Theanine, Theanine Serene, GABA Soothe: Anti-Anxiety Supplements

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.

References

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.

Advertisements

Supplements have a role in treating depression/sleep disorders

As 2013 drew to a close, there was much buzz about new studies showing that curing insomnia in people with depression might double the chance of a complete recovery from depression. The studies, financed by the National Institute of Mental Health, were welcomed as the most significant advance in treating depression since the introduction of Prozac 25 years ago. In effect, the new research findings turn conventional wisdom on its head, since they suggest that insomnia may be a main cause of depression, rather than just a symptom or a side effect, as has usually been assumed. So, if you can successfully treat a depressed person’s insomnia, you may be eliminating one of the main factors causing the depressed state.

As we followed news stories about this breakthrough research on insomnia and depression, we were especially encouraged to read comments from Washington DC psychiatrist James Gordon, who has advocated for an integrative approach to treating depression. Here’s his letter to the New York Times:

I welcome a new report’s finding that cognitive behavioral therapy is improving the outcome for depressed people with significant insomnia (“Sleep Therapy Seen as an Aid for Depression,” front page, Nov. 19).

It reminds us that changes in attitude and perspective, and a therapeutic relationship, can right biological imbalances — like disordered sleep — and significantly enhance the lives of troubled people. The study also puts the therapeutic role of antidepressant medication in perspective: the depressed participants who received behavioral therapy did equally well whether or not they were taking the drugs.

I hope that these results will encourage the National Institute of Mental Health, researchers, clinicians and all of us to expand our horizons.

There are a number of other nonpharmacological therapies — including meditation, physical exercise, dietary change and nutritional supplementation, acupuncture and group support — that show promise for improving clinical depression and enhancing brain function.

It is time to undertake authoritative studies of integrative approaches that combine these therapies, perhaps as well as behavioral therapy, in the treatment of both depression and insomnia.

JAMES S. GORDON
Washington, Nov. 19, 2013
The writer, a psychiatrist, is the author of “Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression.”

We at NYBC have long been interested in exploring research on supplements and mood disorders, and supplements and sleep disorders. In fact, you’ll find these categories of supplements in a single section of our catalog, at

Supplements for Mood and Sleep Disorders

Please feel free to browse this section, and learn more about supplements such as melatonin, theanine, SAMe, DHEA, and others. There is considerable research on many of these already published, and we believe they will have a role to play in a new, more integrative treatment strategy for depression.

Supplements as alternatives to benzodiazepines

Here’s an update on this topic:

In her 2007 book, Supplement Your Prescription: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Know About Nutrition, Dr. Hyla Cass has an interesting section (pp. 139-140) dealing with supplement alternatives to benzodiazepines and other drugs such as Ambien. (These drugs are generally prescribed as anti-anxiety agents and as sleep aids.)

Dr. Cass is a practicing physician and an expert on integrative (“holistic”) health, and one of her main concerns is to present ways to counter prescription medication side effects, or to identify supplement alternatives to prescription drugs.

Of benzodiazepines (the best-known tradenames in this category are Valium, Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, Librium, Halcion), Dr. Cass writes that a principal problem is that these drugs develop dependence, and so can require steadily increasing dosages as time goes on. (Ideally, she says, they are intended as short-term therapies, but in fact many patients end up being prescribed them for a much longer time.) Withdrawal from these drugs can be quite hazardous, and should be done only under medical surpervision. Moreover, the effect of this class of medications is often a dulling of response, so their use can be associated with accidents.

Since benzodiazepines deplete needed nutrients, Dr. Cass advises supplementing as follows if you take them:

1000-1200mg Calcium/day, plus 400-600mg/Magnesium
400-800mg Folic acid/day
1000 IU Vitamin D/day
30-100mcg Vitamin K/day

She also states that in her own practice she has often successfully substituted supplements for these prescription drugs. Among the calming supplements that she has used:

5-HTP: 100-200mg at bedtime
Melatonin: 0.5-3.0mg at bedtime
L-theanine: 200mg, one to three times daily, as needed

In Dr. Cass’s view, supplements such as these, sometimes used in combinations, can provide a good alternative to the addictive benzodiazepines and their side effects (which, she says, are also characteristic of the newer drug Ambien).

—–

See the following NYBC entries for additional information on the supplements mentioned above:

Melatonin 1mg and Melatonin 3mg

Theanine Serene (includes L-theanine)

NYBC also stocks 5-HTP and the closely related Tryptophan.

Also note that the Jarrow supplement Bone Up very closely matches the set of supplements recommended by Dr. Cass to offset the nutrients depleted by taking benzodiazepines (Calcium, Magnesium, Folic acid, Vitamin D, Vitamin K).

Supplements for anxiety

A while back, we posted a review of holistic M.D. Hyla Cass’ recommendations for avoiding the dependence-inducing benzodiazepines for anxiety. Her prescription was to use supplements instead, and she had some specific recommendations:

In her 2007 book, Supplement Your Prescription: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Know About Nutrition, Dr. Hyla Cass has an interesting section (pp. 139-140) dealing with supplement alternatives to benzodiazepines and other drugs such as Ambien. (These drugs are generally prescribed as anti-anxiety agents and as sleep aids.)

Of benzodiazepines (the best-known tradenames in this category are Valium, Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, Librium, Halcion), Dr. Cass writes that a principal problem is that these drugs develop dependence, and so can require steadily increasing dosages as time goes on. (Ideally, she says, they are intended as short-term therapies, but in fact many patients end up being prescribed them for a much longer time.) Withdrawal from these drugs can be quite hazardous, and should be done only under medical surpervision. Moreover, the effect of this class of medications is often a dulling of response, so their use can be associated with accidents.
[…]
She states that in her own practice she has often successfully substituted supplements for these prescription drugs. Among the calming supplements that she has used:

5-HTP: 100-200mg at bedtime
Melatonin: 0.5-3.0mg at bedtime
L-theanine: 200mg, one to three times daily, as needed

In Dr. Cass’s view, supplements such as these, sometimes used in combinations, can provide a good alternative to the addictive benzodiazepines and their side effects.

—–

See the following NYBC entries for additional information on the supplements mentioned above:

Melatonin 1mg and Melatonin 3mg

Theanine Serene (includes L-theanine)

NYBC also stocks 5-HTP and the closely related Tryptophan.

If you do decide to take one of the prescription benzodiazepines, Dr. Cass further notes, it is advisable to supplement to offset the key nutrients that these drugs tend to deplete in the body. We note that the Jarrow supplement Bone Up very closely matches the set of depleted supplements listed by Dr. Cass (Calcium, Magnesium, Folic acid, Vitamin D, Vitamin K).

One last note: rather small doses of melatonin may do the trick in terms of helping you to sleep. A 1mg dose may be all that’s necessary.

GABA Hey! Blood Pressure and Sleep

NYBC carries Pressure Optimizer and GABA Soothe to help manage a range of issues. Among them, the data below suggest a benefit for managing borderline hypertension (high blood pressure). A related item in the NYBC catalog, Theanine Serene, also has a fair amount of GABA along with green tea-extract theanine; this combination was designed especially as an anti-anxiety or anti-stress formula.

The second study below looked at a combo of GABA and 5-HTP and found some benefits for helping to get a restful sleep.

Shimada M, Hasegawa T, Nishimura C, Kan H, Kanno T, Nakamura T, Matsubayashi T. Anti-hypertensive effect of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-rich Chlorella on high-normal blood pressure and borderline hypertension in placebo-controlled double blind study. Clin Exp Hypertens. 2009 Jun;31(4):342-354.

Abstract
The anti-hypertensive effect of GABA-rich Chlorella was studied after oral administration for 12 weeks in the subjects with high-normal blood pressure and borderline hypertension in the placebo-controlled, double-blind manner in order to investigate if GABA-rich Chlorella, a dietary supplement, is useful in control of blood pressure. Eighty subjects with Systolic blood pressure (SBP) 130-159 mmHg or diastolic blood pressure (DBP) 85-99 mmHg (40 subjects/group) took the blinded substance of GABA-rich Chlorella (20 mg as gamma-aminobutyric acid) or placebo twice daily for 12 weeks, and had follow-up observation for an additional 4 weeks. Systolic blood pressure in the subjects given GABA-rich Chlorella significantly decreased compared with placebo (p < 0.01). Diastolic blood pressure had the tendency to decrease after intake of GABA-rich Chlorella. Neither adverse events nor abnormal laboratory findings were reported throughout the study period. Reduction of SBP in the subjects with borderline hypertension was higher than those in the subjects with high-normal blood pressure. These results suggest that GABA-rich Chlorella significantly decreased high-normal blood pressure and borderline hypertension, and is a beneficial dietary supplement for prevention of the development of hypertension.

PMID: 19811362 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

***
Shell W, Bullias D, Charuvastra E, May LA, Silver DS. A randomized, placebo-controlled trial of an amino acid preparation on timing and quality of sleep. Am J Ther. 2010 Mar-Apr;17(2):133-139.

Abstract
This study was an outpatient, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of a combination amino acid formula (Gabadone) in patients with sleep disorders. Eighteen patients with sleep disorders were randomized to either placebo or active treatment group. Sleep latency and duration of sleep were measured by daily questionnaires. Sleep quality was measured using a visual analog scale. Autonomic nervous system function was measured by heart rate variability analysis using 24-hour electrocardiographic recordings. In the active group, the baseline time to fall asleep was 32.3 minutes, which was reduced to 19.1 after Gabadone administration (P = 0.01, n = 9). In the placebo group, the baseline latency time was 34.8 minutes compared with 33.1 minutes after placebo (P = nonsignificant, n = 9). The difference was statistically significant (P = 0.02). In the active group, the baseline duration of sleep was 5.0 hours (mean), whereas after Gabadone, the duration of sleep increased to 6.83 (P = 0.01, n = 9). In the placebo group, the baseline sleep duration was 7.17 +/- 7.6 compared with 7.11 +/- 3.67 after placebo (P = nonsignificant, n = 9). The difference between the active and placebo groups was significant (P = 0.01). Ease of falling asleep, awakenings, and am grogginess improved. Objective measurement of parasympathetic function as measured by 24-hour heart rate variability improved in the active group compared with placebo. An amino acid preparation containing both GABA and 5-hydroxytryptophan reduced time to fall asleep, decreased sleep latency, increased the duration of sleep, and improved quality of sleep.

PMID: 19417589 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Theanine: anti-stress activity and other beneficial properties of an amino acid found in green tea

NYBC recently began to stock these a Source Natural formula that includes theanine, an amino acid that’s a key component of green tea. Read some of the recent research about potential benefits of theanine in the entries below.

Theanine Serene

Each TWO tablets contain:
Magnesium (as magnesium chelate) – 300 mg
GABA (gamma-amino-butyric acid) – 500 mg
Taurine – 450 mg
L-Theanine – 200 mg
Holy Basil Leaf Extract 5:1- 100 mg


Theanine is an amino acid found in green tea, also known as N-ethyl-L-glutamine. It has been shown in the test tube to protect neurons against damage caused by glutamic acid (by blocking the receptors in the brain where glutamic acid would bind) and oxidation of low density lipoprotein (LDL or bad cholesterol). A recent study showed it to be very safe with a no-observed-adverse-effect-level (NOAEL) of 4000 mg per kilogram of body weight per day, the highest dose tested (Food Chem Toxicol, 2006 Jul;44(7):1158-1166).

It acts as a relaxing agent by increasing levels of various brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) including serotonin, dopamine and GABA (gamma amino butyric acid). Behavioral studies in animals suggest it may improve learning and memory. Human studies are largely lacking, so far. One small study, placebo controlled but only among 7 participants, showed a decrease in heart rate as well as a reduction in salivary sIg-A production, indicating a calming of the sympathetic nervous system activation, underscoring a potential mechanism for its anti-stress activity (Biol Psychol, 2007 Jan;74(1):39-45. Epub 2006 Aug 22.). Interestingly, a mouse study suggested that the use of theanine may enhance the tumor-suppressive effects of chemotherapy drugs like doxorubicin (Biochim Biophys Acta, 2003 Dec 5;1653(2):47-59).

Taurine is also an essential amino acid that may protect against oxidative stress, neurodegenerative diseases or atherosclerosis (Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care, 2006 Nov;9(6):728-733). Like N-aceytlcysteine (NAC), taurine is a sulfur-containing amino acid. It may also have some benefits for liver function.

(For Theanine with Relora) The Relora part is a combination of Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense. Magnolia has been used in Chinese medicine for a variety of conditions and a class of chemicals (alkaloids) that it contains have effects on muscle relaxation. Phellodendron bark also contains alkaloids that are used in the Chinese tradition to remove heat and dampness. It may also have some antibacterial activity. The combination of the two was shown to inhibit weight gain (but not result in weight loss) in a study of obese women (Altern Ther Health Med, 2006 Jan-Feb;12(1):50-54). This may be a result of a reduction in cortisol levels which may be elevated in HIV disease.

Note: Do not use if pregnant or if using other MAO or serotonin-reuptake inhibitors.