such as elevated heart rate. Another investigation compared theanine’s calming effect to that of a standard anti-anxiety prescription drug, and found that theanine performed somewhat better.
NYBC stocks Theanine (Jarrow).
NYBC also stocks two combination supplements that include theanine:
Theanine Serene (Source Naturals), which includes theanine and GABA.
GABA Soothe (Jarrow), which includes theanine, GABA, and an extract of ashwagandha, an herb which has long been used in the Ayurvedic tradition of India to reduce fatigue and tension associated with stress.
Alramadhan E et al. Dietary and botanical anxiolytics. Med Sci Monit. 2012 Apr;18(4):RA40-8.
Rogers PJ, Smith JE, Heatherley SV, Pleydell-Pearce CW. Time for tea: mood, blood pressure and cognitive performance effects of caffeine and theanine administered alone and together. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 2008;195(4):569–77.
Kimura, K et al. L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses. Biol Psychol. 2007 Jan;74(1):39-45.