Matcha tea is a specially grown and powdered tea with a high level of L-theanine. The l-theanine amino acid increases attention levels, memory and mood. Drinking Matcha tea l-theanine can improve your health, concentration and general mental performance. The underlying mechanisms are still a matter of debate.

Check what you know already

I know Matcha tea
I know the function of L-Theanine
I’m familiar with brainwaves

Reading time: 15-30 minutes. Content is skimmable though using the headings.

Project Matcha: Let me know if you like articles like this!

This article is an adaptation of an article I wrote for an entirely different purpose. It is written to be academic and fully backed up. I’m trying out if some slight adaptations make it suitable for Skill Collector readers. Let me know if you like it, this is important! Juste leave a comment. If you like articles like this I may use my previous writing for some blog posts, similar to this one but on different topics.

Introduction: Food as a drug

The phrase ‘the dose makes the poison’ (von Hohenheim, 1538) lets us consider any substance as a toxin. This includes substances like water, which has caused a death on live radio due to overconsumption (Williams, 2007). Likewise many substances used daily can be considered psychoactive. This ranges from toxicity in alcoholic beverages (Bondy, 1992) to altered mood states after consuming caffeine (Rogers, 2007). Many substances we commonly consider food however alter behavior through neurological mechanisms. Examples include behavioral changes when l-tryptophan intake is increased to 1 gram a day (Moskowitz, Pinard, Zuroff, Annable, & Young, 2003), which can be done with a single egg white (USDA, 2014).

Matcha Green tea

Matcha Green Tea in Teacup Green tea is produced from the leaves of Camellia sinensis variations sinensis and assamica (ITIS, 2009). Matcha tea specifically is made from ground Gyokuro leaves. Tealeaves grown in the shade about 20 days before harvest are used to make dried tealeaves called Gyokuro, they are the opposite of the sun grown Sencha (Yamaguchi & Shibamoto, 1981). The significance of this is that shade grown plants have higher concentrations of endogenous amino acids like caffeine and l-theanine (Kakuda, 2002). A high grade matcha tea can contain four times as much l-theanine than a low grade sencha (Kakuda, 2002).

Effect claims

Popular media

One food substance that has received research attention is tea. Specifically green tea has been attributed many health effects in popular media. Indeed blog writers claim it stimulates weight loss, improves diabetes, reduces heart disease, reduce esophageal cancer risk, reduce cholesterol levels, delay Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, prevent tooth decay, reduce high blood pressure, alleviate depression, act as an antiviral and antibacterial agent and prevent wrinkles (Conlon, 2014; Examiner, 2014; Sizensky, 2012). One interesting claim is that green tea behaves as a cognitive enhancer, increasing concentration and working memory (Bailey, 2013; Whiteman, 2014)

Scientific research

Naturally mention in popular media says very little about the truth of such claims. There have however also been more controlled studies on the effects of green tea, which have found effects of green tea with regards to cognition. Cross sectional studies have found lower levels of cognitive impairment in frequent green tea drinkers (Kuriyama et al., 2006). Scopolamine induced memory deficit has been reversed using green tea (H. K. Kim, Kim, Kim, Kim, & Chung, 2004).

Cognitive effects of Matcha tea nootropic

Green tea is strongly indicated as a healthy beverage. Matcha is chemically a concentrated form of green tea. It could serve as a benefit to those suffering from cognitive impairment or those seeking to improve their daily lives. Therefore this paper investigates what are the cognitive effects of Matcha tea, specifically that of its high l-theanine concentration.

Countering Cognitive Deficit

There have been a number of substances hypothesized to cause cognition effects of green tea, which have traceable effects on the brain. It appears to counter β-amyloid, which marks it as a potential Alzheimer’s disease treatment enhancement.


The green tea polyphenols have been associated with cognitive enhancement through anti-acetylcholine esterase activity. (H. K. Kim et al., 2004) The catechin polyphenol family specifically has been shown to alleviate β-amyloid induced oxidative stress (Haque, Hashimoto, Katakura, Hara, & Shido, 2008). Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) specifically is often cited because of metabolism stimulating activity (Bose et al., 2008), but has been shown to decrease β-amyloid levels and plaque through promotion of the non-amyloidogenic α-secretase proteolytic pathway (Rezai-Zadeh et al., 2008).


Theanine Molecule L-theanine is an amino acid found in green tea. Like the polyphenols present is has shown counter induced memory impairment. It reduced β-amyloid presence and experiments observed that it suppresses ERK/p38 and NF-κB and reduces macromolecular oxidative damage. (Kim et al., 2009) This paper will focus on the cognitive and neurological effects of L-Theanine on healthy individuals.

The Effects of L-Theanine

As stated before, l-theanine has beneficial effects on induced memory impairment and Alzheimer’s scenarios. This however has little impact on individuals seeking cognitive enhancement. It may serve as an indication.


Metabolism and dynamics

L-theanine is synthesized from the Camellia sinensis roots and accounts for up to 50% of the amino acids in green tea leaves. It is synthesized from glutamate. (Nathan, Lu, Gray, & Oliver, 2006) Little to no research has been done into human pharmacodynamics of l-theanine, animal studies give an indication (Nathan et al., 2006). It is absorbed in the intestines using a Na+ co-transporter also used for glutamine (Kitaoka, Hayashi, Yokogoshi, & Suzuki, 1996). The kidney is responsible for converting it to glutamic acid and ethylamine for further processing (Unno, Suzuki, Kakuda, Hayakawa, & Tsuge, 1999). L-theanine crosses the blood-brain barrier using the leucine-preferring transport system. In animal studies serum level peaked after 1 hour, while central nervous system levels peaked 5 hours after administration. Levels decline over the course of 24 hours. (Terashima, Takido, & Yokogoshi, 1999)

Effects on neurotransmitters

Theanine Brain


In rats a dose related increase was observed in the stratium after ingestion. This effects seemed to be mediated by the use of NMDA receptors since an NMDA receptor antagonist decreased the effect of l-theanine on dopamine (Yokogoshi, Mochizuki, & Saitoh, 1998). Later the dopamine release was attributed to glycine release as a result of l-theanine activating AMPA receptors. (Yamada et al., 2009)


L-theanine has not been shown to affect noradrenaline levels, but may affect noradrenaline-dependent signaling pathways (Yokogoshi et al., 1998). It was shown to inhibit the noradrenaline stimulated cAMP formation, but this could be a general effect on second messenger pathways. (Murata & Kimura, 1980)


Studies have found increased L-tryptophan levels with decreased overall serotonin levels (Yokogoshi et al., 1998). A later study found an increase of serotonin in the striatum, hippocampus and hypothalamus (Yokogoshi et al., 1998).


One study found an increase in intracerebral GABA levels in mice. The study also showed l-theanine inhibiting the convulsive effect of caffeine. (Murata & Kimura, 1971)

Receptor binding

L-theanine binds to the NMDA, kainate and AMPA glutamate receptors and blocks the binding of glutamate. Although the affinity of l-theanine is much lower than that of glutamate, it has been implicated in neuroprotective effects in cortical neurons. (Kakuda, Nozawa, Sugimoto, & Nino, 2002)

Relaxation and anxiolytic effect

(Juneja, 1999)

(Juneja, 1999)

Brain Waves

EEG measured brainwaves are classified into the categories Beta, Alpha, Gamma and Theta. The Beta frequencies are associated with excitation, Alpha with relaxed attention, Gamma with dozing off and Theta with deep sleep. What is however also important is where in the brain which frequencies are present and to what extent, all frequencies are usually present in some concentration or another. (Juneja, 1999) An oral dose of 200mg l-theanine showed significant increase in Aplha brainwaves was observed in subjects. (Juneja, 1999)


Increases alpha levels,bottom image, black = alpha waves. (Juneja, 1999)

Lower blood pressure

When administered to spontaneously hypertensive rats l-theanine reduces systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The control substance glutamine did not have this significant effect, although the structure is very similar. (Juneja, 1999) This effect may be linked to the effects l-theanine has on serotonergic neurons.

General stress response

Theanine has been shown to decrease the stress response on psychological and physiological levels. (Kimura, Ozeki, Juneja, & Ohira, 2007) The full mechanism is not known since glutamate receptor agonism is relatively weak. (Kakuda et al., 2002)

Cognitive enhancement

The above findings are all strong indications for an enhancement of cognitive benefits. Direct studies however have also been done.

Learning ability

Rats have shown to improve at the Operant learning ability test when given l-theanine over a longer period of time. (Juneja, 1999) The aforementioned Alpha brain wave concentration increase has been associated with increased learning ability. (Bryan, 2008)


Humans with mild cognitive impairment show better attention levels when administered l-theanine. (Park et al., 2011) The same is true for healthy individuals. (Kelly, Gomez-Ramirez, Montesi, & Foxe, 2008) The brainwave measurements of test subjects confirm an increase in attention levels. (Park et al., 2011).


The same study that found better attention levels in mildly impaired individuals found an improvement of memory. (Park et al., 2011) Tests in rats indicated higher working memory capacity. (Park et al., 2011) The combination of caffeine and l-theanine has been shown to be very effective at increasing memory reaction time, sentence verification, working memory, self-reported mood and alertness. More so that only caffeine. (Bryan, 2008)


The cognitive effects of Matcha tea and its high l-theanine concentration are present in both healthy and cognitively impaired individuals. It may be used to counter Alzheimer’s induced deficit, or boost the performance of healthy individuals. With regards to Alzheimer’s the lowering of β-amyloid is desirable. Aditionally the effects observed in healthy individuals are also desired in such a case to combat cognitive decline. In healthy individuals the change in neural chemistry results in better performance on many fronts, neuroprotective effects and a lowering of blood pressure. We can observe changes in performance in direct test and brainwave alteration in EEG measurements. These findings indicate that the consumption of Matcha may be used to boost performance in the healthy, and play a role in the prevention and management of diseases like Alzheimer’s that cause cognitive decline. Most of these effects however are deduced from animal studies and relatively small human studies. Many of the neurological experiments have been conducted decades ago and have not been replicated since. To get a better view of the effects of l-theanine more human trials must be conducted. The mechanisms of action are not fully understood. While effects on neurotransmission have been found, the pathway through which these alter performance are unknown. Further research on healthy individuals is needed to confirm the effects of l-theanine on cognition, and to explore which forms of cognition are affected. Research in cognitively impaired groups is needed to explore what mechanisms prevent, hamper or treat decline.

Show References
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Green tea catechins prevent cognitive deficits caused by Abeta1-40 in rats. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 19(9), 619–26. doi:10.1016/j.jnutbio.2007.08.008 ITIS, I. T. I. S. (2009). ITIS Standard Report Page: Camellia sinensis. Retrieved May 24, 2014, from Juneja, L. (1999). L-theanine—a unique amino acid of green tea and its relaxation effect in humans. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 10(6-7), 199–204. doi:10.1016/S0924-2244(99)00044-8 Kakuda, T. (2002). Neuroprotective effects of the green tea components theanine and catechins. Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin, 25(12), 1513–1518. Kakuda, T., Nozawa, A., Sugimoto, A., & Nino, H. (2002). Inhibition by theanine of binding of [3H] AMPA,[3H] kainate, and [3H] MDL 105,519 to glutamate receptors. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, 66(12), 2683–2686. Kelly, S. P., Gomez-Ramirez, M., Montesi, J. L., & Foxe, J. J. (2008). L-Theanine and Caffeine in Combination Affect Human Cognition as Evidenced by Oscillatory alpha-Band Activity and Attention Task Performance. The Journal of Nutrition , 138 (8 ), 1572S–1577S. Retrieved from Kim, H. K., Kim, M., Kim, S., Kim, M., & Chung, J. H. (2004). Effects of green tea polyphenol on cognitive and acetylcholinesterase activities. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, 68(9), 1977—1979. doi:10.1271/bbb.68.1977 Kim, T. Il, Lee, Y. K., Park, S. G., Choi, I. S., Ban, J. O., Park, H. K., … Hong, J. T. (2009). l-Theanine, an amino acid in green tea, attenuates beta-amyloid-induced cognitive dysfunction and neurotoxicity: reduction in oxidative damage and inactivation of ERK/p38 kinase and NF-kappaB pathways. Free Radical Biology & Medicine, 47(11), 1601–10. doi:10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2009.09.008 Kimura, K., Ozeki, M., Juneja, L. R., & Ohira, H. (2007). L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses. Biological Psychology, 74(1), 39–45. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2006.06.006 Kitaoka, S., Hayashi, H., Yokogoshi, H., & Suzuki, Y. (1996). Transmural potential changes associated with the in vitro absorption of theanine in the guinea pig intestine. Bioscience Biotechnology and Biochemistry, 60, 1768–1775. Kuriyama, S., Hozawa, A., Ohmori, K., Shimazu, T., Matsui, T., Ebihara, S., … Tsuji, I. (2006). Green tea consumption and cognitive function: a cross-sectional study from the Tsurugaya Project. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition , 83 (2 ), 355–361. Retrieved from Moskowitz, D. S., Pinard, G., Zuroff, D. C., Annable, L., & Young, S. N. (2003). Tryptophan, serotonin and human social behavior. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 527, 215–24. Retrieved from Murata, K., & Kimura, A. (1971). Theanine, γ-glutamylethylamide, a unique amino acid in tea leaves, modulates neurotransmitter concentrations in the brain striatum interstitium in conscious rats. 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  • I really like this kind of post! Shows that it’s not just some kind of health craze, but actually has research to back it up. I would really like reading more stuff like this 🙂

    • Good to hear! I have some stuff lying around about resveratrol, intermittent fasting and alcohol/caffeine… Might use those in the coming month or so.

      Thanks for the heads up 🙂

      • Great article!

        I’d more than interested in reading backed by studies articles about intermittent fasting and caffeine (especially if 1. it can influence anxiety 2. it effects are dependable on different types of coffee seeds etc.)

  • I like the way you shared this data.I must say you have a very unique writing style ,which I liked most.

    Thanks for sharing such useful data!

      • Hello mentor Palokaj,

        Interesting article and very informative. I was wondering, the top picture of green powder, where have you got it from? I am working on a promotion/marketing material and that picture has caught the eyes of my supervisor. Please let me know how may I obtain it for commercial use.

        Thank you very much,

  • Fantastic read this Mentor. I love the amount of detail presented. I’ve trialled Matcha and caffeine with an L-Theanine pill. Definitely prefer the latter as I felt more alert and focused vs. Matcha which just left me feeling largely indifferent.

    I’ll have to keep trying though – so much of this has to do with the state you’re in (mood, food consumed, sleep deficit etc) when you take said supplement in the first place.

  • I love this type of post! Makes certain that it’s not merely some form of wellness trend, while in fact provides exploration so that you can rear the item way up. When i would love reading through far more things like of which.

    • Martin, as opposed to drinking Matcha? No, I wouldn’t think so. That’s kind of the great thing about matcha…even when brewing you are consuming the entire contents of the leaf as the powder has been mixed thoroughly into the water. It would be the same as eating it. I would guess that, regardless of the mix and temperature, once the powder was consumed via any number of methods, the absorption of the active compounds in the leaf into the body would be the same. That said, some people might find it more palatable mixed into a cake mix or something rather than drinking it.

  • Great job. Nice to a have a well formulated assessment of a topic backed by citations.

    Is there a typo in the serotonin section L-tryptophan instead of L-Theanine ??

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Unfortunately, after a few weeks intake of l-theanine I become very angry and agressive. Took it for another week in the hope that this effect was temporally but it only became worse. I have no idea why.

    • Hello Chris,

      I find it very unlikely that theanine is the cause of this. Actually theanine has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression in some studies.

      Probably something else is causing your emotions.

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