Does L-Theanine help with depression?
This may strike some of you as a strange question, but it makes perfect sense when you think about it. L-Theanine is currently used as both an anxiolytic (anxiety suppressor) and as a sleep aid. It is found in many of the best nootropics on the market for that very reason. It therefore seems like it would naturally lend itself to helping with some symptoms of depression.
But making such an assumption is not a good way to approach supplementation. Nor is it a good way to go about trying to assuage symptoms of depression.
To find out if theanine can help with depression, we need to look at the clinical evidence on the subject.
L-Theanine & Depression: The data
Some studies have indeed found that L-Theanine supplementation significantly improves measures of anxiety and depression, particularly in people with severe depressive or anxiety disorder who are taking other medications.
In fact, from the available clinical data it looks as though theanine and depression are strongly linked.
For example, in this study researchers gave 20 patients with major depressive disorder theanine on top of their current drug regimen. The researchers found that after 8 weeks of theanine supplementation, patients exhibited markedly improved depressive symptoms, reduced anxiety, improved sleep quality, and reduced cognitive impairments associated with their major depressive disorder.
What could be responsible for this effect?
We think the likely candidate is the anxiolytic and sleep-promoting properties of theanine.
In all of the studies showing significant improvements in depressed patients after theanine supplementation, the researchers have noted that along with reduced depression, the subjects exhibited better sleeping patterns and reduced anxiety.
We know that L-Theanine supplementation improves sleep quality by reducing sleep latency and encouraging deeper, more restful sleep. We also know that theanine seems to have anxiolytic properties; acute supplementation of theanine reduces subjective feelings of tension and anxiety.
In many patients, anxiety and poor sleeping habits are probably exacerbating the symptoms of depression. In some people, poor sleep quality is actually the cause of depression (although probably not major depressive disorder).
Using theanine to treat depression
So can you use L-Theanine to treat depression?
Theanine and depression do seem to be inter-related. Supplementing with theanine appears to improve symptoms of depression in people with major depressive disorder. We suspect the mechanism of action for this is the improved sleep quality and reduced anxiety that theanine delivers.
However, this effect alone has thus far only been proven to reduce symptoms of depression in people with major depressive disorder who are already on anti-depressant drugs and are, we assume, in therapy. There is no reason to think that theanine alone can help treat depression.
There are great nootropics for anxiety reduction which are worth checking out if you are struggling with low mood, stress or anxiety.