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Alpha brainwaves: the key to the deep relaxation and the focused energy we need today?

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L-Theanine and the mystery of tea 

Tea, the beverage made from Camellia sinensis,​ has been drunk for its beneficial effects for millennia. Legend has it that the Chinese emperor and herbalist Shennong discovered tea in 2737 BC. Shenong was famous for his wise edicts, and one such edict required that people boil their water before drinking it. This process lead, indirectly to the infusion of Camellia​ leaves to make the first tea.

Though tea’s origins were in China, its popularity has spread around the world, and the fates and fortunes of nations have risen and fallen over the trade in tea. In the 19th​ century, the trade in tea between China and the British exploded in volume, and each year, fleets of fast ‘clipper’ ships raced from China to England to deliver the first of the fresh tea harvest. This trade led indirectly to the Opium Wars between the British and the Chinese, and to the eventual cultivation of tea on a large scale in India. Today, after all this, tea remains the most popular beverage in the world. 

Though tea is drunk partly for its ‘pick-up’ effect (its caffeine content), it is also greatly valued for its unique relaxing quality, not found in coffee or other sources of caffeine. Long a mystery, it was discovered in 1950 that this relaxing effect is due to the amino acid L-theanine, a natural constituent found only in tea and in one form of mushroom. Since that discovery, much research has gone into the relaxing and focusing attributes of this amino acid. Depending on the type of tea, a 200ml cup generally contains 25-60mg of L-theanine [1]. 


Alphawave L-theanine and relaxation

Studies found that L-theanine is able to cross the blood-brain barrier[2], and confirmed its ability to create a sense of relaxation and wakefulness. This is achieved primarily through L-theanine’s ability to directly increase alpha brain wave activity. Alpha activity is also associated with increased creativity, increased performance under stress, improved learning and concentration, as well as decreased anxiety [3]. L-Theanine is also involved in the formation of the inhibitory neurotransmitter, gamma amino butyric acid (GABA)[4]. 

Through these pathways, L-theanine has been shown to reduce mental and physical stress [5], and to improve cognition and mood in a synergistic manner with caffeine [6]. 

Alphawave L-Theanine, a highly purified and GRAS affirmed source of this material from Ethical Naturals Inc (ENI) has grown over the last ten years to become a trusted source of L-theanine, carried by a number of leading brands in the US.  

A clinical study conducted at The Wellington Sleep Investigation Centre, University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand confirmed the benefits of Alphawave: ‘The Effects of AlphaWave L-Theanine on Relaxation, Clarity and Cognitive Function: a Human Study w/20 Subjects’. This study found that:

• AlphaWave showed (by EEG) a clear indication towards a longer term of beneficial effects on tonic alpha power that measures relaxed wakefulness.

• Values for anxiety and tension decreased greater than placebo.

• Reduced fatigue greater than placebo.

• Significantly reduced heart rate, an indication of stress reduction.

A second expanded AlphaWave clinical trial is currently scheduled through KGK in Canada, but is currently on-hold due the Covid-19 situation.

Other benefits of Alphawave L-theanine

Alphawave is produced in a proprietary process that results in a highly purified product, standardized to not less than 98% L-theanine. It contains none of the D-theanine that is often a component in other sources of L-theanine. This manufacturing process doesn’t infringe any existing patents for the manufacture or use of L-theanine.

AlphaWave is also GRAS affirmed and has excellent tableting and encapsulation qualities, and works well for these applications. For beverage use, it dissolves rapidly into a tasteless and odorless solution. All Alphawave material is tested and supplied through ENI’s NSF Certified facility, and can be supplied either in bulk powder, or encapsulated and bottled.

Cal Bewicke, CEO of Ethical Naturals states: ‘We’ve been supplying AlphaWave L-theanine to the industry for about ten years now, and it has been extraordinary to see the popularity of this product grow through the key national brands that offer it to consumers. It seems that the calming experiential nature of the product, as well as the science behind it, is what has assured its success. Experiential, energized calming effects may be what we need more than ever right now.’

ENI is also the supplier of other key branded ingredients into the supplement industry, such as GreenGrown Glucosamine, Polyphenol-C, Cranberex, Hi-Omega-7 and others.


[1]  Cartwright RA, Roberts EAH, Wood DJ. Theanine an amino acidof N-ethly amide present in tea. J Sci Food Agric, 1954:597-599.

[2] Kakuda, T., et al. (2000). Inhibiting effects of theanine on caffeine stimulation evaluated by EEG in the rat. Biosci Biotechno Biochem 64, 287-293.

[3] Eschenauer G, Sweet BV, Pharmacology and therapeutic uses of theanine. Am J Health-Syst Ph 2006;63:26-30 

[4] Mason, R. (2001). 200 mg of Zen; L-theanine boosts alpha waves, promotes alert relaxation. Alternative & Complementary Therapies 7, 91-95.

[5] Kimura K., et al (2007). L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses. Biol Psychol 74 (1), 39–45.

[6] Haskell, C.F. et al. (2008). The effects of l-theanine, caffeine and their combination on cognition and mood. Biol Psychol 77 (2), 113–2

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