Green tea may have originated in China but it’s since flooded the West with brute force and the media has scooped it up and exposed the public to claims, sometimes far reaching, of better health and longevity. There is some truth to the many health benefits claimed for this popular type of tea but don’t count on it shredding off the pounds with ease as Doctor Oz might claim. One thing is for sure, green tea is a great option for a pick me up and an excellent way to get the ball rolling at the start of your day. Green tea is a different experience from coffee and it provides a different mental edge, one that is very unique in the way it energizes and boosts your mind.
The Caffeine Collective
America stripped away of its favorite stimulant caffeine mine as well be some sort of hazy dystopian sci-fi novel because we as a collective are absolutely hooked on the drug. There are 100 million daily coffee drinkers in the US and they need the main psychoactive constituent in coffee, caffeine, in order to even think about tackling the day ahead. Most caffeine users are dependent on the substance and while this may not be a particularly bad thing it does require that they give their body what it wants if they would like to avoid the dreaded caffeine withdrawal.
Green tea may lack the edge in popularity that coffee brings to the table but it does offer its users a dose of caffeine with every bag brewed, albeit a lesser amount than that of a cup of joe. The average amount of caffeine in a cup of green tea is about 25 mg (keep in mind that the potency can vary from tea to tea). It’s far from punchy but it’s just enough for some mental stimulation and energy. You can always brew more but you can’t take back a caffeine overdose.
Caffeine acts as the backbone of mental stimulation found in your favorite type of green tea. What does caffeine do once it reaches the brain? The main action of the world’s favorite stimulant is the blockade of adenosine receptors which results in one feeling more awake and energized. Adenosine receptors promote sleep and by caffeine causing a blockade it is in turn stopping the flow of signaling that leads one to hit the sack.
There are also secondary effects as a result of caffeine blocking adenosine receptors which involve neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, acetylcholine, and norepinephrine. Each of these different brain chemicals are involved in modulating your mood, perception, and energy levels. They all do different things but in the end they work together to give you the current mental state and mood you are experiencing. More dopamine related activity can make you more motivated and eager to get work done and actetylchonine activity can provide a greater sense of acuity.
The energizing bunny that is caffeine is perfect for fighting of sleep, sharpening your senses, and getting you motivated and focused to get loads of work done. It’s almost as if it is the perfect substance for mental energy…but it’s not. The caffeine catch is the issue of tolerance. Caffeine will always help you fight off sleep but if you are using it everyday then you will experience the great cognitive benefits it has to offer to a lesser and lesser degree.
It’s a good thing that caffeine isn’t the only thing green tea has going for it…
L-Theanine – A Yin and Yang Relationship with Caffeine
There’s a naturally occurring amino acid found in green tea that offers risk free relaxation, a substance that few know about and something that largely contributes to the zen headspace that green tea offers to its users. It’s name is l-theanine and though it is entirely natural it offers some outstanding benefits related to cognition.
Have you ever noticed that too much coffee can make you an anxious mess infected with the jitters, sweating at the palms, and warding off a heart that is about to explode? Obviously, this is a tell tale sign that you have ingested too much caffeine but it also shows something that coffee lacks, and that thing, the “X factor”, is l-theanine. Theanine is there in green tea to smooth out the experience, to calm your mind while caffeine energizes it.
The final result of this combination is a focused, clear, content, and stimulated mental state. Green tea is so unique and versatile like this because it is perfect for kicking back and relaxing as well as hunkering down and focusing on some important work. And when you do decide to sit down and bang out some work with the aid of green tea’s unique energy you should know that it could actually be helping you do better and reach a better level of proficiency.
There are studies confirming that the combination of caffeine and l-theanine enhances cognition. In other words, this combination naturally found in green tea makes your brain work better and you perform better as a result. In this way green tea could be considered a nootropic substance because of the combination of caffeine and l-theanine and the unique mental energy that it provides. Individuals interested in nootropics (cognitive enhancers) actually seek out theanine and caffeine supplements so that they can take advantage of this combination.
You certainly don’t need supplements if you have green tea as it is the original brain boosting substance.
EGCG – Buy 2 Get 1 Free
EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate) can be thought of as an added bonus to the zen combination of theanine and caffeine. This powerful antioxidant is quite interesting once you dig into the science behind it. It’s an antioxidant so naturally it takes care of the free radicals (bad for you) in our bodies but the truth is there is so much more to it, especially related to what it does for the brain.
EGCG, like the theanine/caffeine combo, has been found to possess cognitive enhancing properties. One study found that the antioxidant enhanced memory and learning. It has has also been found to promote the growth of new brain cells, a process called neurogenesis. It may be the key to fighting off neurodegenerative diseases for some individuals, whether through a spark of interest for new research possibilities or simply an aid in the battle against these crippling diseases.
This is a very promising substance when it comes to boosting one’s cognition. Perhaps it isn’t as big a piece of the puzzle of the unique mental energy provided by green tea, but it is there and it is doing something positive. Another way in which EGCG acts to boost your brain is through something known as MAO-B inhibition. The antioxidant is a natural MAO-B inhibitor and therefore prevents the breakdown of catecholamines such as dopamine. What this means that EGCG is boosting the effects that caffeine and theanine have on dopamine which puts yet another unique spin on the mental state provided by tea.
A Boost in Brain Energy Worth a Shot
If you haven’t already tried green tea for the purpose of giving yourself a mental edge then now is better than ever to give it a shot. It’s inexpensive and it really does provide a zen like boost in cognition. Do you drink 2 or 3 cups of coffee a day? If so, try switching out your last cup of coffee with a cup of tea if you aren’t quite ready to make a complete switch. And if you’re someone who is simply looking for a new substance to boost your brain then tea is one of the healthiest and effective options out there, much better than energy drinks loaded with sugar and other useless garbage. You can’t say the science isn’t there to back it up.
Image credit: Flickr user mckaysavage