Health Benefits of Matcha: Mental Focus and Stress Reduction
Matcha green tea naturally contains a potent amino acid derivative called L-Theanine.
It is this substance that delivers the feeling of mental focus/clarity, and a reduction in stress levels when our matcha is consumed.
Reduction in mental and physical stress
A study performed in 2007 by the Nagoya University, Japan, involved testing several participants' psychological and physiological states under stress, within a laboratory setting.
The participants were subject to difficult arithmetic challenges and underwent four separate trials: one in which they were administered L-Theanine before the test, one where they were given L-Theanine half-way through the test, another where they were provided with a placebo, and a final trial where they were given nothing at all.
The results subsequently showed that L-Theanine intake resulted in a reduction in the heart rate and salivary immunoglobulin A responses relative to the placebo-controlled situation. Thus, it was concluded that consuming L-Theanine orally, as you do when drinking matcha, can cause anti-stress effects via the inhibition of cortical neuron excitation.
In other words, the high L-Theanine content in matcha helps you to remain calm when subject to stressful conditions.
Cognition and mood
The combination of naturally-occuring caffeine and L-Theanine levels in matcha green tea have been proven to generally elevate mood and provide the ability to think and react faster.
A controlled study conducted by Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK, found that the combination of both L-Theanine and caffeine consumption led to an improvement in rapid visual information processing (RVIP) accuracy, an improvement in 'mental fatigue' ratings, faster simple reaction time, faster numeric working memory reaction time, and improved sentence verification accuracy. 'Headache' and 'tired' ratings were also simultaneously reduced.
These results showed that beverages containing both caffeine and L-Theanine (like matcha) have a different pharmacological profile to those beverages containing caffeine alone (like coffee) - thus delivering the benefits of caffeine (improved energy, reaction time etc.) without the downsides (headache, mental fatigue if caffeine levels drop etc.) - meaning matcha green tea can be a great replacement for your morning cup of coffee.
Focus and concentration
The brain produces four different types of waves - alpha, beta, gamma, and theta. Each one of these waves, which can be detected by either electroencephalography or magnetoencephalography, represents a different state of mind.
Theta represents a condition of light sleep, gamma waves can be detected during deep sleep, beta waves are present during times of excitement, and alpha waves represent a relaxed but awake state where creative thought is known to be at its best.
The University of New York, USA, performed a study in 2007 that proved a strong correlation between alpha brain wave production and the consumption of L-Theanine - showing that ingesting L-Theanine resulted in an increase of attention-related anticipatory alpha. In other words, it enhanced concentration and attention-span.
Matcha green tea has one of the strongest concentrations of naturally-occuring L-Theanine in all warm beverages - meaning it delivers all of the above benefits.
To discover even more health benefits of drinking matcha, return back to the health benefits page.