As parents, we want to do everything possible to ensure the health and happiness of our children. We want them to be successful. When parents receive a diagnosis of ADHD for their child, they often research health articles to find out what complementary foods or supplements will help. One such nutrient coming up more frequently is the amino acid l-theanine.

What is L-Theanine?

L-Theanine is a water-soluble amino acid. It’s commonly found in tea leaves and mushrooms. Green tea is a particularly rich source of this amino acid. It increases levels of gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. Most importantly, this is the neurotransmitter that reduces excitability in the nervous system.

According to Psychology Today, L-Theanine raises GABA, serotonin, and dopamine, resulting in regulated mood and better concentration. Additionally, it reduces cortisol and epinephrine. These are the two most damaging hormones released by stressful situations.

What is the Difference Between Theanine and L-Theanine?

Although you may see them used interchangeably, there is a subtle difference between theanine and L-Theanine. The difference has to do with its chemical structure and the direction in which the molecules spiral. Furthermore, the “L” version of amino acids indicate those that can commonly be found in foods. The “D” structure is also common, but has not been studied as closely. So, when purchasing theanine amino acid, look for “L” form on the label.

What Effect Does L-Theanine have on ADHD

L-Theanine has been tested on children with ADHD to see if its calming properties affect their behavior or mood. A 2013 study out of King’s College in the U.K. showed some benefits for aiding sleep in children with ADHD.  This confirms the results of an earlier, 2011 study out of the University of British Columbia, in Canada. The Canadian study found that boys with ADHD have fewer problems with sleep when taking it in supplemental form.

Researchers have found that L-Theanine increases cognitive ability. Most notably, this was particularly in the areas of focus, memory, and learning.  It also increases alpha wave activity — so vital to focus and attention. It relaxes the mind without causing drowsiness.

The Benefits of L-Theanine

Other benefits of L-Theanine is reducing anxiety and improving sleep quality. Poor sleep and anxiety often accompany ADHD. It's naturally produced by the body, and is safe to use on children. It's beneficial for any child or adult that suffers from anxiety, lack of focus or, insomnia.

Green tea is the richest source of L-Theanine. However, it usually contains caffeine. For some, the addition of caffeine with this amino acid provides an alert calm that improves focus on tasks. A cup of green tea before tests or other mental tasks may be beneficial. The amino acid to counteracts the “jitters” caused by caffeine.

However, you can obtain L-Theanine in supplement form or choose decaffeinated tea instead for small children or those avoiding caffeine. A supplement form might be better at bedtime if difficulty sleeping is a pressing issue.

For adults with anxiety or ADHD, it can also helps to reduce the high blood pressure associated with stress and frustration. It can also reduce damage caused by strokes.

What is the Right L-Theanine Dosage

L-Theanine has a Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) rating from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, they probably need lower doses than adults. A children’s dose is normally between 30-50 mg. L-Theanine is water soluble, so the body will remove any excess through urination. Start with the lowest dose and monitor results. You can increase or decrease the dosage as needed.

Older children, larger children, and teens may need adult-size doses (200 mg. twice a day). However, since it is a water-soluble amino acid, splitting the dose into two renders the most benefit throughout the day. It  For example, take with caffeine in green tea in the morning, and without caffeine in the evening before bed.

The 2011 Canadian study tested boys between the ages of 8 and 12. The children were given the adult dosage for six weeks with no ill effects. The boys took 200 mg. in chewable form twice a day.

L-Theanine might be beneficial for ADHD. Parents should consult with their child’s pediatrician before starting, however. There are no currently known side effects of mixing the supplement with standard medications for ADHD. However, consult your doctor so she can monitor the prescription dosage and adjust accordingly.

Featured Image: CC BY 0, by Klimkin via Pixabay

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