Day-to-day life isn’t always easy breezy.
Many of us spend most of our days working - and between running errands, keeping up with the housework, managing a family and trying to maintain relationships, there’s little time to take a step back from the grind and breathe.
As a result, we all need to find ways to relax, lower our stress levels and unwind.
Matcha has a long list of documented health benefits, and although many of these are physical (e.g. reducing cholesterol and fighting inflammation), there’s evidence to suggest that adding matcha to our diets could significantly improve our mental health, too.
So, matcha could be a helpful tool for the kit if you’re looking for more ways to promote relaxation and clarity. Let’s take a closer look at the potential benefits of matcha on stress and anxiety.
Is Matcha Good For Stress Relief?
Japanese monks have used matcha for hundreds of years to relieve anxiety, improve concentration, and aid meditation.
But what’s the secret, and is there any science behind it?
Well, most of it comes down to one very special ingredient: L-theanine. This amino acid is usually found in green and black tea, although it can also be found in small amounts in mushrooms.
You can also take L-theanine in supplement form.
It’s thought that L-theanine can affect chemicals in the brain, including serotonin and dopamine, which may have positive effects on our emotions, sleep quality, stress levels, and more.
So, the next time you’re sipping on a cup of matcha tea and find yourself feeling calmer (despite the caffeine), it’s not all a placebo effect. It’s most likely the L-theanine!
Although L-theanine plays a big role in matcha’s ability to reduce stress, evidence also suggests that green and black tea can reduce our resting heart rates. Lower resting heart rates are thought to decrease anxiety and positively affect stress levels.
However, the efficacy of the L-theanine in your green tea may depend on your matcha’s cultivation process and how much nitrogen was absorbed through the roots of the plants.
Matcha’s high levels of L-theanine are the result of its growing and cultivation processes, and it also plays an important role in giving matcha its unique, green colour.
Growing matcha in the shade helps maintain high levels of L-theanine and increases the powder's stress-relieving and anxiety-busting properties (more on this below).
Matcha And Anxiety
If it’s anxiety you’re looking to alleviate, we have good news: research suggests that matcha may also be able to reduce the symptoms of anxiety.
Although matcha and coffee are often compared, you’ll rarely find yourself reaching for a cup of coffee to ease the jitters. In fact, coffee is more likely to cause your symptoms.
So what makes matcha so different?
Matcha has a naturally high antioxidant profile - one key thing that coffee lacks. Evidence suggests that matcha antioxidants, particularly that all-important L-theanine, may be able to reduce the function of neurotransmitters in the nervous system. This may result in an increased level of dopamine, which can promote lower anxiety and stress levels.
Additional research has discovered that L-theanine may also be capable of stimulating alpha-wave brain activity in under an hour after being consumed. Alpha-wave brain activity is known for increasing our alertness and promoting relaxation - these two things combined can reduce anxiety in general.
Matcha is also a popular beverage for anxiety and stress relief because it can promote this state without making you feel drowsy or sleepy.
So, you can expect to feel calm and relaxed without falling asleep during work (which can be an unfortunate side effect of many anti-anxiety prescription medications.)
Note: Although there’s evidence to suggest that matcha has a positive effect in helping to manage anxiety and stress, it should not be used to replace prescribed medication if you’ve been advised to use them.
Can Matcha Improve Brain Function?
L-theanine is matcha’s magic ingredient. In the west, L-theanine is available almost exclusively in tea or capsule form.
However, you can buy over 50 products containing this incredible amino acid in Japan, including snacks, candies, and other beverages!
L-theanine isn’t just celebrated for its anxiety and stress-busting properties, either. Evidence suggests that L-theanine may also be able to improve brain function.
For example, in one study, 23 participants were asked to perform a series of tasks to measure their cognitive performance. Some participants were given matcha tea or matcha bars before the tasks, while others were given a placebo.
The study found that the participants who took matcha supplements or tea demonstrated notable improvements in reaction time, memory, and attention compared to the placebo group.
A smaller study also discovered that participants consuming at least 2 grams of green tea a day for two months reported improved brain function. However, this study was performed exclusively on older participants.
Other Ways To Improve Anxiety
If you’re experiencing heightened stress and anxiety levels, adding matcha to your diet can be an excellent way to combat your symptoms and improve your daily life.
However, as research on this topic is still in its infancy, it’s unclear how effective matcha is in the long term.
If you want to use matcha to tackle stress and anxiety, it’s best to use it alongside other treatments and dietary and lifestyle changes. This could include:
- Eating a healthier diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, and unprocessed foods
- Getting more exercise
- Trying meditation and yoga
- Reducing your screen time
- Making more time for yourself - give yourself time in the week to do nothing, and enjoy it!
The Bottom Line
At some point or another, stress affects all of us. Whether it’s due to work, college, challenging life events, or our finances, it’s important that we find ways to manage our stress and anxiety before they escalate.
There are many ways to manage stress and anxiety, but the science suggests that drinking just one cup of matcha a day may significantly improve our mood and promote relaxation.