It is well known that tea drinking carries with it many physical benefits. But what about psychological ones? In other words, does tea influence, in addition to one’s physiological states, one’s metal health as well? Well as it happens, the verdict is out, and has been out for quite a few years, and it is a positive one. Chalk one up for the tea drinkers, or as they say in legal parlance, the judgment has been entered in favor of the defendant.
In a study by Japanese researchers, they discovered that drinking green tea reduced psychological distress as measured by a psychological distress scale in a group of 42,093 Japanese individuals aged 40 and above. The experiment was designed so that individuals were given a questionnaire about their tea drinking habits, along with other lifestyle factors, then they were assessed according to a Kessler 6 item scale, which detected their level of psychological distress. The researchers observed the study group for a period of 1 month, and made their associations from there, after adjusting for possible confounding factors such as age and sex. The study found that there was an inverse relationship between the consumption of green tea and the level of reported psychological distress in individuals, the relations persisted even after the respondents were stratified by social support subgroups or by activities in communities.
L – theanine is a unique amino acid found almost exclusively in tea plants, and in 2011, a study was done by Dr. Ritsner and others to determine the efficacy of L – theanine augmentation of traditional anti – psychotic treatments in patients with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder.
Schizophrenia is heavily associated with progressive brain tissue loss, or in other words, it is like a wild fire in the forest of the brain, metaphorically speaking. In the past few years, neuro – protection has become an area of intense research and investigation. The majority of neuro – protective agents are either natural plant extracts or endogenous peptides / proteins. L – Theanine belongs in the former category, and it is found in all varieties of tea. It can cross the blood – brain barrier, and it has various neuro – chemical effects on the brain.
Neuro -protection is a major effect of L – Theanine, in particular, L – theanine provides direct protection against focal cerebral ischemia, and it appears capable of preventing cell death caused by Kainic acid. It also protects against Glutamate neurotoxicity and stimulates the release of nerve growth factor. Animal studies indicate that L – theanine has a possible neuro -protective effect in the hippocampus through blockade of multiple glutamate receptor subtypes, and also N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA), and α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) receptors. L – Theanine directly provides protection against Parkinson’s disease related neuro – toxic agents, while pre – treatment with L -theanine significantly attenuates the down – regulation of brain derived neurotrophic factor and glial cell derived neurotrophic factor production in cultured human dopaminergic cell lines. The neuro – protective effect of theanine is mediated, at least in part, by γ – aminobutyric acid (GABAA ) receptors. Kakuda and colleagues suggest that the mechanism of the neuro – protective effect of L – theanine is related not only to the Glutamate receptor but also to other mechanisms such as the Glutamate transporter.
To this very day, mental illness remains largely an intractable disease, with the only examples of a cure coming from within, i.e. the patient who recovers from chronic depression and never has a relapse, the schizophrenic who experiences no more psychotic symptoms, for good, all have a few things in common, they woke up, reattached themselves to reality and solved their own problems. This is reflected to a certain extent on a cognitive level too, i.e. the mentally ill individual, with the help of medication, reestablished their internal chemical equilibrium. Likewise, tea, when used as an augmenter of more traditional types of treatment, might facilitate this process. After all, the body is, to a greater or lesser extent, a self – correcting machine, and it is nothing but poetic justice that one should, and can, right their own wrong.